Who: Lily is a homemaker, blogger and co-owner of an online vintage shop, Birch Bird on Etsy. In her spare time she organizes handmade and vintage markets with her business partner, Rachel Janzen. Their fourth event, Scout Handmade Vintage Market, is slated for later this spring. Brad Ellis is a Millwright by trade and an overall handyman extraordinaire. They have three children: Gabe (8), Sadie (6) and Lilah (3).
All photos by Janis Nicolay
What: Built in 1969, the Ellis house is a rancher with a one-bedroom legal suite in the basement. It’s 2600 square feet in total, though they only live in about 1300 square feet of it, but are planning on furnishing a rec room in the basement that’s not part of the income suite.
Where: An established suburban neighbourhood made up of large lots (theirs is a 1/4 acre), where most of the neighbours have lived for 20 years or more, and have grown children. It’s a relatively quiet side of town and what they love best about it are the neighbourhood’s mature trees. *Correction! The Ellis family lives in Abbotsford, not Vancouver. That was my bad, as usual.
Why: Because this house has an easy charm about it that shows how confidence and staying true to one’s tastes and decor decisions can create that elusive feeling of personality without spending the big bucks.
HGTV: How did you come to live this home?
Lily Ellis: After spending five years renovating our last home, a tiny two-bedroom heritage cottage, we became pregnant with our third child and knew it was time to move on. We mentioned our house-hunting woes at a New Year’s Eve party and some acquaintances (who are now friends!) told us we should come take a look at their home, which they were considering selling. A few days later, we walked in, saw the ceilings and knew it was meant to be! Everything quickly fell into place and a mere three months later, we were moving in.
HGTV: Did you renovate? Briefly describe what you did?
LE: We were exhausted from the past renovations in our previous home and were thrilled to move into a space that had already had all of the “big work” finished. We have painted and replaced all of the lighting fixtures and Brad recently built a big shop in the backyard, which he’s also spent a lot of time landscaping. We do have plans to replace the laminate floors with a warmer coloured hardwood and to finish a basement playroom for the kids later this year.
HGTV: Did you work with a designer? Who does most of the decorating in the home?
LE: No, I’ve done all of the decorating myself.
HGTV: How would you describe your style?
LE: Hmm, my style seems to be ever-evolving but I suppose it’s somewhat eclectic, relaxed and family-friendly these days!
HGTV: Your decorating is very clever and creative. What is your ethos? And what are some of the splurges in your home? What decor item, design element, furnishing would you never compromise on?
LE: We married and started our family pretty young, by today’s standards, and have always had a tight budget to work with. To keep up with my love of interior design and decorating, I had no choice but to get creative and that’s where my love of scouring thrift stores and junk barns for hidden treasures kicked it. We don’t have a lot of splurges in our home (not yet, anyway!) and I try to stick to the rule of only surrounding myself with things that I actually love to look at. I’m not overly sentimental by nature and by not spending a lot of money on things, I don’t feel guilty when my tastes change.
HGTV: Do any of your friends and family frown upon your penchant for saving secondhand furniture and giving it new life?
LE: My husband and I both come from families with a penchant for junk hunting…my mom refinished many a curbside find when I was growing up and my father-in-law once owned an auction…so they don’t usually bat an eye when they see a cobweb covered find in our carport.
LE: A lot of our furniture is vintage or has been passed down. Two of our kids’ beds were built by my great grandfather from a cherry tree that was struck down by lightning in his front yard. I love having a sense of history in our home, balanced with enough new pieces, accents and fresh patterns to keep it from looking too retro! Etsy is a favourite stop to find original art and pillow covers, when I’m looking for something new.
HGTV: Any find in particular you’re most proud of in your home?
LE: That’s a tough question…co-owning a vintage shop, we’ve found some pretty amazing things in our junk hunts! But a few of my own favourite finds are definitely the brass-topped coffee table (found in a junk barn, covered in bird poop!), my solid oak desk (found at Bibles for Missions, it has amazing dovetail drawers with fitted dividers) and my bentwood dining chairs (found on Craigslist, made in the former Yugoslavia). You probably don’t want to know the prices…I love a good bargain.
HGTV: Where do you find your decorating inspiration?
LE: As a blogger, I am endlessly inspired by the design world out there. Canadian House & Home is my favourite print magazine along with several online mags like Anthology and Rue, and I am head over heels for everything that they’re doing over at West Elm! Everything that Portland-based designer Jessica Helgerson does is amazing and I would love to live in any of the spaces that she’s put together.
LE: As for blogs, some of my current daily reads are The Marion House Book, Bright.Bazaar, and Pinecone Camp along with Design*Sponge and several Scandinavian blogs like Emma’s Design Blogg and Stylizimo. Like I said, there’s endless inspiration out there!
HGTV: You’ve made some bold choices such as the green dining table and yellow ‘e’ in the dining nook — how do you take the plunge? Where does your design gumption come from?
LE: Our table was previously painted black but was starting to chip so I used up some leftover paint from my front door (yes, my front door is green too!). With young kids in the house, I think it’s important to have some fun with decorating and I’ve never been one to pay attention to too many rules…well, not when it comes to design, anyway! And the yellow ‘e’ — for Ellis — was purchased from one of our past market vendors…I just couldn’t go home without it!
HGTV: Tell me about green — you like it. Have you always liked it or is it something you’re feeling at this moment?
LE: I love green! In fact, we live on Green Avenue and our youngest daughter’s middle name is Green so it just always feels right to have bits of the colour in our home!
LE: Here on the West Coast, we’re lucky enough to see endless expanses of lush greenery so green never feels out of place to me…it just brings the outdoors in. I do often change my decor, and will very likely repaint the table again at some point, but there will always be green accents in my home somewhere!
HGTV: You love an animal vignette (you’re not alone). Put the following animals in priority sequence for me: owls, marine life, horses, other birds, all other animals.
LE: Yes, I too am a sucker for a good animal vignette! I’ve always loved horses so I think they’d have to be at the top of my list followed closely by whales and birds. My sister collects owls so they always remind me of her and make me happy.
HGTV: Your favourite room and why?
LE: My favourite room is our living room because it’s where we all pile up on the couch at the end of the day. With big windows to the back and front yard, we always have a great view of our huge trees and all of the birds and other wildlife that live around us. It’s also home to my “office” and I can watch the kids playing outside while working and blogging each day. The living room is definitely the heart of our family home.