Going inside out

Stylist explains how beauty is so much more than decor-deep

Interior stylist Janette Ewen loves showcasing people’s passions throughout their homes, whether it’s a musical piece, an era, a garment or a scene from the great outdoors.

“It’s not about beige. It’s not about looking like the home that you might see in a magazine,” she says. “It’s about a home that reflects your soul and your passion.”

Ewen, a regular guest on TV shows like CityLine and Breakfast Television and recent co-host of Inside the Box with Ty Pennington, became a décor and lifestyle expert doing public relations for a high-end design firm, working at Chatelaine, House and Home and Chocolat magazines, styling interiors for photo shoots and taking on private clients before branching out on her own.

“So for fashion, if something visually appeals to me, I break it down,” she says. “Like if there’s a beautiful Dior dress from say 1948, I’ll look at the fabric that’s used, the volume in it, the shape, like there’s triangles, there’s pleating — how can I incorporate that into the home? And with colours and textures and layering and sort of the overall feeling it gives.”

Although outdoor rooms — where people extend their living space by arranging furniture and adding rugs to their backyards — have become increasingly common in the past decade, she says it is now going to the next level.

“We’re seeing green walls with mirrors hanging on them, there are companies that are producing outdoor art, so art is hanging on the walls outside like paintings,” she says. “People are getting more innate with their exteriors and hanging chandeliers from a tree and it’s kind of a romantic feel to it.”

Another emerging trend for outdoor spaces, she says, is an eclectic world travelled look, which includes fabrics with aboriginal and tribal prints, natural colour tones in deep reds and greens and an assortment of sculptures.

An easy way to update exterior rooms, she says, is by using throw blankets and pillows, especially over neutral furniture.

“You can get a big beautiful basket and have a bunch of these blankets mixed together,” she says. “All those patterns work together and it’s great. When your guests come over, they’re always warm.”

As for interiors, Ewen makes it a point to switch up her home twice a year, once for spring/summer for a breezy and fresh feeling and again for fall/winter to make it cozier. Although it’s too pricey for people to switch out their furniture, she says it’s more realistic to use area rugs, which can easily be stored when they’re not in use. Another fast way to freshen up a home this season is by using bright colours and lighter fabrics instead of thick or velvety materials, which are better for colder months.

“Artwork is a great one to switch out and relatively inexpensive,” she says. “You can do great photo prints for the summer like citrus fruit or something fun and then in the winter bring in something a little more seasonal.”

For those with a do-it-yourself spirit, she says some manageable projects to tackle include decorating candles with seashells and sticking to a colour theme for mantle pieces from decorative items to fresh flowers.

“It’s really about the accessories,” she adds.

Even though many neglect spring cleaning, she counts it as an essential step and considers it fun.

“It’s amazing how much greater your stuff looks once you get it clean and organized,” she says. “And I think that’s something that people overlook like they tend to just add on top instead of just cleaning up and taking away.”

To make it more enticing, she suggests getting new organization and storage boxes in bright colours and using a steam cleaner to make a noticeable difference. As a reward, when people finish cleaning, she says they can then buy some new spring décor.

“You’ll find out what you really need and what you don’t and you’ll discover things and you’ll start moving things around and that can really freshen up a home without having to spend any money,” she says.

The co-host of Vaughan Mills-based web series Style Agents says people can find amazing things if they’re not afraid to search out antiques and second hand items. Rather than following others, Ewen says she tends to make up her own trends based on her personal experiences.

“I always say: stay interested and you’ll be interesting,” she says. “I just started riding horses, like I’m learning how to rope, so definitely some of my décor is having a bit of a cowboy influence to it.”

Splitting her time between Toronto and Santa Monica, Ewen says one of her favourite household items in her Canadian home is a recently acquired bust of Plato, which she calls Zeus.

In between working for her clients and taping TV shows, she says she tries to spend at least one day a week frequenting design stores and antique markets and going for hikes and horse rides to spark her imagination.

“I never really turn off,” she says. “I just keep going and going. I’m always looking for things. I feel like my work and my private life, it’s just all one continuum.”

Regardless of where people find inspiration, Ewen believes in having a personal style and looking to things like classics for ideas.

“I just imagine like The Great Gatsby and their backyards and their cocktail parties and what would come from that,” she says.

“Think about what appeals to you and then sort of make it your own trend and have fun with it. You shouldn’t take your décor so seriously.”

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Posted: Jun 1 2012 5:41 pm
Filed in: Home
Edition: Toronto