A Modern House You Need to See in the Gatineau Hills {Architect Christopher Simmonds}


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

This house in Gatineau is a standout. The architecture is stunning. The materials make me want to collect all the barn board in the area and start cladding my own home. And the views of the Gatineau Hills are so beautiful that any art in the house probably pales in comparison. I’m sure there are people shaking their heads at building such a modern house in a rural, natural setting — but by using materials that look so much like its surroundings, they’ve achieved a modern home with an affiliation to the surroundings. (See more about the design here.)

This upper cube that juts out reminds me of the house that I’ve admired on Echo Drive in Ottawa. The rustic wood paired with the white exterior panels is unique. I’ve seen too many multi-type exterior materials on in-fill homes in Ottawa, but I haven’t seen one nearby with reclaimed wood. I like that it deviates slightly from (in my opinion) an overly used trend.


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

I have to admit, the windows scare the NON-neat freak in me. All this glass means anyone coming to visit or solicit will see everything. If this were my house, visitors would NOT want to see me scurrying around trying to hide clothes I’ve flung around, or toys that have been discarded everywhere. And solicitors. Well, they’d see me trying to hide awkwardly behind some glass wall or highly translucent shelf. Clearly the owners here are much better people and housekeepers than I. With that said, I’d love it if I was that neat and well-mannered!


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

I assume the chairs beside the pool were lined up in a row for the photographs rather than real-life use. Moving them to a conversation area might make people more likely to enjoy doing laps in the pool rather than feeling they are being scored by a panel of lounging judges.


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

This beautiful entry would inspire me to keep cleaner windows, and a swept and shoveled walkway. I love the lines of the wood and how the tones echo in the stairs, the outdoor walkway, the roof of the walkway and even the ground cover. (My dog would go nuts barking out this glass entryway. What a welcome wagon that would be!)


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

This living room, like the rest of the house of course, was made for entertaining and view-seeking. I think Fall would be my favourite season here.


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

This kitchen would be perfect for the parties where everyone always lands in the kitchen. A huge island and lots of area for prep, serving and supplies.


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

My makeup would look very natural if I did it in here every morning. But let’s be honest, with a pre-schooler and a now 8 week-old, make up is sort of not a priority….and privacy is. Where would I hide from them in here?! (Totally not kidding.)


Photo from Christopher Simmonds Architect Inc website; Peter Fritz Photography

So there we are. An absolutely beautifully designed home. I’m sure it’s perfect for the people who built it and I can see the appeal of streamlining everything so much that nature defines the decor, the artwork and the walls. For me, I’d need to have a few more places to hide from the people trying to sell me faster Internet/cheaper natural gas/fixed hydro rates!

So what about you? Would you be hiding in the pantry or loving the north/west/south/eastern exposures??


One Room Challenge 2014: The Reveal

I made it…just under the wire! Disclaimer: these photos were taken on a very dark, gloomy November day in Ottawa, in a room that faces east and gets very little natural light, by someone with a fancy camera but not-so-fancy photography skills (yours truly). I do plan to have some better photos taken, but for the sake of the reveal these will do.

With that, I present to you:

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We’re so thrilled to finally have a warm and cozy space to retreat to at the end of our busy days. I’m sure I’ll keep tweaking things here and there, and one of these days we’ll get that built-in wardrobe we’ve been planning, but at least all the basics are covered.

Have you seen the rest of the reveals? I can’t wait to spend some time this weekend checking them all out!

Sue Signature




One Room Challenge Week 5


Dramatic bed at Ambella Home, High Point Market, October 2014

Remember back in week two of the One Room Challenge, when I joked about getting my master bedroom finished just in time to hibernate for the Ottawa winter? Well, I’m not the only one who’s been feeling the need to create a warm and cozy master retreat – between Mere’s great advice for reader Tracy’s master bedroom dilemma and the THREE clients who have booked consultations with me in the past week for decorating their master bedrooms, I’m officially declaring it master bedroom season!

So, given that I’m posting about week 5 when we’re well into the sixth and final week, you might be wondering if I’m going to complete my own master bedroom decorating in time for the One Room Challenge reveal on Thursday. I really should be – I mean, my plans were all cosmetic and I got the painting out of the way early. All that’s left to do is accessorize and take photos, and all I can say is I’m going to try my best! I can’t wait to see the big reveals tomorrow over at Calling It Home and check out all the linkup participants’ finished rooms on Thursday. I just hope mine will be one of them!

