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Get the Look Decor: The Artists’ Library

Nov 25, 2012

by Christine Domanic handmade and vintage goods

This weekend’s Get the Look Decor is inspired by the home of artists John Elmslie and William Kimber. For over 20 years, they have together in Arcadia, an artists’ co-op located on Toronto’s harbor front, surrounded by a vibrant community of artists and art lovers from all walks of life.

Be sure to visit Flickr for more inspiring images of John and William’s book-filled home, and stop by their blog, Tomatoes From Canada, to browse photos from their travels to different cities, galleries and museums.

Describe your home decorating style.
We always refer to our apartment as being furnished in cottage style. That means inexpensive, comfortable, indestructible pieces often acquired second-hand. Most of our decorating budget goes to books and art.

[From left to right: Reclaimed Wood Bookcase Dresser by appendageandbough; Vintage Pair Saarinen Executive Arm Chairs by castandcrew; Toronto Mapcut by StudioKMO.]

Did you decide to decorate in this style or was there an evolution to your decorating process?
Our style evolved out of necessity. We didn’t have much money when we were first together and we don’t really like to shop, but we liked visiting second-hand stores. We discovered by trial and error that we are aficionados of what the Japanese call wabi-sabi — the beauty of worn things. We’re attracted to color and pattern — you cannot have enough Persian rugs, wicker, fabrics, or antique furniture of any period.

[From left to right: Thomas Hardy Collection of Vintage Penguin Paperback Books by bookBW; 2 Succulent Zebra Plants by SucculentOasis; Danish Modern Table Lamp by BrooklynStVintage.]

Where are your favorite places to shop for home items?
Second-hand and antique shops, yard sales, book stores, art auction houses and art galleries. We first furnished our apartment almost entirely from items from the Salvation Army. We also like Chinese and Japanese shops for crockery. Many of our friends are artists and photographers and we have been buying directly from them over the decades. We also buy small paintings, sculptures and works on paper at auction. You’d be surprised by the deals you can get at auction, especially for works on paper (drawings and watercolors).

[From left to right: Vintage Agate Rock Bookends by wretchedshekels; Abstract Landscape by BrookeWandall; Vintage Cloche Glass Dome Display by TheUglyBarnFarm.]

What is your favorite part about your home?
My favorite part of my home is the bookshelves. I’ve been collecting books since I was a kid, and so has Bill. The best thing about our book collection is that it is not static. We are always weeding through our collection and trading in books that no longer inspire us at second-hand bookstores for credit. This creates space for new books to come in. New books are always coming in — these days, mostly art books. When we travel, we always visit foreign bookstores.

[From left to right: Antique Persian Wide Rug Runner by oldnewhouse; Solid Wood Side Table by RefineryFurniture; Contemporary Art, Original Oil Painting by JennyGrayArt.]

Does your home hold any strong memories?
Every July, we host a large party where we throw together our coolest friends from all areas of our life. Friends have told us that they usually don’t talk to strangers at big parties but they always do at ours. Some of our friends only meet once a year at our summer party. Otherwise, our strongest memories come from small dinner parties with close friends.

Can you share a few of your favorite design tips?
We find we need lots of places to sit and read books — a comfortable chair, good light and a table nearby for something to drink. Also, a little art goes a long way to making your space your own. If you lack confidence in buying art, spend time in art galleries. Don’t worry about which works are “good.” Spend time with the works that attract you and you will find that your eye will educate itself.


Looking for more styles and interiors? Check out our video series, There’s No Place Like Here, where creative types show us their unique spaces — infused with their aesthetic and filled with the treasures they collect. Get involved and show us your amazing space in this Flickr pool.

More Get the Look: Home Decor Editions.

Housewares Category | Vintage Housewares


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