Artist Jen Duffin of Nova Mercury Design turned a blank-canvas apartment in Montreal’s Little Italy neighbourhood into a captivating, colourful space for herself, her partner and her two kids. The best part? All of her design savvy – from artwork to plants to fun vintage finds – can be taken with them when they move. Spoiler alert: original and inventive woven designs play a starring role in the captivating boho-chic styling. Bonus: check out this video of the jaw-dropping space.
Speaking of original and inventive, as this display proves, art needn’t be contained in a frame. “Wall hangings are an amazing and dynamic way to add colour and texture to walls,” says Jen. “They’re different from other types of art, such as painting or photography, and really warm up a space.” This vibrant woven beauty was made by Jen and shares the space with an inexpensive basket. To get the look, Jen recommends sourcing wall hangings that are handmade by a local artist. “They have so much more character than mass-produced ones.”
As a renter, Jen relied on decor versus renovations to impart character to her space. The bathroom is testament to her flair, from the colourful accessories to the pretty plants. “I am a big plant-lover and really like how greenery freshens up a home,” she says. “Despite the amount of work it takes to maintain them, they bring me joy and I love the warmth and life they add to our space.” We love how Jen echoed that in the whimsically patterned shower curtain.
Jen’s bedroom features more inspired alternatives to traditional artwork. Here, a blanket purchased at Bookhou and crafted by Toronto artist Arounna Khounnoraj layers in natural textures and soft colours. The bedroom has a lovely tossed-together look, continued in the open storage, that feels relaxing. The sconces are a great small-space bedroom idea too.
Every part of Jen’s bedroom, even the back of the door, is personalized with colourful and quirky accents. Plants continue the fresh green theme found throughout the home, while the sun hat is reminiscent of a wicker basket wall hanging. More of Jen’s distinctively tactile and colourful art enlivens the space, as well.
A hallway is never a transitional space for Jen, and her cheery decoration of the entryway proves that with brimming personality. “Our home is a mix of store-bought, vintage and handmade pieces,” she says. “My artwork is really colourful and I wanted the decor choices to reflect that as well.” The scale of the furniture is noteworthy – though the passageway isn’t that expansive, a full-size dresser and chair create energy that smaller items would not.
Art Imitates Life
If you love it, buy it: there are no hard-and-fast rules when choosing artwork, but it seems like an added bonus when it happens to echo a room’s colour palette. We love how the variegated background and green tones of this painting are referenced in the potted plant. It’s a chain reaction: the pink variegation of the plant extends to the sweet vase beside it.
Old Meets New
In the living room, big-box store furniture is tempered with vintage finds for a layered look. “I like to mix up colours and textures, so as not have everything match,” says Jen. She’s done it expertly here – the eye is invited to wander from piece to piece. We love how the door’s patterned glass is repeated in the graphic patterns of the cushions and area rug.
The tactile abundance of Jen’s wall hangings has a luxurious quality that just begs to be touched. The varying finishes, layers of yarn and delightful colour combinations feel both dramatic and soothing.
In Plain Sight
How inviting and warm is this colourful kitchen? Jen made this rental space her own simply by dressing it up with colourful displays of dishware, accessories and fun accents like plants and paintings that her children made for her.
Dish It Up
Jen added inexpensive floating shelves to the kitchen that she can take with her when they move. “They are the perfect way for me to display my collection of vintage Pyrex and Fiestaware. Whenever I visit my family in the country, I love to go thrifting for interesting glassware.”
Once again, Jen shows that simple accents can amp up the personality of a rental space. The eating area of the kitchen nook is anchored by a pretty star pendant that seems especially suited to this sunny spot. Plants, macrame and fresh flowers further the fresh feel.
“This garland is a string of festive holiday lights that I purchased at IKEA years ago!,” says Jen. “I love having fairy lights in the house year-round, as they also warm up the space. I think we have some in every room now.”
If Jen’s love of plants wasn’t obvious in the principal rooms, it is unmissable in her home office. “I wanted it to feel cozy and have character – a room where I could also feel inspired to create everyday.” We like how she flanked it with storage and added a decorated, finished effect with the graphic rug.
Offices need to be practical, but they can also be pretty. Jen incorporated her signature colourful wall hangings above her computer, and they nicely fend off any office cubby feel. They probably serve as creative inspiration as well – something nice to look at while taking a break from the screen.
“Because we live in a climate with six months of winter, I try to maximize our outdoor time in the warmer months. Our little city terrasse functions as an extra room in the summer, and we use it for eating, relaxing and as a garden.” The patio set from IKEA, and the rug and umbrella are from Home Depot.
Jen’s use of soft colours and whimsical finishes (like pom poms) proves that macrame can be contemporary and also feminine. We like the juxtaposition of carefully arranged personal photos and pretty greens and blooms atop a scratched and distressed vintage dresser.
Hooked on Classics
This is a design takeaway for any space of any style: corral plants, vases or vessels on a tray for an instant pulled-together look. We love how nothing matches here – but everything jives.
Jen’s studio feels both organized and bohemian. “I end up hanging my weavings in the my studio around the house until they sell, so there’s always a rotating collection of fibre art.” The signature plants and fairy lights punctuate the room’s palette of soft pinks and blues.
Jen’s organizational prowess for stashing her yarns can be applied to any space, from a mudroom to a linen closet. Designated shelving and repetition of one type of basket in the same finish and colour keep everything in place and looking great at the same time. And, as always, a few plants add in a lively effect.