Sue Signature

When Hallowe’en Meets Christmas

What a week! I haven’t posted in seven days and it feels like more. (Perhaps in blog-land a week without a post is an eternity?! Sorry!) Sue and I have both been busy, busy, busy. It seems like as soon as Summer turns to Fall we’re on a non-stop go go go schedule, doesn’t it? I’m sure you guys are all feeling it the same way as we are.

Hallowe’en Chez Newb

Meredith and baby Nate

This week had an interesting twist for us — Sue & I celebrated both Hallowe’en AND started Christmas. Yup, we had tinsel in our hair and cobwebs on our windows…intentionally.

But first. It was a typical Hallowe’en. Kids, candy, home made LED snail costumes. You know, the usual ;-) This year Nick and I thought we’d try to make our oldest son’s Hallowe’en costume.

I realize this is a horrible picture, however it's hard to juggle and infant and photograph a three year old in the dark illuminated by LEDs :)

I realize this is a horrible picture, however it’s hard to juggle and infant and photograph a three year old in the dark illuminated by LEDs :)

He loves the movie Turbo and has been on a kick about pretending he is Turbo for the past month now. (Maybe we should let him get more screen time and he’d be less focused on one animated character??) We figured out a way to make his costume look just like the star snail and Nick even illuminated his shell so that he was glowing just like Turbo. Jimmy was the happiest kid; ecstatic that we could make his little snail dreams come true. We were the happiest parents since we had a kid we could never lose in the dark and his smile was from ear to ear. Happiness :-)


And then we switched gears right through to Christmas. Yup, we’re nuts that way. Sue & I were pretty pumped to be invited to demo some of Canadian Tire’s new Canvas holiday line at an event in Kanata. So. Much. Fun. Do you know how fun it is to decorate with an entire store of Christmas products at your disposal? So. Much. Fun. We’ll be blogging all about what we made (one example below) and sharing some fun and easy to DIY Christmas decor for your home later this month.

diy ornament table placeholder cards

Tip of the Day

My favourite new home decor item is the canvas drop cloth that painters use to protect items while getting their roll on. This summer I made a drop cloth map, and last night we used a drop cloth to make a table cloth. We chalk painted a place setting on it, stencilled gold patterns in other areas and literally tied it all up with a bow. All with the idea that kids could draw at the table and adults could create an easy and pretty table setting that was completely personalized to a room, place setting, theme…whatever.

chalk painted place setting


After the week we’ve had of making and decorating, my house is a full blown disaster. I feel horrible that my parents (who were in town to help make sure I could throw around tinsel and be a good parent!) had to live in squalor for the weekend. Yup. I said it. Squalor. I feel like a blog fraud living the way I have been and espousing advice on stylish living. I’m going to use the “I have a newborn” excuse if anyone asks ;-)

I hope you are all having a good week! Now tell me, when do you start decorating your house for Christmas? I’m thinking Dec. 1 is a good line in the sand. Anyone else care to jump in?


Design Dilemma: Tracy’s Master Bedroom Makeover

Tracy is one of our awesome readers looking for advice on her master bedroom. (If you missed it, we put out a call for decorating dilemmas on Facebook.) I love Tracy because she wants to incorporate some grey in her room…a woman after my own heart. ;) Her bedroom walls are painted a gorgeous green called Rain Tree by Benjamin Moore, and she’s ready for the fun to start by picking new bed linens. But she’s dissatisfied with the options she’s found in Ottawa. And that’s where we come in!

Here’s Tracy’s room right now:

master bedroom

The green paint is a great colour but if she’s anything like me what’s probably throwing her off is an accent colour to go with green. Christmas sorta absconded with red as an accent. Yellow can make the green look more lime than the true green she wants. And tone-on-tone is what she’s already tired of. So what’s a girl to do? Well, that’s where my friend neutral comes over and snuggles up. A greige, beige or white is perfect for this room and leaves lots of room for colourful accents elsewhere in the pillows, sheets, art, rugs or display pieces. (Sorry husbands and allergy sufferers, I like pillows!) If you’re handy with a needle and thread, try making a few pillows. If you’re handy with a credit card, try a few coordinating patterns.

Here are a few of my favourite duvet, pillow and accessory combinations for Tracy’s room.

