Crisp & Clean: An English Inspired Home

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)




Playing Favourites

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


The Garden Shed


Born out of a longing for a space of her own, this little outbuilding on Kathy's property has become a tasteful version of a clubhouse. On a snowy spring day we put the finishing touches on this tiny hideaway and chatted about design and notions of home. Inspired by stylist Hans Blomquist, the space is comprised of soft pastels, industrial touches, and layers of vintage fabric to pull you in. The type of place we all want to grow up into and call our own. A clubhouse for the woman who owns a dish filled with faded antique clay beads - just because. This retreat was made for her. 


Like all the other rooms in Kathy’s home, the garden shed, as she lovingly refers to it, took time. Collected objects fill the space without making it feel overbearing or overly curated. Antiques and vintage pieces from different eras and styles blend into one cohesive design. Some, like the antique hospital bed with beige ticking she’s owned for years while others, like the antler side table with scalloped edges, were recent finds. Most of the smaller touches were pulled from the shop for the shoot - a mini-van full of odds and ends to make the space unfold, telling a more engaging story the more you delve into it. 

The space was designed akin to the style of Maven & Grace and what the shop exemplifies - it's kind of a broad beautiful design concept. So over the sound of chickens cooing in the coop next door and nothing else, we bent Kathy's ear to talk design for small spaces. 

Garden Shed Styling
Maven and Grace
Vintage Desk Styling
Horseheads copy.jpg


Where do you find a sense of home?

The garden studio is great for having a room of one's own - to quote Virginia Woolf - but home is also in my garden, really anywhere outdoors, especially in the summer, and spending time with family whether it's yardwork or cooking or watching a movie. 

Is it a struggle to find the patience to wait for the perfect piece?

Honestly?! I'm more the type of person who doesn't wait. I will have a stand in for a while if I really love something, and I have the advantage of selling it if I'm able to find a piece that fits even better. 

Linens and Things
Vintage Styling

How does this space reflect the shop - the intention and the design behind it? 

Well, initially it was more of a writing studio for me as I was finishing my degree in English and creative writing. It was an office / writing area , but now it's become more of a sanctuary, a retreat from household responsibilities and my multi-generational family. 

Is it hard to exist in a place with so much depth knowing that over time it’ll come undone?

Oh no and it certainly won't stay the same - some of the items were borrowed from the shop - but honestly letting things go and for a space to be lived in is its own sort of beauty. 

Any advice for someone wanting to build their own hideaway? 

I would say spend some time in the space at different times of day and while doing that consider what you intend to use the space for. Then make it functional. Surround yourself with things that inspire you or bring you joy. Don't be afraid to make it special or ever underestimate how that space can be used. 

Antique Styled Desk

How do you tackle design in such a small space? 

Pieces need to have double duties, the bed can be a couch or a bed and the table can be used for photoshoots or to write on. I think editing is important - if you're not using it or it's not bringing you pleasure then get rid of it. I recommend that in a house, but even more so in a tiny place. Layers add depth in a really beautiful way, but there's a fine line to not being cluttered. 

Do you ever lament having to let go of pieces you source for the shop? 

A lot of my favourite pieces I've ended up selling. You have to be able to let go and I always feel happy to let those pieces go. I know when they go to new families who are passionate about their homes they'll bring joy to others. 

Design Majeur
Styled Table Maven & Grace

Favourite Pieces...
The antler table is a current obsession, the Beni Ourain rug and all the bedding - the antique french linen bedspread, the ticking mattress and all of the amazing textures.

On the Hunt For...
The perfect desk; the one in the photos has sold!  I'd like one in a similar style but slightly bigger to fit the space. 

Vintage Oil Painting

More Than Windows

“It’s like all good design - it changes,” Clay Lowe remarks offhandedly, holding a 20-inch flower made out of Italian paper and washi tape. Kathy and Clay are assembling their latest window display for Mill Creek Picture Framing. It’s an all-consuming labour of love they undertake every couple of months. It’s a time honoured tradition, something that the previous owners started years ago, that Kathy always felt important to continue, a sentiment which Clay emphatically echoes.

“If it brings people joy or they randomly come in to share their delight or email us, it’s worth the labour. When you come across a beautiful window, you see the thought and care that goes into it. Really in some ways I’m revisiting something I haven’t done in a long time: collaborating in a retail space with a small business.” 



