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Van Allan Design Centre

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Van Allan Design Centre
150 First St
Collingwood, Ontario L9Y 1A4

705-293-4663 | phone
705-293-1610 | fax

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Hours of Operation
Monday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tuesday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wednesday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thursday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Friday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday:10:00 am - 5:00 pm
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Aug 07, 2015

We all Collect

African masks, glass paper
weights, soap stone sculpture, photography – however it starts and at what age,
at some point, the majority of us, whether young or old, will have a collection
of ‘something’.
As a designer, I love being
able to incorporate a client’s collection into their home and once in a while
the room design can start with a great collection.
While making a visit to a
Toronto Beaches home that was in a state of semi-demolishment, I was asked to
come up with a colour palette – on the spot – while the trades (painters, floor
refinishers etc.) stood waiting for direction.  Feeling much like the
Oracle in the Matrix, I asked the client if he collected something, anything.
He was a patron of the water colour artist Toni Onley. Fifteen minutes after he
had brought out his favourite painting we had the wall colour, the trim and
cabinetry colours and the floor stain chosen.  Designing should be about
the people who inhabit the space; it should function for their particular needs
and reflect their style. 
Another family room design
began with a tribal mask collection that had taken several African trips to
collect. And soon I am hoping to curate a client’s passion for bears and their
dozens of soap stone sculptures.  Rather than being scattered around the
home willy-nilly I see a number of them displayed on a long, narrow, live edge
wood ledge above a sectional – softly lit from below – a dramatic focal point.
Collections present so much better when kept together.
 One of the best seminars I’ve
attended was presented by Kravet – one of the premier fabric houses in the
world. Marianne Resman flew in from Manhattan where she is VP of product
development for Ralph Lauren. She spoke about how his stylistas scoured the globe
for the next big bang, the back bone for the next trend.  It might start with a paisley shawl
plucked from a Parisian flea market or a roll of antique wall paper from
Coventry Gardens. It could be a native blanket, a piece of Ikat fabric from
Bali, a teapot from Tibet – a starting point that sends the rest of their
design teams trekking through archives or creating new uses for objects such as
a simple antler. 
Did I mention Ralph (et al) is at
the top of my list of great designers? His ability to take a formal piece of
furniture and cover it with something as basic as denim, making it functional
and casual, is brilliant. He is also a master at displaying collections of
‘things’ - including his own native Indian blankets at his Double RL ranch in
Colorado. This stockpile has been translated into fabric collections such as
‘Corral Canyon’ so the rest of us can enjoy the geometrics and colours of this native
art form - which can look amazingly modern.
Juxtaposing vintage and modern or
formal and casual creates the eclectic but can also personalize an
environment. The trick is to add a dash
of one style to a majority of another. 
A home with very modern lines and
organic material (read natural stone and lots of stained wood) feels
comfortable with quilts hung on the walls. Each of the quilts we recently
installed at a client’s house has a ‘travel’ story, a history and in an instant
their new house became a home full of good memories.
Are your travel photos still on
memory sticks?  Why? Why not on a floating shelf, perhaps 4 inch deep with
small lip to the front so you can lean picture frames of various sizes along a
wall? By using readymade frames with easy-to-open backs you can switch up the
photos at will. Keep the frames to one style and colour in up to three sizes
and with mats. I will often buy high quality postcards along the way – the
photography is always better than mine and they are easily transported.

Buddha once said ‘It is better to travel well than to arrive’. But it is nice to re-visit the journey once you are home again – and remember to ‘keep it together’.

Jun 07, 2015

Cabin Chic

Cabin. A small, roughly built house usually with a wood exterior and typically found in rural areas

Chic meaning "stylish" or "smart", is an element of fashion

While the term may sound like an oxymoron there are so many chic cabins - stylish, rural homes (not so small) - in this area that it would be hard to count them.

Let’s play a little word association - if asked to visualize curtains for a log cabin would you think gingham or homey plaid? To add chic think of Ralph Lauren’s Stratford Damask, a large scale, tonal slubbed cotton fabric, which would bring a certain elegance without formality.

With a timber framed wood ceiling that is 27 feet to the peak would you install an antler horn light fixture or chandelier? Sorry guys, chic would call for a huge, over the top chandelier in a rustic or oil rubbed finish with prisms and crystals the size of your open hand.

Reclaimed wood floors are beautiful however there is noise component and cosy factor that is satisfied only with an area rug. Grandma would have used a braided rug in a cabin but the smart and stylish opt for veggie dyed, hand knotted carpets that look as if they came from an old mansion. Once again it’s the dash of luxe that steps it up from rural to relaxed rustic refinement.

There seems to be a passion for grey these days as well – Restoration Hardware and so many others have made the old and reclaimed chic these days. Now the fad is becoming uber industrial with steam punk adding cogs and wheels; bits of machinery and metal. (Picture) Fads fade usually for good reason so consider the issue of finish when making major furniture decisions – think how quickly one would have to wipe up that red wine spilt on a raw wooden table. The next generation of reclaimed wood actually has a wipe-able surface and is now available in flooring which is meant to be walked on. (Picture)

Barn board is back in vogue again and certainly speaks to cabin chic with its texture and colour on target. But if ever there was a mantra in design it’s to not go hog-wild with any one trend and buy the farm but to keep the basics simple, remember your roots and introduce the funky fads in moderation, one cog at a time.

Mar 03, 2015

Colour, Pattern and Texture – Interior Essentials

Sterile environment might be okay for lab rats but our homes need texture, pattern and colour.

