Arren Williams is the name, and I'm a stylist, editor and trend reporter. You'll catch my work regularly popping up in print in the likes of the National Post, House & Home and elsewhere. I'm also a guest expert on Citytv's CityLine, and you can occasionally find me on HGTV as well as on ABC 7 News in Chicago.

To keep things fun I've tapped a couple of friends - Julia Black and Jenn Hannotte - to contribute their views on design too. Enjoy!


 Subscribe in a reader

New posts delivered right to your inbox!

Powered by Squarespace
Add to Technorati Favorites

Entries in Canadian House & Home (23)


{that one great thing} Cobi's ashtray collection

Back when she was Editor of Canadian House & Home Cobi Ladner was one of my many bosses (oh, the life of a freelancer). Now, as I'm sure you've seen, she's just launched her very own witty, colourful and happy line of fabrics, furniture and accessories called cobistyle. As you can imagine she's been a little busy, so I've patiently been pursuing her for a *that one great thing* pick, and here it finally is. And seriously, will you ever look at Cobi the same now that you know she's a little light fingered?

Cobi Ladner: I wonder what it says about a person if their 'one great thing' is a collection of stolen hotel ashtrays? Especially if that person has never smoked! I guess I have to admit here, in front of the entire world, that yes, I did personally steal one of these little beauties myself. It's actually my least favourite of the bunch. It's the one from The Plaza hotel in NYC. I was lucky enough to stay at the Plaza for business  (back in the day when Ivana Trump briefly owned it). The crest is only cheaply printed on, probably in China, but I had to have it as a memento. 

I use these little dishes all around the house -  in the bathroom to hold loose jewellery; at the kitchen sink and bedside for my watch; on my desk for business cards (some days I need to remind myself of who I am); on my husband's dresser to hold change. I look for them whenever I'm in junk stores, the Sally Ann and flea markets. It's a total high to find a lovely little dish that originally sat in a beautiful room in Paris, on a dusty shelf in a thrift store in Southern Ontario. Who's suitcase did it travel in and was it a sentimental impulse to bring it home as a memento of a fabulous holiday?   

Although I love to see kitsch in other people's homes - pillows from Niagara Falls, shot glasses from Florida - I'm not into that myself. No, I love the idea of elegance - Paris - London - New York - Darlin', I love ya, but give me Park Avenue.... and the notion that a hotel would have fine bone china from England printed with their fabulous address. 

My favourite little dish isn't here unfortunately. It was from the Hotel Scribe in Paris and was a little fluted square with a fine orange line around it. I loved it so much I tried using it as a soap dish in our powder room and my clumsy 13-year old broke it. So much for the elegance of Paris in our house.  I guess that's what makes it all the more appealing.


{that one great thing} Michael's Blue Willow dishes

I totally get people who are kind of nuts about collecting, and Michael Penney from House & Home is just one of those kind of nuts. I bet you've seen his stories in the mag, or on the H&H blog, as well as on Design*Sponge. In fact, you'll see his new house featured in H&H's upcoming June issue, where I'm sure you'll catch a glimpse of a wall filled with his that one great thing pick - Blue Willow china.

Michael Penney: My one great thing is my growing collection of Blue Willow china. It started as a love of all things British and cottage-y in style, but I've since decided I like it with almost anything. I love the story behind the pattern (of two young people in love escaping a disapproving father, their souls flying off into the distance represented by two birds) and how the narrative is told on the plates and platters themselves. The clear blue glaze mixed with the time-worn creams and whites is perfection, as are any chips or blemishes that occur over time. This makes the piece look all the better to me!   

I bought a whole lot of dinner plates this past summer at Antiques USA in Kennebunk Maine for very little and have continued collecting everywhere from thrift shops to Cynthia Findlay Antiques (where I got this gorgeous platter). I've since hung the plates on my dining room wall in a symmetrical, geometric pattern radiating out from this central platter. I love the way they look en masse and they really have a big impact that way too. 