Clay talks highly about making use of space. He’s a champion for rethinking spaces - the curator of the legal graffiti wall downtown, the longest running one in Western Canada (between 95 / 96 Street and 100 Street) started in 2001, as well as the man power behind the 8-foot tall letters he projected, traced and cut out of fabric to adhere on the side of 100 Street Place on Rice Howard Way. As a graphic designer, he worked for the Art Gallery of Alberta (2007 - 2014) as a communication designer for the AGA visual art exhibitions and programming, including branding Refinery, the late night art parties. 

The art of designing window displays is an atypical canvas. Clay laughs, “Kathy is my only client who I pitched the idea of doing window work together purely for joy when we talked about design. I have had experience doing other windows, but I hadn’t designed a window since 2006 (this window display was for Foosh Audio and Apparel - Whyte Avenue, in collaboration with OBEY Giant, which won an award for the installation) before online sales started affecting small clothing shops.” The first window Clay and Kathy designed together was a glowing galaxy that hung in the shop window from late November to the end of January: “We wanted it to be related to the holidays, but inspired by the cosmos.” Clay proposed the antique print, an ode to the night sky inspired by science, star charts, diagrams and looking to the past - things that are drawn or painstakingly etched - antique imagery made new again. 
But that was December and now it’s March, so the galaxy has been dismantled and replaced by a rainbow of flowers in bloom. It’s the simple reality of storefront windows, the retail equivalent to a mandala. Ribbon horses, a roaring fire in a faux mantle, a sailboat and yes, even the cosmos, imagined, lovingly built and quietly torn down in favour of the next masterpiece. It’s easy to question the why of it all, the resources, the time, the effort, but Kathy says it best -

“Whats the point? It brings joy, it is art - some people don’t get it, but some people really do, they understand the importance of art.”


Ribbon Horse Window Display in Edmonton Framing Shop



Was design something you were always drawn to? 

When I was a kid I wanted to work outdoors, and nature and landscape remains a big inspiration for my design work. My dad is a master carpenter and I grew up in a wood-working shop so I learned about organizing and building early in life. Those intentions I come by honestly. 

Where do you find inspiration?

Music is a big one - though I often wonder how it relates to design. People and other art and design can inspire, and certainly nature. That being said, there’s something about being inspired or motivated from chaos and conflict. We have the choice to act everyday - I think that optimism is inspiring. 

Do you prefer to work alone or collaboratively?

I do partner on large projects. Those collaborations can be with clients as well as other creatives. Clients can offer perspective, as they know their business the best. It’s rarely self expression alone - more collaborative work - I do think it usually makes for better process and design. Design is often in search of solutions, and if working in a “bubble”, it’s probably not going to be a very good solution. When creating personal work for myself, personal expression is important.


What design in Edmonton do you find compelling? 

I find the Mill Creek Ravine a compelling piece of natural urban planning and historically important public park way. I’m very excited by the footbridge revitalization, and the proposed daylighting of Mill Creek waters that would create a new fish spawning habitat near the North Saskatchewan River, and a natural stormwater pond near Argyll Park.

I also know Edmontonians to be very inspiring! I recently participated in the Rubaboo Indigenous Arts Festival, and the Flying Canoe Volant in early February. I signed up for a traditional bow making workshop by local Elder Jerry Saddleback. It was all so compelling and nourishing for creativity and multi-cultural sharing. I was inspired to co-host Assemblage, a poetry performance and creative workshop with my colleagues Pierrette Requier and AJA Louden at La Cite Francophone. 

I love to cook everything! I do love neighbourhood spots, and the design decor doesn’t get much more eccentric then the Red Goose cafe in Hazeldean. Also looking forward to the soon-to-open Ritchie Market, as it’s on my route to the studio at Timbre! 

My favourite public art murals include Transition, by Josh Holinaty & Luke Ramsay and the Wane One painting just north of the La Cite Francophone as part of the Rust Magic Graffiti Mural Festival. I also enjoy architecture and working with architects. Since a kid, I've loved the Edmonton Space and Science Centre designed by Alberta born architect Douglas Cardinal, and the 1960’s modernist Planetarium nearby to be restored this year. Anything to do with astronomy, I’m in!