Option #1: Target’s Threshold Grey Bedding with Bursts of Orange

Option #2: IKEA’s Beige Greige Bedding & Citron Accents

I love the idea of creating a headboard effect with the mirror shown in this grouping. I’m not sure the size will work for Tracy’s bed, but it’s a look I love.

Option #3: Au Fin Lit Neutral Bedding with Sparkle

I’ve kept the greys warm because her hardwood flooring is a warm tone. Not bad for Ottawa, right Tracy? If you’re still thinking, meh, definitely talk to Sue about custom fabrics to create personalized bedding and accents.

Master Bedroom Accent Pieces

For the room in general (since Tracy did ask!), I would love to see if the head of the bed could be placed in front of the window. Where the bed is currently, the window on the right throws off the wall’s symmetry.

If it can’t be moved, some larger artwork or a mirror in the center of the wall will balance out the size of the bed.

I’d suggest larger lamps as Tracy builds out the room as well. And soft curtains will keep the window light coming through and a spa-like feel that I always think of with this green. I bet Sue has some great ideas for window treatments, since right now the windows only have very functional blinds, but could use some softening with fabric and texture. And we know Sue is great with window treatments as seen here, here and here!

If you have any successful green rooms to dream in — let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page. And Tracy, we’d love to know what you think!



One Room Challenge Week 4

Um, where did the past week go? I feel like I’ve been running all week – in fact, I literally sprinted through the airport to make my connection at Dulles on Sunday. I spent Monday and Tuesday touring my favourite supplier showrooms at High Point Market and saw SO MANY pretty things. Once I get a chance to go through the hundreds of photos I took, I’ll share some thoughts on what to look for in design trends.

On my way home from High Point, I saw the news that Ottawa was dealing with an extremely scary and tragic situation. I still don’t know what to say about the senseless violence that took the life of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. It’s just so, so sad. I do want to say thank you to all those who acted so bravely to keep our city safe in the face of unknown danger.

All that to say, it was a bit of a crazy week and not much has changed in the master bedroom. Now that the paint and window treatments are done, I’ve slowly been gathering accessories to bring the space to life.

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I shared a “before” photo of the room in Week 1, but here’s a closer look at the main furniture pieces that I’m working with.

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We’ve had our bed and nightstands for many years – they were one of our first big investments in grownup furniture after we got married. They’re solid wood, Canadian-made, and still in great condition, so they’re staying in the room. Thankfully the style and finish are fairly classic and timeless, making them easy to mix with other pieces.

Our bedroom has generous proportions, which is a fancy way of saying there’s quite a bit of wasted space (that could easily have been used for a bigger walk-in closet…just saying). As I mentioned in week 1, we will eventually be taking some of the extra space for a built-in wardrobe to replace the armoire, but for now I’m using a spare armchair that used to be in Austin’s room to create a sitting area.

Here’s a rough idea of the footprint of the room and where the furniture is placed:

master bedroom floor plan

Now for the fun part – accessorizing and styling! Wondering how everyone else is doing in week 4 of the challenge? I’m off to link up my week 4 progress and see how the other participants are coming along. Better late than never, right?


See you next week!

Sue Signature

One Room Challenge Week 3

one room challenge week 303

Can you believe it’s already the halfway point in the One Room Challenge? I’m playing along and FINALLY tackling my master bedroom decor plans. So far, I put together a mood board for making the space warm and cozy, and gave the walls a fresh coat of Para paint (as a member of the 2014 Para Blog Crew, I’ve been supplied with unlimited paint for the year and have loved the results every time!)

This week, it was time to bring some pattern and texture into the room, and since I’m a decorator by trade you can probably guess that one of my favourite ways to do that is with window treatments. I’m a big fan of layering blinds or shades (for light control and privacy) under side panels, cornices, or other fabric treatments.

one room challenge week 302

There are two windows in our room, plus a door out to a small balcony. We already had white horizontal blinds made for the windows when we moved in, so I decided to layer custom side panels over the blinds to beautifully frame the windows and give them a bit more weight in the room.

