Welcome to Honey Hill Farmstead
The Tonic Living creative team took over Gillian's home to shoot our Modern Farmhouse Collection and, while trying to control our jealousy, asked her some very important questions like "how are you lucky enough to live on a beautiful farm but also live so close to the city?" Gillian, a designer at Tonic Living, claims she didn't find the farm... the farm found her!
Enjoy this fall tour of Gillian's not-too-far-from-the-city farm and learn how she makes the place so special.
Gillian, Chloe (aka Miss Pickles) & Boz. "I’d love to have a small goat or two but I’d have to slip them into the dog pack so my husband didn’t notice!" Follow The Farm on Instagram.
How did your love of design and decorating start?
I was from an air force family so we moved — a lot! We lived in different countries and usually had to move quickly. In a time of matching living room suites and broadloom, our house was always very different from everyone else. My parents had collected things on our travels so nothing matched. The art and area rugs were from Europe and my parents collected vintage and antique pieces in Canada that they mixed with new furniture. Looking back now, this was the foundation of my personal design style.
My passion finally became reality 20 years ago when I got into design professionally and started my own design company. For 15 of those years, I also did real estate styling and staging. When not at the farm, you can find me at Tonic Living helping clients with their design schemes, window treatments and more.
Life on the farm can be messy (and very dusty) so Gillian used performance fabrics that are easy to clean and hide the dirt. Upholstery: Renfrew Stripe, Pillow: Dundee.
How did you find this place and what made you buy the farm?
Really, this place found us. We had renovated a small century cottage in the old Markham Village and weren’t moving again, ever. Then a family friend — after three generations of his family living here — decided to sell and offered it to us.
"We’d never seen the house and bought it from the road. We didn’t even get in the driveway! It was love at first sight."
Once the main renovations in the house were finished we decided to revive the old farm and apiary that were here. We knew absolutely nothing about either but it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity to grow local food and help support the declining bee population. We’ve started but it’s going to take a lot longer to renovate and revive the farm than the house did.
We dragged Gillian's beautifully painted vintage church pew into the cornfield to shoot our Modern Farmhouse pillow collection (because you can't get this backdrop in the studio!)
What would you call your style of decorating?
I’d call it Modern Eclectic. I like my home to be fresh and current but incorporate the many items of different styles I’ve collected or inherited. I love vintage, repurposed things like old crocks so I try to put them together in a modern way. By selecting my larger pieces (sofas, chairs, tables and rugs) in current colours and styles — and painting my walls white — I can mix up my collections so they don’t seem old fashioned. I think this style works perfectly for an 1880’s farmhouse!
Boz taking in the stunning views from the newly built wraparound porch. Gillian painted the porch ceiling in Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light No. 235.
What was your inspiration for the exterior decor?
We have natural materials that surround us so we love to use that as much as possible. I use magazines, the internet and suggestions from other people to figure out how to put it together. It’s dark in the country so we use lots of lights and a little glitter to make it all sparkle.
We added the porch two years after we moved in. It is unthinkable that a farmhouse didn’t have a big, wraparound porch! It overlooks the back fields and the view is so peaceful. We sit out here ALL. THE. TIME. We also have a dining table out there so the overflow from parties end up on the porch. It’s the best room we ever built.
The porch really needed to be painted, so I tackled that project in the summer. Lauren, from the Tonic Living creative team, suggested painting the ceiling a soft blue similar to the wraparound porches in the South.
"People in the South paint their porch ceilings soft blue to ward off evil spirits. To be clear, we have no evil spirits but I loved the idea."
An antique hutch that lives under the covered porch and houses crocs and planters and acts as a serving station for entertaining.
What has been the biggest design challenge?
The whole farm and farmhouse are a design challenge! It’s a balancing act to keep the decor pretty but very practical. We are exposed to some extreme weather so for the exterior design it’s trying to decorate in a way that won’t get destroyed by the elements or blown away.
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