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!


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Entries in west Elm (10)


In praise of zig zags

One pattern I don't have in the house, and believe me, I have a lot, is zig zag. I've always loved it from afar, and meant to incorporate it somewhere, it's just never happened. The pattern works brilliantly in floorcoverings - The Madeline Weinrib Zig Zag rug has gotten miles and miles of coverage (and is adored by, well, just about everyone), West Elm has their version, and now Nate Berkus has gotten in on the act with one for HSN (currently on sale, too!). And, while a graphic black and white zig zag feels the most classic it's also a little bossy, I fancy it a fair bit more when the colours are softened slightly, like in a couple of the interior shots below. Oh, and for fun, I thought I'd start things off with my current fave in zig zag patterns that have a messier, more painterly and hand-done vibe to them - which I would L.O.V.E. to see turned into fabric, wallpaper or rugs, btw - TOMS Black Tangier Men's Vegan Classic slip-ons, and the Zig Zag tea towel by The Near Future over on Etsy. [Image 3 here, 4 here, and 5 here]


Julia Black: Staying in the closet

With New Year’s resolutions and must-do lists in mind, just the thought of tackling my closet gives me a headache. This January, not only do I need to clean mine, I also need to source an entirely new closet system that can smartly handle all my clothes and accessories, all while staying within a relatively thrifty, post-holiday budget. Thankfully, West Elm has once again managed to answer my prayers in efficiently chic home décor, this time with the Bergen Closet Collection. All the shelves, drawers and racks within the line are both stackable and portable, so I'll get that posh custom look and can always take it with me should I ever want to move! The icing on the cake: The collection (available in chocolate & white) is made with FSC-Certified wood veneers (which means it’s using material from sustainably managed forests), uses eco-friendly hardwood construction (so no MDF and therefore less glue and other icky stuff) and is finished with water-based stains and lead-free lacquer. If that isn't good news enough, most of the hardware is made from recycled materials. Love!

To read more posts from Julia click here, and to check out her cool blog click here.


5 quick questions: Alex Bates

I was lucky enough to have a fascinating chat with Alex Bates, West Elm's creative director, back when West Elm opened up in Liberty Village in October of last year. She was just back from a whistle-stop tour of incredibly inspiring places and was starting to plan the next collections for the affordably on-trend brand (which also happens to be one of my fave places to shop). To continue that conversation I recently asked Alex if she wouldn't mind answering a couple of questions on her personal style and she happily obliged. And, from the sound of it, she's also racking up more Air Miles as we speak.

Below you'll find a couple of snaps of recent West Elm intros - The Beanstalk bed linens, Beach Glass vases and Twist melamine dishware. Click here to check out more 5 Quick Questions interviews.

Arren Williams: What's inspiring you now?

Alex Bates: All things Calder. His recent show at the Whitney blew me away. The installation of his wire face sculptures was a stroke of genius. I also loved the Met’s exhibition of his jewelry – crazy and elegant. I’m loving simple wire and pencil sketches in general; especially Martin Ramirez’s black and white sketches at the American Folk Art Museum.

AW: What's the next thing you have your eye on for your own house?

AB: I am fixated with all shades of grey, still. You can see it manifested in our summer collection at West Elm. I’m dying to paint my front hall. I think it would be very cozy and create a great background for my art. There is also a pair of vintage Cherner Chairs I want. I know they would look like pieces of sculpture against the gray.

AW: How would you describe your current style, and how has it changed over the years?

AB: My house is more about collecting that decoration. It’s very laid back and comfortable with worn family antiques mixed with modern – and of course a lot of West Elm. It’s a hodge podge of things I absolutely couldn’t live without from years of traveling. Every wall is covered in paintings and tons of books. I am officially out of wall space and have stacks of paintings and books growing in the corners. I’m trying to pare back and I fantasize about a certain Piet Boon house – spare but cozy. I know my little bits would start to slowly creep back in.

AW: Is there anything that can drive you crazy when you walk into a room?

AB: Bad art. Fake flowers. “I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson.

AW: What's next?

AB: Spring is a busy time for us. We just opened out our new West Elm store at Broadway and 62nd in New York with an amazing opening party and a fun collaboration with David Stark. We’re finishing up our spring 2010 collection and trying to continue to be as green as we can in our processes, materials, and finished products. Next we're off to Italy for the Milan furniture show and then India. We have started some great new partnerships, working with Craftmark and Aid to Artisans in India, and I’m excited to explore new ideas with them.


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Hit the deck

Has Spring sprung? Well, with the mercury reaching a balmy 7C today (lol) at least we're moving in the right direction. I'm excited that West Elm has just launched their snazzy outdoor lines and wanted to share a couple of my faves, though much of the collection is catalogue/internet only, which pretty much means a no-go for Canadian shoppers. What gives?

Ah well, to find a spot for these smashing loungers we'll have to do a fair bit of work. The garden is currently more of a wasteland, about which at least one wag has noted, "Boy, you've got quite the job ahead of you with that!" While the grand plans will have to wait until we win the lottery - lap pool (!), summer house (!) - this year is more about sorting out a small deck, clearing the weeds, testing the soil and having a go at a vegetable garden. Mmmm, homegrown tomatoes...


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NY heat

After an impressive sneak peek at all of Samsung's fab new electronics for the home (look for it on CityLine in the next couple of months) we walked to 5th avenue for some well needed retail therapy. A short and strong Swedish espresso at Fika and then we headed into Bergdorf Goodman, where I had to practically drag the gals away from the gorgeous glass cases filled with handbags so we could head to the 7th floor. As usual it was an incredible visual overload, with surfaces crammed with covetable accessories and perfect vignettes. I think their's is one of the best home sections in a Manhattan department store...

Next stop Anthropologie. Okay, this place rocks a total over-the-top fleamarket vibe in their home decor section, and while I ooh'd and aah'd over mismatched handpainted patterned dinnerware the gals shopped for bargains in the fashion department (Anita, you really should've bought that silk dress...). Fingers crossed for a Canadian store soon.

With the heat and humidity getting to us we grabbed a cab and travelled 30 blocks to today's final destination - West Elm. If you haven't been, well, you really should, since this store has it's finger firmly on the pulse of design. Affordable (love that) and fashion forward, this season West Elm has ditched their happy Moroccan colours and patterns for something more masculine, clean-lined and textured. One swift look and you get a kind of post-industrial arty vibe. Their accessories are always killer, and I already have a spot for these printed silk satin pillows.  


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