Ten magic touches that made my home sparkle

By Sarah Richardson


That’s it! The farm is done. Tommy and I have concluded our northland adventure, and are, once again, fully engrossed in our city life. We tackled the farm project and turned it around in a whirlwind five months (Do not try this at home – it’s an insane schedule!). Now that the dust has settled, the TV series has aired, the agents have evaluated the place, and you’ve all had a good look around, I thought I’d share my list of favourite elements from the project. In every room, something sets the tone and makes the space. I can’t go through them all, but I will tell you my top 10.

1. Red in the mudroom. I love the feeling of walking in and seeing those bright red doors. So much so that I named the colour “Orchard” in my paint collection for Para because it really is a perfect apple red, and the orchard is the view that lies beyond the mudroom. If you’ve never experimented with coloured doors, now is the time to try (and mustard yellow is the next coloured door on my list!).

2. Salvage in the kitchen. I wanted an authentic country kitchen, but needed to achieve winning results on a reduced budget. My approach was an equal ratio of one part new, one part salvage, and that made all the difference. Corbels, brackets, newel posts, handrail, signs, flooring and trim all scavenged from multiple sources ensured that my kitchen had enough country credibility to offset shiny new appliances and a sleek Swedish cabinets.

3. Colour everywhere! There isn’t a monochromatic room in the place, and that’s what makes me love it so much. Every room is bursting with joyful patterns, saturated hues, and a rainbow of shades that are guaranteed to brighten the dreariest day Mother Nature can deliver. I love neutrals and naturals, and used them plentifully throughout, but a zing of zesty yellow in the bathroom, a pop of cherry red in the bedroom, a touch of lilac, the warmth of fiery orange, and cool blue of the sky embrace all the colours that surround us in our natural world.

4. Grass – inside! I love the resurgence of wallpaper, but am gaga for grasscloth. Once was not enough in this house, so I did it two ways for extra effect. Light, silvery oyster shimmers above the chair rail in the living room, and the most magnificent, thick, textural greens add wow factor to the hallway. (Some have actually said that the hallway is their favourite room in the whole place… considering there’s not a stick of furniture, I wonder if that’s a supreme compliment to the walls and floor, or an insult to my decorating abilities).

5. Flow. It’s never easy tacking an addition on to an existing space, but if you get it right, it’s sublime. I can’t say connecting old to new makes the most efficient floor plan, but having guest quarters above the kitchen and family bedrooms tucked away from the hum of the house, and a kitchen, dining room and living room with long sightlines is a great way to live if you can pull it off. When you’ve got 50 acres, it’s a bit easier to manage than a narrow city lot.

6. Fire. Some say they can’t be bothered to lug in firewood and go to the trouble of making a fire, so they prefer a gas log set. I say there is nothing better than a roaring fire, the sound of crackling logs, and the real deal. There is enough fake in this world; treat yourself to a roaring blaze and you’ll immediately appreciate that it wins over flicking on a switch. The raised hearth, light-toned stone, and salvaged bay window turned into a mantle are a spectacular focal point (visible all the way from the mudroom), and an anchor in the room.

7. Provenance. Don’t be fooled into thinking every stick of furniture and accessory I bought for the house is of historical significance (it’s absolutely not!), but most of it has had a previous life. Some folks like everything to be shiny and new, but not me. I love the patina, the history, the charm, the quality and the unique appeal of filling a house with vintage and antique items. I like every home to look unique, and this place is certainly one of a kind! There’s nothing new that beats the look, price and inherent style factor of authentic old. Also, it’s never as much fun to spend money in a polished showroom as it is to poke around in search of something special.

8. The right stuff. I love to save money where I can, but it seems that the old adage “you get what you pay for” has never been more true. When it comes to exterior building materials, paying less just gets you less. So I put the necessary funds towards using the materials that are right for the site. Choosing to be in the country means you can embrace materials that would seem out of place in the city. The best country roof, in my view, is painted steel. It lasts at least 40 years, can be installed on top of your existing roof to eliminate disposal issues, and comes in a variety of colours to suit your personal taste (try saying that about asphalt shingles). Did I mention the soothing sound of rain on a metal roof? The best country siding for my taste is still old-fashioned painted channel siding. Vertical boards reference the simple elegance of the classic barn, and a guaranteed pre-painted finish (available in any colour you can imagine) means you can get the look that lasts.

9. A partner in crime. Everyone needs a sounding board, co-conspirator, cheerleader, realist, and friend to get through the design/build process. I’ve got a dreamy husband… and I’ve got Tommy, so I know I’m a lucky girl. Thanks to my sidekick, every day was an adventure, every room was a creative experiment, and every minute was memorable. In case you’ve ever wondered, no, we don’t have a writer, and yes, he really is that funny. (Thank goodness, because making a TV show while racking up a huge bill on my own dime can be stressful business.)

10. Vision. Without a great design, it all would have been a total flop. So, my favourite thing overall is the space that was created by my collaborator, John Robinson, who delivered a design that fell within my budget, yet exceeded my expectations (anyone who knows me well can tell you just how high the bar is set when it comes to expectations, so that’s a big feat!). After the design, you need a team to pull it off and bring it to life. I had a tireless and dedicated contractor, Vito Colucci, and teams of trades who brought skill, passion and endless hours of expertise to the site to erect a dynamite home where a derelict drive shed used to sit. Thanks to each of you!

Watch the finale episode


Salvage building materials

Legacy Vintage Building Materials & Antiques

The Door Store

Century Olde Salvage


Vintage/antique furniture and lighting
Chair Table Lamp
(416) 934-1021

Decorum Decorative Finds
(416) 966-6829

Absolutely north
(416) 922-6784

Residential Lighting
(416) 537-3138

Christie Antiques Show

Consignment shops

Around The Block

Elegant Garage Sale

Building design and materials

Painted steel roof in Charcoal – Vicwest www.vicwest.com

Painted wood 8” channel siding in Taupe – Cape Cod Siding www.capecod.ca

Stone for fireplace and exterior – Beaver Valley Stone www.beavervalleystone.com

Building design – Robinson Residential Design Inc. www.robinsonplans.com



Topics: Sarah's House, Sarah Richardson, Season 03, Episode 10, Renovating

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