January 27, 2018



Where is a dining room not a dining room?

For starters, in my house — where it also served as home office for the man of the house, an elementary school teacher and librarian. As such, it also functioned as a science lab, theatrical staging area, book repair center, administrative hub, and graveyard for countless objects made from macaroni and construction paper. 

That my husband, John Baumann, felt these pasta Picassos were worth hanging onto reflects the kind of teacher he was: respectful of children, keenly aware of their gifts, utterly convinced of the civic value of education and as hard-working a person as ever I’ve seen. 

So, as the Man of the House (MOTH) prepared to retire, I turned the space into the relaxed and interesting room. Decor inspiration came during a chat with Toronto designer William MacDonald, who talked about the layered, leisurely look of classic English libraries and conservatories. 

Although I determined to keep costs down, MacDonald pushed me to commit a budget to draperies — although not in the conventional way. He suggested burlap (about $80 for 40 yards of 60-inch wide through a local supplier called HomeTex) lined with a cornflower blue linen from (trade-only) UltraLuxe Linen. 

Drapes were created from burlap lined blue linen that allow a soft light to filter through.

Drapes were created from burlap lined blue linen that allow a soft light to filter through.  (VICKY SANDERSON)

The light that filters through is flattering to everything, especially walls coated in a two-step textured paint from Dulux. Venetian Silk has a subtle metallic sheen and plaster-like patina. I chose the shimmery grey hue called Vapid that tints an brisk blue in winter, and will reflect greens from the yards in other seasons.

Battered hardwood flooring got three coats of water-based floor enamel in Dulux’s Wirework Grey and was topped with a vintage rug in rich Persian blues, crimson, and purple — given to me as a gift by a friend who was downsizing. 

Much of the furniture shown came from Turquoise Palace, a female-led Canadian company selling globally-sourced furniture, decor and textiles. They have exclusive Canadian distribution rights, for example, to San Francisco-based design house Selemat Designs. It and other lines are available only through trade, but both Wayfair and Simons now sell some of their wares directly to consumers.

French wing chairs border an old, wall-mounted rug that was the very first purchase made by Vicky Sanderson's grandparents-in-law for their Chicago apartment.

My first Selemat pick was a marble-topped, hand-carved mango coffee table with a pomegranate pattern from the design archives of Florence Broadhurst, an Australian designer, couturier, and artist from the early 20th century.

It’s flanked by French wing chairs from Bramble, and their jute-like backing echoes the burlap draperies. A Turkish rug, the very first thing MOTH’s grandparents bought for their Chicago apartment, was mounted on the wall since it’s no longer robust enough for the floor. 

From MOTH’s parents’ dining room came still serviceable cane-backed chairs — sprayed in blue and seats covered in another floral — this one designed by JF Fabrics).

A garish 1970s-style glass chandelier was replaced with a white Fela Tassel Chandelier designed by Justine Blakeney.

A hanging chair on a stand can be moved to the patio for summer.

A hanging chair on a stand can be moved to the patio for summer.  (VICKY SANDERSON)

On another wall, an inexpensive (floral!) canvas from HomeSense holds its own against the imposing piece below — a hand-carved mahogany credenza with a pyramid design.

Bookcases were a must, but the budget convinced me just to paint out Ikea units we’d had for years. 

A hanging chair was suspended from a stand rather than hung from a ceiling so that it can go out on a covered porch next spring.

Since the redo, MOTH has commenced part-time supply teaching. After coming home one recent evening, he headed directly to his new room with a book and a beverage, while announcing that he could “do this until I’m 90, at least!” I’m fine with that — as long as there’s no macaroni art involved.