In a quaint neighborhood in bustling Montreal, Brian and Suzanne McIntyre have created a cozy and peaceful home with a decidedly country—American country—character. Although Suzanne is Canadian, Brian was born in the United States and Suzanne has fond memories of time spent at Kennebunkport, Maine, and in the Adirondacks. Those associations—along with Suzanne’s innate preference for star shapes, old-fashioned game boards and other things country—set the tone for the couple’s urban haven.
“I like themes,” Suzanne admits. “Friends tell me I’m obsessed with continuity—when I pick an idea, I go with it throughout, right down to matching wood tones and pewter hardware.” The talented couple also has a hands-on approach to much of their decorating, tackling or designing projects with Suzanne as the folk-art painter, Brian as the needle worker. “My husband says that I’m the inspiration, he’s the perspiration,” Suzanne jokes.
Part of the fun of their home is that it’s very representative of who they are. “Our style combines some fine custom pieces we saved for and invested in with $5 finds and roadside discoveries,” says Suzanne. For the ability to afford the luxury of a few custom pieces, necessary when ready-made items don’t suit, Suzanne gives credit to their modest lifestyle. A fair share of patience and careful shopping also factor into their budget-wise approach. “I spend a lot less money because I’ll wait for a bargain or invest when I know it’s a good decision,” Suzanne says. “I don’t bring anything home without knowing where it will go.”
The McIntyres’ home bears witness to their thoughtful approach. When they purchased their compact condo six years ago, it didn’t have much architectural appeal or warmth, Suzanne says. But with new wood floors, a few expanded doorways and some crown molding, the home became just the backdrop the couple needed for expressing their creativity. Suzanne, who likes things simple and without frills, prefers to focus on the color scheme, which includes a muted red, white and blue throughout.
In the summer, the living room’s warm, cream-colored walls blend with seersucker slipcovers and a sisal rug; in the winter, slipcovers come off to reveal warm red sofas, and a rich Persian carpet replaces the sisal rug. In the living and dining rooms, Suzanne displays her hand-painted game boards as artwork and showcases Brian’s cushions, crafted from remnants, as one-of-a-kind treasures.
“We can’t afford Picassos, but everything we have is original,” says Suzanne of their homemade and carefully collected artwork. One of their better finds was a child’s antique bed, the slats of which had been painted with rural scenes by a noted Quebec artist. “The slats had cracked, so the bed couldn’t be used,” says Suzanne. “We bought the bed for very little, removed the slats, and display them in the narrow space above living and dining room windows.”
Bedrooms also received the couple’s custom touches. In the master bedroom, Suzanne used a sponging technique in a subtle check pattern to add character to the walls. She also spent several months gathering fabrics to design the upholstery for a chair in her reading nook. “Getting the right shades of blue was the challenge,” she says. In the guest room, now a nursery since the arrival of the couple’s daughter, Madeleine, Suzanne undertook a wall-stenciling project that took three weekends to complete. “My Christmas gift that year was a laser level,” she says.
Her meticulous approach is rewarded every time visitors comment about the beautiful “wallpaper.” But taking time to plan and execute is simply part of the joy the McIntyres share in decorating their home. “When you enjoy the process,” says Suzanne, “the work becomes a pleasure.”
Up Close with Suzanne
What are some of your favorite ways to keep things interesting?
I like themes, so I group similar collectibles. Also, I always look for new objects or artists.
What influences your views on color?
I like calm colors, so bold colors show up in smaller items that be can changed easily.
What are some of the things you can’t live without?
Flowers and plants, things that remind me of the country. Other than that, I’m not particularly attached to any of my belongings.
What are your pet peeves?
I don’t like sets of things, with everything matching. I’d rather have an eclectic mix.
Which is your favorite room?
The living room for the comfort it brings us. We spend most of our time there.
Where do you find your bargain items?
Everywhere and anywhere. We have lots of flea markets here, and I’ll forage in other people’s attics if they’ll let me.
Which are your favorite colors?
Blue, yellow and red.
What DIY accomplishment are you most proud of?
The stenciling in the bedroom.
Keeping It Cozy
Suzanne offers these tips for making rooms feel warm and comfortable:
- Choose feathers versus foam. “Definitely a rule of thumb. You want seat cushions you can sink into.”
- Toss in lots of pillows and throws. “They add another dimension to those cozy feather cushions, and let you settle in comfortably.”
- Add lots of texture. “Whether it’s the kind of texture you enjoy with the eye or the type you feel through touch, it gives a room warmth.”
- Bring in flowers and candles. “With their delicate fragrances and colors, they make any room feel lived in.”
- Keep pictures low. “Hanging pictures lower on the wall keeps things cozy. It brings you closer to them and makes them part of your experience of a room.”
You can do it!
Checkerboard Paint Treatment
- Measure the width of your wall, divide by 12 and round up to the nearest whole number to determine the number of 1-foot squares in each horizontal row.
- Measure and mark center of wall near ceiling. Measure and mark a point half the length of one square on either side of the central point. Use a plum line and straightedge to draw a vertical line from the ceiling to the floor at each of these points. Continue marking vertical lines in this manner, at points equal to the full width of your square. The last lines near the ends of wall may result in a fraction of your square size.
- Using a level, measure and mark horizontal lines spaced equal to the height of your square size from the ceiling to the floor.
- Use painter’s tape to mask off the outer edges of every other square along the top row. Then dip a sponge into paint (the color of your choice) and gently dab paint into the masked off squares. Let dry; remove tape.
- Repeat on the following rows, positioning painter’s tape around alternating squares.