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2014/09/29 / Shanan


If I wait any longer to start showing you at least snippets of our very happy basement renovation, it will inevitably take a full season of the old hem ‘n haw game: me throwing pillows and magazines around in an attempt to ‘style’ our lives and lamenting over the quality of my own photos.  So carpe diem and all that.

You may recall hearing about built-in bookshelf inspiration and wanting to paint the living room walls pink. Done and done (with more to see soon).  Up top is what the main wall looks like and below is the  somewhat-blank-slate-in-progress once our ceiling had been drywalled.  We decided to go with the full grey bookshelf treatment (the colour is the never-fail Chelsea Grey from Benjamin Moore) and Chris basically built the forms around the doorway to the mudroom and that lowered ceiling beam, which had to stay.  He did such an amazing job!

We mounted what I’ve been told is our incredibly modest-sized television into the unit and at the bottom there’s a row of closed shelving so we can hide art supplies, kid’s games, etc (just noticing that some of the doors are slightly ajar in the photo above… yeah, yeah).

the symmetric basement reno before

built-in bookshelf reno vintage peacock chair

The peacock chair came from a neighbour’s garage sale this summer and will probably be getting the full spray-paint treatment.  If I decide to show restraint it will be white… if not, a really bright yellow.  Only time and pregnancy hormones will tell.  We’ll also do a seat cushion but isn’t that little pillow beautiful?  Chris’ mom sewed it for us with fabric from an old skirt of mine (that I will never, ever, ever fit into again).  The rug is a hand-me-down from my parents and makes the room feel cozy.


I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have all our books out of boxes after literally almost three years.  Is it possible that we have even more art and conspiracy theory books than I remembered?

built-in bookshelf reno DIY grey west elm lamp

This was my old cream couch… it’s also been in storage more or less since just after Theo was born, so we’ll see how it fares with sticky fingers abound. But we’ll deal. The brass tripod lamp is new from West Elm.


Still-life with pretentious paperbacks and thrifted gold apple jar.

Rah rah sis boom bah – there’s more of the living room to show you, plus the budget bathroom, mudroom and laundry transformations. But I hear patience is a virtue… ?  What do you think so far?

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2014/09/05 / Shanan


Praise be to the late-summer harvest and behold the bounty that we have reaped.


homemade jarred pickles

More homemade pickles than any one household really needs! (In the interest of full disclosure, our cucumbers didn’t do too well this year so Chris bought a bushel from our favourite farm market up the road, Currie’s, to use as raw material)

garden large zucchini

Zucchinis attack!

Have a fantastic weekend, everybody.

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2014/06/26 / Shanan


Since it’s now (officially!) summer and the days of pretending that I’m this cool, unencumbered babe who spends her days swanning around parks armed with nothing more than a pretentious novel and a tall iced coffee are long gone, I’m kind of embracing the twee.

As in: patterned paper straws, cute miniature food, and gleeful hand-holding of a twirling three year old wherever I go.  Because that’s what parenthood on the internet is all about these days, no?  It was with this in mind that Theo and I decided, a few weeks back, to spend our afternoon making sugared flowers.  You know, for a lark.

The lilacs were in full bloom and I was informed that they were in fact edible.  Off to the Martha Stewart site we skipped, and a ton of adorable little flowers did we sugar.


Have you ever done this?  The process is about as ridiculous as it sounds — you use a teeny tiny brush to paint egg whites onto the individual blooms and then dip them in superfine sugar and let them dry.  It was quite messy and labour-intensive but the results were VERY cute and quite tasty (a subtle crunch and a sweet floral flavour). And sometimes cute is just what you’re looking for.


Here’s the sugared flower recipe we used, courtesy of Martha (natch).  Be sure that the flowers you are using are edible (!!!) and either grown in your own garden or harvested wild where they won’t be covered in pesticides or car exhaust.

We decorated a Victoria sponge cake, the recipe for which I dug up from Nigella Lawson’s near-classic How To Be a Domestic Goddess.  I think this was the first baking book I ever bought?  We filled it with lemon cream (the recipe is here) and store-bought raspberry jam.


Can I say cute just one more time?  Let’s hear it.  Bye bye, “street cred.”  All photos by The Symmetric / Shanan Kurtz.

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2014/05/26 / Shanan


It feels like it’s been awhile since we tackled any major decorating projects in our house, but the time has come to whip out and make use of the many rooms I’ve pinned and then never, ever looked at again!  There are renos going on in our walk-out basement as we speak and it’s finally going to emerge as a functional, beautiful space, and not just an entire floor dedicated to housing our random overflow of crap (I’m ignoring what is perhaps the larger issue, which is where said overflow of crap will live when this is all done).

I’ll take some photos of the space in progress (right now it’s all drywall dust and electrical sockets), but naturally I’m moving right ahead to dreaming of the finished product.  We’ll have a family room with a new working fireplace, our TV (which has been more or less sitting in a closet for the last two years), and some form of built-in shelving along one wall to showcase all our books and mementoes. I’ve been collecting inspiration for built-ins and these are some of my favourite possibilities.

Image above: Ugh, this gridded rainbow bookshelf is pretty over-the-top rad, right?  NYC apartment tour via A Cup of Jo. Photo by Alpha Smoot, styling by Kendra Smoot.


Sophie Holt (managing director of Australian brand Country Road)’s built-ins in grey/green look sophisticated and unusual. From Belle, Feb/March 2013, via Great Dane Furniture.


The drama of a really dark bookshelf definitely has its appeal – especially since the rest of our room will be a lot lighter (blonde wood floors, cream sofa, etc). I hate to not properly credit photos, but I couldn’t find the source for this one.

low shelving

Now on to the classics… I love the relaxed feel of this low-slung horizontal shelving with storage drawers and cabinets at the bottom.  We’ll likely need to utilize the space going up the wall for all our books, but this is such a nice minimalist shelving solution. Photo by Paul Massey via House to Home.


Simple white bookshelves temper the crazy a little bit in the Wrubel family house, via Our Style Stories.  Not that I have an issue with the crazy.


Clean, classic shelving with that all-important closed storage at the bottom.  The styling on these is great – a nice mix of objects, photos, and books.  From the Brooklyn cottage home of Lyndsay Caleo and Fitzhugh Karol, via Apartment Therapy.

Decisions, decisions…

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2014/03/31 / Shanan


I think we’ve reached the dénouement –  don’t let that door hit your ass on the way out, winter.

We’ve been diligently preparing for this moment by  putting out our maple syrup buckets, collecting the many snow shovels we have strewn about our yard, and completing some small painting projects around the house.  A few extra pop-pop-pops of colour have managed, quite miraculously, to put a spring in our step.

Image above: Those fireplace logs weren’t getting much play anymore so they received the paint and gold-leaf treatment last weekend.

cobalt blue painted chair DIY

This old farm chair was in pretty rough shape, but got a new lease on life with a covering of cobalt blue.

painted kick plate kitchen bright

I painted the kickplate on our kitchen island awhile ago and I still love how it emits this bright little pop of colour in an unexpected place.

Got any of your own projects on the go in anticipation of warmer days and greener pastures?