Humans are tactile creatures – from the earliest days as infants we soothed at the feel of softness and coo at the touch of fur on a pet. Who does not love to touch cashmere? Even earlier, at day four, an infant can recognize the pattern of their mother’s face. And babies are mesmerized by colour.  These three elements add so much to our lives and more importantly to modern design.

Modern home design and architecture benefit from the use of organic, textural materials to inject interest. For instance the use of humble barn board has soared – its lovely old patina and texture balances out the use of metal and hard surfaces. Live edge wood pieces are evidence of people wanting elements of nature in their interior surroundings. And what isn’t reclaimed these days? We have décor items made on an Ontario farm from rusty old metal (pic- funky beaver) and artwork painted on rough wood that could have been a packing pallet re-incarnated.

Richelieu, Canada’s largest cabinetry hardware supplier, has just introduced drawer pulls and knobs that look like blobs of lava sliced into layers – just call it live edge metal.

At this December’s IIDEX – International Interior Design Expo at the Toronto Metro Convention – Interface, one of the world’s largest flooring companies, showed their Human Nature Collection.  Taking colour, texture and pattern from nature, they have a number of carpet tiles that visually mimic items such as small river rock and recreate the colour and pattern found in barn board.  The carpet tile are rectangular and allow endless creativity in how the pattern, ie. herringbone, brick staggered etc, is designed with various textures and colours. (pic interface )

Interface is also environmentally concerned using recycled material for the majority of their content – even producing a line called Net Effect I and II where small fishing villages in the Philippines are paid to collect discarded nets which are sent off to be spun into yarn for carpet tile.  The texture and colour of the tile resembles the movement and colour of the sea.

We recently used natural flagstone at the exterior entry to a modern home and carried it right through the interior foyer and out the other side to the exterior patio. With the huge floor to ceiling windows the home now has openness to nature that Frank Lloyd Wright could only dream of achieving. The client never worries about dogs, children or even bikes using this sturdy material and the random shapes create a pattern that balances out the more modern, linear shapes of the architecture and other finishes.

Grey – what can one say but that it is everywhere? Yes, it is a great basic, a nice neutral but like black and white, it is not a colour and somewhere, somehow one needs to add to the palette. By all means keep the big stuff – such as sofas, cabinetry or flooring – neutral and therefore adaptable. Then add texture and pattern and but pump up the drama, add the interest with colour. There are lots of great colour combos to use with a neutral environment – blue spa ( 2052-20); a shot of split pea green ( 2146-30) looks amazing with pewter; sundried tomato ( cc-62). (Benjamin Moore colour dabs ) And of course there is nothing more dynamic in a room than great artwork to add all three elements at once.

And what do the pundits predict this year for colour?  Pantone is touting Marsala 18-1438 – think dusty wine (pic – kravet). Benjamin Moore presented Guilford Green HC-116 as their Colour of the Year – a soft, mid-green. (pic- brochure cover)


So find your favourite colour, search out all things touchable and repeat a pattern to humanize and personalize your environment.

Written by Sharon Allan

Original article found in Escarpment magazine Winter 2015 pg66 

Mar 06, 2014

Home Decor Trends - Translating Style

From Cambodia to Paris, from Milan to Vegas – there are interior design/furniture trade shows around the globe. But how does one translate design styling from Germany or Italy or Singapore into a slope side chalet or water front cottage in Canada?

Visiting Italy was number one on my bucket list for years and when I finally went it included visiting the Abitare IL Tempo Design Show in the city made famous by Romeo and Juliette – Verona.  The question of how to incorporate what would be shown into designing interior decor for homes around Georgian Bay - was quickly answered. 

With a million square feet of show cases to view, presented by hundreds of incredibly diverse worldwide manufacturers and suppliers, one of the very first was a Belgium company that resembled Ralph Lauren’s collection – Alpine Lodge. The scrubbed raw reclaimed wood was teamed with studded distressed leather club chairs.  That comfortable vintage feel; layers of texture from linen to fur; old patina silver; funky and whimsical accessories all provided a sense of rustic luxe that said stay awhile to enjoy the comfort of class without pretention. 

When I arrived back in Canada to stacks of mail there was a catalogue from Restoration Hardware - now re-branding as 'RH'.  It looked like the furniture I had travelled over 6 thousand kilometers to see - right down to the popular x-back bistro chair currently available in dozens of colours and presented by three different companies in Verona. But the catalogue somehow missed the mark and that’s where the master of lifestyle concepts steps in. Lauren adds the luxe and the unexpected.  He’s not afraid to add ruffles to expensive bed linens; native Indian inspired blankets and patterns along with fine leathers, raw silk and menswear suiting.

So at the Toronto Gift and Tableware Show, in 10 by 10 foot booth in building 12 was a company from Belgium offering wonderful decor items, lighting and small pieces of furniture - I almost pinched myself.  Simple china dishes adorned with vintage brown transfer-ware-like skis, sledges or ski poles; cast metal lamps with small standing rabbits and crumbled canvas shades; mercury glass used for all types of items from lamps to candle sticks; dozens of different French wire wall hooks and loads of the humanizing whimsy missed by mass marketers like Restoration Hardware.

Still there is no need to be a minion to any one designer or style. If a sectional sofa functions best in the space by all means use one. Any decor can use a hit of black or a thoroughly modern something and a modern decor can benefit from the juxtaposition of a great antique or vintage piece. If you have a favourite family heirloom then get it out and remember to tell the story behind it - especially to the next generation. 

In my opinion there should only be two rules in design.  Form should follow function and it should reflect the lifestyle and personality of the owners.

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