Elana Safronsky, Managing Editor
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 4:01 PM EDT
Who: Irene Langlois, designer (her beautiful website), her husband Mike, a high tech exec., and their three children, two of whom are living independently.
Irene in her living room
What: A Georgian-inspired, 3,600 sq ft. home built in 1993, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Where: A family-oriented suburb of Ottawa, ON
Why: Because it's an amazing home! As far as I'm concerned, Irene hit the nail on the head with how to design for a new-build, and is overflowing with tips on what to invest in, where to splurge, how to create inviting glamour and when to go for colour. This tour is a wealth of info!
HGTV: Did you build this house?
Irene: This house was a semi-custom build. We really liked the lot and location, but we didn’t like any of the builders standard models. The builder was very accommodating and modified the plans according to our requirements.
HGTV: What about the original home didn’t work for you?
Irene: The biggest issue with the original layout was the location of the garage. In a new neighbourhood in the suburbs, garages are located in front of the house. Because the lot is a wide pie, we were able to move the garage to the side of the house. This had a huge impact on the number of windows at the front of the house and changed things dramatically.
HGTV: Where did you splurge and where did you save while choosing finishes?
Irene: We splurged on the site-finished hardwood floors. This is a great upgrade for anyone buying a new house. Hardwood floors really stand the test of time. They can be buffed or re-finished when they start to show too much wear; unlike carpet or other flooring options which end up in a land fill at the end of their life.
HGTV: I can see right away that your floors are finished on site, what kind of wood did you use?
Irene: The floors are oak with an ebony stain. I strongly prefer a site finished floor. I understand the popularity of pre-finished floors given the price point and the ease of installation, however, a site finished floor has quiet a sense of quality.
HGTV: Do you have a design ethos?
Irene: To put it quite directly: “bang for your buck”. Renovating and decorating can be a very expensive undertaking. Make sure it is well worth it and spend it where you will get maximum impact. For example, I was recently talking with some clients who are considering ripping up parquet wood floors throughout their main floor and installing radiant heating under new engineered wood floors. This will be a very expensive undertaking with minimal aesthetic impact. Instead, I suggested they refinish the existing parquet floor and apply an ebony stain. I have done this before and the end result is a stunning custom looking floor. I’m not sure what they will decide, but I hope they refinish the parquet floors!
HGTV: Are your sofas custom?
Irene: The white sofa is not custom and is almost 20 years old. It has been updated with the addition of the black grosgrain trim, which gives it a custom look. This is a great example of buying a good quality piece in a neutral colour.
HGTV: What was your goal decorating your own home? Could you describe the style?
Irene: This house is a blend of open concept family friendly spaces and separate formal spaces. With three young kids and a dog, it was important that finishes be durable and practical. The addition of French doors into the more formal living and dining rooms ensured that the black haired dog stayed off the white furniture. I like to describe my style as “new traditional”, classic pieces rendered in a neutral palette. The furniture is a real mix of high and low. Some pieces are from higher end manufacturers. Several items come from flea markets and antique stores. And some items are from mass market chain stores…I’ll let you guess what comes from where….
HGTV: Can you share five basic decorating principles?
Irene: Don’t follow trends too closely – trends date themselves.
Stick with neutral colours for big ticket items – flooring, countertops, etc.
Have fun with paint colours and accessories.
Mix styles, spaces can be boring if everything is too predictable.
Spend your money on good quality items that you touch – like upholstery, countertops, door hardware. Save on things like light fixtures and accessories.
HGTV: Tell me about this nook?
Irene: This is in the office. The wall mounted console is from Ikea. It’s a handy spot for the laptop. The chair is a flea market find which was painted and gilded. The cushion, my current favourite, is from Designer’s Guild.
Kitchen; dining room
HGTV: I see that there is no range hood over your stove? I love the way you’ve decorated that area, but can you explain the absence of a hood?
Irene: The cook top is a downdraft unit. I love the freedom of designing the kitchen without the range hood.
HGTV: Tell me about the paneling?
Irene: The paneling is simply stock moulding applied directly on top of the drywall. The drywall and mouldings are painted in the same colour. This technique is inexpensive and adds some much needed dimension and character to a space. This is especially effective in small spaces. You would think that the extra detail would be distracting in a small space, but it actually makes the space seem larger!
HGTV: I see you are a fan of brass/gold accents – me too! – how long with this trend last?
Irene: I am so happy to see the return of gold! I think it will have staying power, but like all good things – it’s best in moderation. I especially love it mixed with cooler colours like the blue grey walls in the living room. This keeps it current and fresh.
HGTV: What's your stance on colour?
Irene: I actually love colour. My dining room has gone from red to chartreuse to ivory! I even experimented with an orange ceiling for a while.
HGTV: Where did you get the beautiful headboard?
Irene: I love the headboard in this room. That has a great story to it. It came from a wonderful long time client . It came from her parent’s home and she had no place for it in her current house. When she heard that I was re-decorating my daughter’s room, she gave it to me. Thanks Judy!
HGTV: Love the painted/appliqué chandeliers in your girl’s room. Did you create those or are they decals?
Irene: I actually painted those chandeliers myself! When I did this a few years ago, I couldn't find an appliqué so I sketched the pattern on the wall with a pencil and went over it with latex paint. They're not perfect, but that’s part of the charm.
HGTV: Your bathroom is a true retreat. Do you enjoy it or is it more of a showpiece?
Irene: This bathroom started out with a large corner roman tub – which was never used, only dusted. For us, this oversized tub was wasted real estate. We renovated the bathroom to accommodate a large shower and a small laundry room. Now, we use every inch of the space and love the convenience of the second floor laundry room.
HGTV: All your gilded mirrors and frames are amazing. They are also very hard to find for a reasonable price. Any tips?
Irene: Those mirrors and frames come from a variety of different sources; some from flea markets and antique stores and some from mass retailers. The large mirror in the dining room came from Eaton’s.
HGTV: Drama abounds in your home – any tips on how to create drama that is inviting as opposed to overwhelming?
Irene: One of the most important elements for creating drama is contrast. When everything in a space is the same colour range, it can be a bit mundane. By introducing an element that is either much lighter or darker in colour you create contrast and drama.