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I had the panels made so that they have a slight break where they hit the floor. I love this look and it works well for side panels, but think twice about your length if you’re planning on fully traversing draperies, especially on hard flooring. Too long and they’ll end up sweeping your floor for you every time you open and close them! Since side panels are only meant to dress up the window and aren’t made wide enough to pull closed, it’s also important that they be lined so they hang nicely and don’t seem skimpy. And don’t panic if your panels seem to grow and shrink with the weather! We’ve had a humid couple of days in Ottawa, and my panels are a good inch longer than they were when I hung them on the weekend. This is normal, especially for linen and natural fibres, and they’ll return to their original length when the weather changes.

one room challenge week 304


I also wanted to comment on the pleat style I chose for the drapery header. You may be familiar with the more traditional pinch pleats, but there are tons of other options for adding fullness and this style is my go-to these days. It goes by a number of different names, including crown pleat or euro pleat, and I love how it gives a custom look that’s not as fussy as a classic pinch pleat.

I haven’t done anything about the balcony door yet. It currently has a very un-stylish shirred sheer panel covering the window. I just can’t decide whether to replace it with a more tailored fabric treatment or maybe just add some privacy film to the glass.

I’ve been going out of my way to walk past the bedroom to admire the windows. I’m so happy with the panels! This week I’m busy making holes in my freshly painted walls as I choose and hang artwork – yikes.

Don’t forget to check out the progress of the other participants in the challenge over at Calling It Home.


Week 4, here we come!

Sue Signature


Chez Newb: Harvest Table Gets An Industrial Makeover

Three years ago when my husband’s grandmother moved, she handed down her handmade harvest table to us. We love that it was made by Nick’s grandfather and it was so nice to have something with history in our house.

dining room wide

BEFORE: The dining room table as it was originally given to us.

It’s a great size for our small dining room. The only problem is that the way the table legs were positioned, it could only seat four people (you can see that the chairs aren’t actually pushed in for this photo…we had to hover outside the tabletop if we wanted to seat more than four people). It would be fine if we never had company, but not terribly practical otherwise. Sadly the table’s stain had seen better days too. I blame our son who’s not old enough to read and rat me out yet…shhh. ;-) So we wanted to re-build the legs to seat more people and needed to re-finish the whole table.

Well, fast-forward to September when Lowes Canada published plans on their web site for building a pipe-frame harvest table completely from scratch.


I knew it would be easy to convince Nick to tackle this project. Nick loves furniture made from industrial materials (he made a media stand out of the same pipes a few years ago) and we both loved the idea that we could refinish the table without worrying about re-building the legs to make them look original. So Nick went out that day and bought the materials.

It really was a quick project that took us awhile to finish. What slowed us down was the arrival of our sweet little newborn Nate. Not a bad thing to wait for if you ask me! I mention the timeline because I encourage you to give it a try if this is a table style you like. Making the pipe base took Nick an hour, maybe? The biggest portion of our time was spent sanding down our existing table top, then re-finishing it with stain and varnish. If you were to build the bench and the wood tops it would certainly add time, but it wouldn’t be difficult at all.

Here’s a quick photo re-cap of how it all went down.

Since we already had the tabletop, we just needed the lengths of pipe, elbows and other attachments.

newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 6


Obviously a pair of goggles were required.

newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 7

Nick put the pieces together & lined it up to match our existing table top. Buying the pre-cut lengths of pipe was an amazing time saver. For previous projects Nick had to have the store cut the lengths of pipe and that can take forever….okay, maybe that time is exaggerated, but when you are on a weekend timeline, a few hours spent waiting in a store is a huge time glut. So yah, we were so pumped when we learned that Lowes precuts their lengths of pipe. {Dancing in the aisles.}dining room table pipe frame legs

Once the base was built, I spray painted the legs in an amazing shiny cobalt from Rustoleum.

dining room table pipe frame legs spray painted copy

We both took turns sanding the tabletop down to the raw wood you can see below. Then we got to staining and protecting. We’re still on the fence as to whether the finish will hold up against our family. We may need to add a few more coats of varnish, or potentially a coat of epoxy, like what they use on the wood counters in bars. dining room table finishing supplies copyAnd ready for the final reveal? Here it is:

newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 3

We chose Golden Oak for the stain colour. Of course I had immediately thought we needed a driftwood grey coloured stain (because I’m grey crazy). But when we looked at the room we knew that a warm wood would be the perfect finish for the table. It looks rustic and natural, but also highly polished and industrial at the same time. newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 2

The colour is a bit off in this picture since I’m taking the picture at the window and in a room that has very little natural light. But you can also see that I broke out the paint roller again and got myself an insanely gorgeous charcoal accent wall. I’ll try to get a better picture of the wall once a few last kitchen projects are completed.newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 4 newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 5 newberry sykes harvest pipe frame dining table 1We are so happy with the change. Not only is it so much more functional, it looks so much more loved. The wood glows (nope, that has nothing to do with the love ;-)) and is so incredibly smooth. We really worried about changing the table at first. We wondered if our family would be upset that we changed a cherished memory of Nick’s grand-father. But now looking at it, we know we made the right decision. It’s 100% our style and we know that’s what a family heirloom should be.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has tackled plans like this before. Have you built your own furniture? Refinished a dining set? How about ruined an heirloom and are now living in family disgrace? ;-) I hope not!






