On a late autumn evening, crunching leaves as we tread, we found ourselves in front of a picturesque home in South Edmonton. However, the moment we crossed the threshold, we were transported to an English-inspired home. Suzanne and Ben, owners of the house for over 18 years (originally built for them) are the first to admit to it having many iterations in those nearly two decades. "Lots of different colours of paint, flooring, furniture placements. In all of our family videos it always looks very different at different stages," laughed Suzanne.
Presently the house feels well loved and well chosen, a space that so perfectly captures its owners, as their passions are evident in every room on every floor. For Suzanne that passion is literature and for Ben, ceramics and sculpture. Both are woven seamlessly into the minimalist monochromatic design with pops of colour that feel more intentional and vivid; it's a space that evokes calm. The perfect place to sit quietly lost in a good book, to enjoy the fragrant presence of fresh cut flowers, to feel pulled from Edmonton into another plane where phones are hushed and herbal tea is strong.
Where do you find inspiration for designing your home?
"One of the inspirations is definitely travel and the historic homes we visit. We spend a lot of time in England, we try to stay in a lot of bed and breakfasts, and inns. The artwork is inspired by something we saw in Dorset, but truly we draw a lot of inspiration from historical homes. My colleagues have a joke they call me a biblio-pilgrim; we were just in Boston and we visited every writer's home in that area. We were in Thoreau's cabin, we were in Emerson's house, and Emily Dickinson's house. I just love some of the historic houses. Some are staged and museum-like but some are from the Georgian era with beautiful panelling and simple design I just love - they still feel like real homes. I think that definitely historic buildings have been inspiration for us. Lastly there's a British architect & designer that I really like named Ben Pentreath and there's a coziness about his place. He values simple furniture." (S)
On the note of iterations and inspiration, do you change the aesthetic of the home pretty significantly every couple of years?”
"I think we will live with this a little bit longer; it’s been a process of learning a little bit more, finding out what we like. When we first moved here we were just beginning in our careers and dealing with student stuff. We have collected a few items that we will keep for a long period of time." (S)
"It's a standing joke in our relationship when we first moved in. I said ok 'put the pictures on the wall that you'll think they will go on and you have much time as you want to put them in the right spot. Then we will nail them in and we won't ever change them.' *laughs* How wrong was I? And if you've known how many times I've stood there holding a picture. How many times we've moved the desk up and down the stairs." (B)
"It's been fun. It's not our background, so we don't do it quickly. It's taken a lot of time and it's evolved. It's fun to experiment." (S)
The kitchen is absolutely beautiful, so bright and clean - can you share a bit about the renovation?
"We worked with AYA Kitchens for the design, all of the hardware came from Restoration Hardware. A lot of research though was Suzanne. She looked at pictures and magazines, figuring out what we liked." (B)
Any tips for keeping the space well edited?
"We have a general rule that if we haven't used it in a year, then we should probably get rid of it." (S)
Are there any pieces in your home that you love more than others? Aesthetically or for sentimental reasons?
"I love the books. I have a hard time lending them. They are like my friends - I don't want them to disappear. I also love chairs and a handful of other things, this Georgian chair, a collection of pottery from England and pieces from grandparents." (S)
Both of your careers and passions have influenced your home a lot. Was that a choice or did you just find over time you ended up surrounding yourself with those items?
A personal mentor once said that every home should have a library and a cozy chair. I certainly decorate with books. I feel good having them around. I really like shopping for books and I like beautiful books, I care about the covers. (S)
"And I feel grateful because Suzanne is highly appreciative of my work. That I get to display it proudly in our home and that she wants to tuck some of my pieces away for our home." (B)
Apart from the things Ben's made, where do you find most of the things for your home?
"Well, there's a lot of Maven & Grace, in almost every room! There are a few furniture pieces that we picked up from Plum Home Design. A lot of it is from travel - not necessarily the bigger pieces but the smaller ones that are easier to bring back." (S)
Any final thoughts you'd like to share on your home?
"I think it's a refuge. I like a certain degree of order. Teaching is a busy career and you can't always control what people do. It's a place that is calm and peaceful and serene. I like having a quiet place to come back to, to read, gather, lots of fun, intimate times with family." (S)
The Resource List
Picture #1: Table, Maven and Grace;Vase, Plum
Picture #2: Antique mirror, Plum; Antique platter, Maven and Grace; Ceramics, Benjamin Oswald
Picture #3: Flowers, Maven and Grace; Ceramics, Benjamin Oswald
Picture #4: Antique chair, Plum; Artwork, Sandra Stevenson; Vase, Maven and Grace
Picture #5: Picture frame, Maven and Grace; Antique dresser jar, Plum
Pictures #6-8: Table, Maven and Grace; Light fixtures, Ikea; Vase, Benjamin Oswald
Picture #9: Kettle, Le Creuset
Picture #11: Pink, grey, white plates, Anthropologie
Picture #14: Antique armchair, Plum
Picture #17: Antique brass lamp, antique sewing box, Plum
Picture #18: Antique tray, Maven and Grace, Ceramics, Benjamin Oswald
Pictures #19-20: Artwork, Sandra Stevenson
Picture #21: Antique dresser, Maven and Grace
Picture #24: Picture framing, Mill Creek Picture Framing