Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: sarah foelske and james milward

by anne

Sarah Foelske is an associate creative director at Bruce Mau Design, and James Milward owns a digital agency called Secret Location. After dating long distance for a year, Sarah packed up and moved from New York to Toronto, Canada. She moved into James’ place, and with some trepidation about mixing James’ clean and modern tastes with Sarah’s more textural and handmade style, they decorated together, and can’t wait to do it again (and the process has Sarah interested in dimensional and interior design). Their biggest issue was that they had to stop adding typographic elements — omnipresent in Sarah’s work — to the house because it got to be too much. Thanks to Sarah, Alexis and Jen Arron for the great photos! — Anne

Image above: We decided to decorate our spare bedroom like a cabin up north. We call it “The Cottage” and sleep in it on weekends. The items on the wall are a combination of things we’ve found at flea markets in Canada.

Image above: Our friend built this wood wall for us, and I made the neon for James. The couches are from Dwell.

Image above: This is a neon sign I had made for James, from my handwriting. I love having neon made; I’d love to make more signs.

Image above: These binders contain all the tear sheets I’ve saved through my career of things that inspire me; any time I get stuck on a project, I go through these books. I find walking away from the computer can be the best way to move through a project.

Sarah and James’ full home tour continues after the jump . . .

Image above: I made the pillows from blankets we found at flea markets. The wallpaper was custom designed by friends.

Image above: We found this vintage locker at an antique store in Toronto. It’s awesome for coat and shoe storage. Everyone who comes over asks where we bought it. Someone should remake it.

Image above: This clothing rack in our spare bedroom (“the cottage”) is very special to me because my dad and I made it together. It was pretty simple to make and really inexpensive, built with plumbing pipes and wood from Home Depot.

Image above: The table and chairs moved with me from New York. They came from the flea market on 26th street.

Image above: Spray-painted vintage trophies from Value Village (thrift store). I am obsessed with spray painting things in one color high-gloss. The card is from Barcelona.

Image above: One of the best things about my move to Toronto is the space to have stuff like a dressing table; space is the biggest luxury to me after living in a Manhattan shoebox.

Image above: Our dining room is possibly the most motivational place to have dinner in Toronto.

Image above: The deer bookends and wolf mask are from San Miguel De Allende Mexico, where some of James’ family lives.

Image above: My laundry hamper is one of my favorite items in the house. I found it in an antique store in Toronto. Of all the items in our house, this one is the most “me.”

Image above: My sister painted the silhouette of our dog, Pearl. It’s one of my favorite possessions.

Image above: The print behind us is by one of my favorite graphic designers, Mike Mills.

Image above: The drawing on the right is by my friend Paul O’Donnell.

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  • That neon sign is amazing! Can you share details?? (The source and approximate cost would be great!)

    So nice to see some Canadian design!

  • classy! i love the little personal things spread with the decoration like love notes. and of course the mike mills porter is gorgeous. great taste!

  • Awesome! Can you provide the store or website for the neon sign? I’d love to make one as a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve been dying to have a neon sign made, but always assumed it would cost a fortune! Pls share details!
    Oh, and your place is fab!

  • I adore this house! Especially the neon sign (brilliant – can we get more info?) and the Canada-love. What a wonderfully inviting and personal space…

  • I’m with everyone else – that neon sign is divine! Perhaps this is something Design Sponge could cover (I mean who doesn’t want to see a post on personalized neon signs?!?)? Also, I agree with Katherine. That Willie Nelson print is sweet.

    And Sarah, if you read these comments, how do you like living in Toronto? My husband and I live in VT and have considered moving to Montreal, where we go at least once a month, for some time. Was the transition to living in Canada easy?

  • I’d love to know where you purchased the piece of artwork above the wooden table & wire chair (where you write Image above: The table and chairs moved with me from New York. They came from the flea market on 26th street.) Thanks so much.

    Your house feels so inviting, love it. :)

  • James, you have come a long way since the funky grey coverings of our “vintage” sofa in university!

  • Whoa!! What a great spread! Sarah…James…bravo! Your house looks awesome, and I know from having stayed there…that IT IS!!! You kids got STYLE. Besos, Becky

  • This is by far one of my favorite Sneak Peeks ever. It especially resonates with me because my sweetheart and I are living apart right now and moving to Toronto within the year (he is finishing up his Ph.D. there)! I love your home Sarah and James and I’m dying to know where you got that wonderful ‘Don’t Give Up’ print. Do you have a link to where one can be purchased? Thank you so much for sharing your space!

  • Who won the Gemini award that’s in the bathroom?

    Any other Canadians here wondering the same thing as me?

