Sarah’s Style: Decor For Two

Dear Sarah,

My girlfriend and I are moving in together and have chosen a new harbourfront condo. Now that we are in our mid-twenties and settled in our careers, we feel that it’s time to say goodbye to our cheap student furniture and start afresh. The problem is, we don’t know how to furnish and decorate our new home to be both masculine and feminine. Can you give us some advice on how to make a home in which we both feel comfortable (and grown up)?

– Dan R., Toronto.


Hi Dan,

Congratulations to you and your girlfriend! It’s a big step to go from ‘struggling student’ to ‘ambitious adult’ so it’s only natural to want to make your home reflect where you are in life. It can, however, be tricky to make this new space the perfect balance of guy and girl.

The harbourfront is a great location – who wouldn’t love to wake up to that view? But the trade-off for that view is often a living space that lacks character. With builder-white walls and few points of architectural interest, condos are notorious for being ‘small boxes in the sky.’

To combat this stereotype there are two easy ways to customize your space. First, beef up the standard four-inch baseboards by installing half-round trim about four inches above existing moldings. Then, paint the half round and the wall space between the two moldings the same as the existing baseboard. This is a great ‘fake it ’till you make it’ trick for getting the look of beautiful, large baseboards. The other fix is to give the space a fresh coat of paint. Light and bright is still a great choice, but I would suggest going for a warmer white, such as Para‘s “Posture & Poise” (pictured).

Now that the bones of the space have been addressed, we have a proper blank canvas. To avoid going ‘too manly’ or  ‘too girly’ with decor, it’s always best to stick with the classics. Think clean lines, neutral fabrics and interesting textures. This sofa from Brentwood is great: it’s extra long, extra wide and is filled with down feathers. Perfect for curling up together at the end of the day, it also provides lots of seating for get-togethers. The bonus is that the dimensions are the same as a single bed, so it does double duty accommodating an overnight guest.  Finish it off with a warm, fishtail-patterned throw (pictured).

Time to hide away all those media components that were probably stacked beside your TV in your student days. This sideboard from Restoration Hardware (pictured) not only provides great storage, but its mirrored surfaces trick the eye and visually expand the room. To add a touch of sparkle, flank your sofa with a pair of glass floor lamps from Ralph Lauren (pictured).

To incorporate a bit of colour (with a nod to the waterfront), add a pair of blue Mid-century Modern occasional chairs, such as these from Danish Modern LA (pictured). The walnut finish adds warmth to the space, while the openness of the frame is ideal for small spaces. Anchor your new seating arrangement with a cream hide rug; it loosens up the space. Finally, tuck a large tropical plant in an empty corner for a hit of freshness.

This set-up will be comfortable for both you and your girlfriend – nothing too masculine, nothing too feminine. When the two of you personalize the space with art and objects from your old homes, it will be a place that represents each of you and also a place you can share and enjoy together.

Live well,





Images; 1.credenza, Restoration Hardware2. lamp, Ralph Lauren3. trim, Retailers across Canada; 4. throw blanket, Rural Urban5. paint, Para6. chair, Danish Modern LA7. rug, Cornerstone Furniture 8. sofa, Brentwood Classics9. plant, Retailers across Canada

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