I also pick up blue and white ginger jars and vases when I can, and even small bowls and things in Chinatown. I guess I just can't get enough of this English, WASPY staple!


{that one great thing} Meg's chair

I've known Meg Crossley, House & Home mag's senior editor for, well, ages. We've shot a gazillion things together over the years including a memorable out-of-town home shoot where the place actually turned out to be haunted. Fun times? Yep, especially with us both squeezed into a twin bed terrified about having another 'visit'. And so, with that kind of history I just had to ask her to contribute to that one great thing.

Meg Crossley: I love love love this chair my father made sometime in the early 60s. It was for the first little house he shared with my mom when they were newlyweds. As they got more established, their tastes changed and the chair ended up in our toy room -- where my brother and I kept Barbie's and GI Joes, games, the record player, the Meccano set, you get the picture. It became part of our "pretend" house or apartment furniture. Then the lovely thing was moved into the garage not to be seen again for years. My brother resurrected it in the 80s for his university pad (the cushions upholstered in something I would call School Boy stripe, very dark and masculine), then back to the garage. I rescued it just a couple of years ago, when I started to reno and furnish my basement. I needed low furniture because the ceiling was so low in the basement and I wanted to fool the eye into thinking it was higher. This did the trick. After a little lemon oil on the wood and a slipcover in white denim (it is a testament to how well it was made that it was so easy to resurrect), it mixed well with some of my quirky vintage things and my more traditional furnishings -- it is all about the mix after all. We shot my basement for a Makeover issue for House & Home and it landed front and centre, on the cover of that mag. Needless to say, my dad was thrilled.


Finland to Japan to Canada

On the eve of the nice folks at House & Home posting a gallery of both our houses (take a look here) I thought it would be fun to share the latest addition to the interior - snazzy new pillows. We scored the vintage Finnish Fin-Helen fabric in Tokyo - of all places - at Siige in Nakemeguro, well, truth be told, David actually grabbed it and reminded me how we needed new pillows. The pillow 'need' comes from the fact that Spot the whippet likes to chew (and chew, and chew) pillows, and all the ones we had hanging out on the sofa looked like they'd been through the wars. Thankfully Spot is pretty much past this phase, and for the most part uses any and all pillows as a snoozing aid (right this sec he's asleep with his head buried in a pillow I made out of an Orla Kiely tablecloth). Smart dog.


Guest blog / Jenn Hannotte: The royal treatment

Jenn Hannotte: Ahh, the sweet, suffocating smell of plaster dust! We're knee-deep in it over here, tackling the family bathroom. When we bought this house, we thought we could live with it for a while. We thought that we could clean it up, and it would be OK. We thought maybe some new towels would help. We thought WRONG. The 'before' picture provides some visual evidence, but the real issue here was the smell. And the strange textures that stained every surface. I won't elaborate, but suffice it to say we are very happy to have it all GONE! It was demo- day here today, and the folks from Cera Stone (who I also used to renovate the main floor of the last house) knocked it out efficiently as ever.

Finding inspiration for the bathroom wasn't a problem. It seemed everything I saw, I loved. Especially anything dark and vintage, with an industrial twist. Like Jenna Lyon's en-suite, or this gorgeous bathroom from House & Home by Connie Braemar. But, I wasn't quite sold on the idea of going to the dark side - something wasn't quite grabbing me. And then, as I do a couple times a year, I was watching The Royal Tenenbaums and there it was, my future bathroom. Nothing dark about it, but oozing original vintage charm with a fresh colour scheme and those great set details found in all of Wes Anderson's films. How close the final product will be to the bathroom Margot Tennenbaum spends  "six hours a day locked up in...watching television and soaking in the tub" remains to be seen, but the hunt is on! [Image 2 via Habitually Chic. Image 3 by Virginia Macdonald]

For more of Jenn's take on style, as well as to see the beginnings of her own reno project, click here.