One Room Challenge Week Two

Last week I took the plunge and decided to show you how I’m taking my master bedroom from a totally blah room to a warm and cozy retreat, week by week, as part of the One Room Challenge. The final reveal is scheduled for November 6, just in time for hibernation season to start here in Ottawa! I’m so excited to finally make this space pretty.

para blackfoot trail01

I had already painted the wall behind the headboard a deep, rich brown (Para Blackfoot Trail) and was looking for a lighter neutral for the rest of the walls. I’ve had my heart set on bold patterned side panels for the windows and chose a fabric with a mix of browns and greys on a light background. The wall colour I chose is Para’s Daniel Strong Green (P2135-01), a pale tan with a strong khaki undertone, light enough for this east-facing room but deep enough to contrast nicely with the lighter background of the drapery fabric.

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I almost never use tape when painting (I prefer freehand edging) but I wanted a nice crisp edge where the two wall colours meet. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I’ve never used Frog Tape before this! It lived up to all the rave reviews I’ve read over the years and my lines turned out pretty close to perfect.

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We’re loving the colours and it feels great to have the painting checked off the list!

Sue Signature


p.s. I’m linking up this post on Calling It Home – lots more inspiring room makeovers underway over there!


Ask Mere & Sue: Finding Neutral Ground

Welcome to “Ask Mere & Sue”! We get lots of questions from family, friends, and readers about their design dilemmas, so we thought we’d start a new series where we can share some ideas and inspiration based on real-life decor challenges.

We’re kicking it off with a plea from reader Marcella to suggest a colour that both she and her better half will love for their open concept floor plan. Here’s what she had to say:

One of these days we will get around to painting our main open-concept floor. But what colour? 

Husband is very traditional so we looking for a neutral perhaps. We both hate grey (Ottawa is grey 8 months if the year!) and I detest anything goldy-beige. I am far more open to colour than he is. 

Any ideas on how to marry an open space AND different ideas on colour?

Or you guys could just take my side and we do the whole thing in bright apple green. (Okay not even I would do that).”

Mere quickly passed this one over to me – being a grey-lover she thought she’d have trouble coming up with a non-grey solution for Marcella. Not to worry, me and my fan decks are up for the challenge!

So, if you guys were my clients, I’d start by looking around your space for inspiration. Do you have a great piece of art, an area rug, or window treatment that you love and can use as a jumping off point for your colour selection? If so, you might be able to find a great neutral to coordinate with existing items in your decor. If your open concept space includes the kitchen, don’t forget to consider your cabinet & backsplash colour when choosing paint.

If you’re starting with a blank slate, then I would suggest that you go and find something new for your space. Do your walls look a little bare? Find something great to hang on them, and let your new artwork guide you to the perfect neutral.

As for the neutral vs. colour issue, I gotta say I’m (mostly) of the same mind as your husband. I prefer to choose a single neutral for an open concept space, but I do like to introduce some variation into the whole-house palette in smaller, self-contained rooms (e.g. powder room, formal dining room) and through the use of accent colours. In my own home, a soft greige runs throughout the hallways, kitchen and family room, accented by sky blue, royal blue and red in my accessories – wall decor, window treatments, and throw pillows. The powder room (blue-grey), living/dining room (charcoal), and office (brown-grey) are all different but complementary shades.

That said, I’m thinking a warm taupe might be just the ticket for your base colour – something like Para’s Plush Suede (P5232-51).


Once you’ve picked your primary neutral, look for rooms or walls where you could introduce some different colours – maybe a dark brown on an accent wall in the kitchen, or a crisp blue in your powder room.

Don’t forget to try the chips in your rooms at different times of day since many neutrals have undertones that only show up in certain lighting (you don’t want that lovely taupe to suddenly take on a goldy-beige tint at night!)

Here’s a Houzz ideabook I put together of some great neutral spaces to inspire you:

Hope you guys can find a neutral you both love!

Sue Signature

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