Years ago I went to a lecture at the University of Ottawa by Margaret Atwood, followed by a signing of her then-latest novel, Alias Grace. I was daunted by the opportunity to meet her (I’d seen Margaret and her daughter shopping at Jacob in Hazelton Lanes the year before but had been too shy to introduce myself) and pretty sure everyone around me could hear my heart beating out of my chest as I joined the impossibly long line to the table where she sat autographing books. Inching through Tudor Hall, I rehearsed what I’d say when I got to the front. I’d straighten my shoulders, look Margaret straight in the eye and say: “As long as you breathe, write.” (What cheese!) I don’t know if I’d read that somewhere or made it up but I thought it was poetry. Margaret would see that we were kindred spirits — she the Anne to my Diana! — and a lifelong friendship would begin. “As long as you breathe, write. As long as you breathe, write.” Round and round it went in my head. Finally Margaret was in view — five more people to go! — and a handler took my book, asked me my name, and scrawled it on a post-it note he slapped inside the front cover. Suddenly I was standing directly in front of her and she raised her head to look at me. I opened my mouth and whispered “As long as you write, breathe.” (Nooooooooo!) I felt my face flush beet-red. Margaret blinked, then lowered her head to sign and I was jostled ahead to receive my book from another one of her people. I don’t know if she even heard me, but I thought I’d die of embarrassment. My one chance to speak to slash befriend Margaret Atwood (the Margaret Atwood!) and I blew it. Royally.
I vowed to keep my mouth shut in any and all similar situations in the future. Fast forward to November 2014, when I had the chance to meet Canadian interior designer, Sarah Richardson. A Target (RIP Target) in Toronto hosted a signing of Sarah’s first book and I’d prolonged a visit to attend. A terrible snowstorm that night kept the crowds away so the line-up was short, leaving me less time to fret about what to say or do. When it was my turn to approach Sarah I simply shook her (small, delicate) hand, introduced myself and stayed quiet while she signed my copy. Which doesn’t make for an interesting story, I know, but I’ll take not embarrassing myself over a funny anecdote any day. And since I didn’t become besties with Sarah either, I can give you an impartial review of her second book, At Home: Sarah Style.
What it is: A gorgeous coffee table book filled with more than 400 pictures from Sarah’s own homes and cottages as well as Sarah’s mother’s home, design tips, and favorite recipes. There is all of the colour, pattern and rustic charm fans have come to know and love in her traditional country homes, as well as the more subdued and modern elegance of her city spaces, drenched in light and rich in Calacatta marble.
Sarah’s husband and daughters appear in family photos from time to time, but more captivating are the repurposed vintage furniture, lighting and other pieces that give interest and personality to meticulously appointed rooms. Sarah shares the thinking behind her designs on nearly every page, as well as tips on what to look for when shopping for vintage pieces, tips for mixing prints and patterns, and notes on the importance of detail, among other tips. Even if Sarah’s style isn’t your style, you’ll be inspired to tweak (or maybe even overhaul!) your spaces to suit your needs and tastes. (I am!)
I have yet to try any of the recipes, but they look straightforward to prepare (including a monte cristo sandwich by Nik Manojlovich from Savoir Faire — I loved that show!) and delicious. Think fresh, light(ish), relatively healthy meals: golden beet and mint salad; brussels sprouts with bacon, lime and maple syrup; very veggie lasagna; and double-chocolate coconut lava cookies. Not only can Sarah design kitchens, but apparently she knows her way around them too!
Whether you’ve been following Sarah for years or you’re just discovering her now, I think you’ll enjoy adding At Home: Sarah Style to your own home library.
Simon and Schuster Canada sent me a copy of At Home: Sarah Style in exchange for an honest review. Interior images of the book were unavailable.