  • Seriously love the commitment to personal style and the wallpaper is gorgeous! I never thought I’d say that about plaid….but there it is! Excellent work kids!

  • I was also wondering who’s Gemini that was!! I was actually looking through the comments to see if anyone else would comment on that!

  • Hi! I love your home. Love the pink striped wallpaper and your cute doggie and I wanted to ask – where did you get the “All we ever wanted was everything” poster?

  • marvellous place! so full of personality! really cool… full of wonderful ideas that don’t even require enormous budget. creativity will save us all!

  • too bad i threw out all the trophies…. fab idea to spray paint them. love your home!

  • lovely, lovely! a beautiful, warm, quirky and very personal space. I love the idea of sleeping in the spare room on weekends!
    thanks for this tour. very inspiring. You look like a happy trio. Bless you.

  • This is what I call home design. There is so much love and passion in every room and every piece of the furniture/decoration. I wish I had the time to do the same thing with my apartment.
    I think that this marvelous couple did much better job that would have been done by some home designers. If I compare it to the work of top 7 home designers in Toronto, their home is much more living, understandable and almost breathing. And it definitely cost less money.

  • Everything is so much fun. I love the little surprise of seeing their dog in some of the photos, like on the table. It’s extra fun and humorous. And the pink stripes are so much fun.

  • Kudos to my college, yellow house roomie:) I wouldn’t expect anything less from you Miss Sarah! I am also impressed that your biance (boyfriend/fiance) is just as creative. Divine, lovely and inspiring. Pearl the pup is certainly my fave, but I do agree on the willie nelson pic! I will have to order a neon sign for my anniversary :) xo And will have to visit you!

  • Imaginative, playful, quirky…wonderfulness. Including her fuschia pumps and his red socks…and the pooch’s perfectly tilted head (again and again). What a treat, a built-in getaway cottage without every having to pack a suitcase!

  • Hi there everyone! Thanks for such sweet comments.

    To everyone asking about the neon:

    I went to a small store on Canal Street in New York. I shopped around quite a bit, as I found the pricing to be very inconsistant. If you want to make one yourself, you will have to create a design in illustrator and give the vendor a vector file (to 100% size). I did not have my neon made with a plexi backing, as I knew I wanted to wire it into a wall, but it is an option, and I suggest it for stability.

    If anyone in Toronto is looking to make one, feel free to reach out and I can help you.
    I’ve worked on a few others here.

    The pricing depends on size, color and plexi backing.

    Happy making! It’s really fun to hear that you all are inspired to create.

  • Now that’s a real home, no wonder you guys look so happy.

    I used to live in Toronto, now I live in San Miguel

  • great use of colour. the photo of you both together is so cute. and i love your handwritten message (beside the drawing of the diamond).

  • A unique place for two unique people with their own unique points of view and styles when combined only become stronger. Rather than one person’s style dominating the other, they complement each other beautifully. Totally inspirational and unique. The house speaks volumes about surrounding yourself with things you love that have meaning. Every item should tell a story and this house does it in spades whether its hand made or from a thrift store. A home is a constantly evolving space made from these stories which makes furnishing them so much fun and why it can’t be done overnight. Thanks Design Sponge for covering such a great space that reminds us all how imp it is to be surrounded by design and things we love. Im starting my decorating this weekend! I also think Pearl the dog is secretly watching America’s top model the way she is posing in all the photos. YOU GO GIRL!

  • Best House ever / Best sneak peek ever. Everything so carefully chosen without being in the least obviously “design” conscious – It just seems so all perfectly you.

  • Congratulations, Sarah and James – what a wonderful living space you have created. You each have your own keen sense of design, and have put everything together in such a fresh and innovative way. You two are the best!

  • I love to see this! Sarah, you and James are a great creative team and darling together. What fun….I love the just-enough-touches of pinks and reds for pop…Red socks, pink shoes!! And Pearl! She’s perfect!

  • i LOVE your space and i LOVE that it is in Canada (our home and native land). i’m very curious as to where you found your collection of arrows hanging off the home made shelf? i looked everywhere when i was last home…

  • Hi Sarah,

    Lovely, lovely place!!! You’re an inspiration!

    Could you please tell me how much it cost you for the neon sign?

    Please and thank you.

  • HI guys,
    Just love ur house designs, thts what is awesome about ur own space
    it reflects u, it allows uall to make a statement and b ur own kind of beautiful.
    GOOD JOB guys

  • Your house is beautiful, both of you. Also glad to hear of a successful NYC to Toronto long distance love story. My partner will be moving up here from NYC once our immigration paperwork is done processing.

    I think apart from the neon sign I love your cottage room best. You’ve picked up on Canadiana quickly and I like it.