An itsy incubator for a restless brain
Home is an itsy incubator for all the ideas sparring inside her restless brain
It was five years ago when Karen Bertelsen wrote about being a half-hearted minimalist on her wildly popular blog, The Art of Doing Stuff.
On the Internet, that kind of stuff has the shelf life of sourdough starter. That’s why a freelance journalist with a thing for minimalism discovered Bertelsen and why last week, there she was in the style section of the New York Times. Her Dundas home was captured in five lovely photos and Bertelsen was quoted liberally, deftly deconstructing the cure-for-everything gospel of minimalism.
“The only thing that would have been more exciting is if I had written the story,” Bertelsen says.
It’s been about five years since I last profiled her. Her Dundas home, all 1,000 square feet of it, is an itsy incubator for all the ideas sparring inside her restless brain. She will tackle anything, from wiring to plumbing, carpentry, farming, extreme baking and butterfly breeding. Her “all-in” motto and gift for writing and photography explains why half a million people follow theartofdoingstuff.com.
Since our last visit, Bertelsen drifted into minimalism but has come back to a balance she can live with.
“I got rid of almost everything but it’s really a difficult way to live. It didn’t feel cosy, it felt hard.”
So she has added back the things that have meaning, arranging them in new ways, and in new rooms.
Her foyer, for instance, has totally changed. There’s more room, less stuff and consequently the house feels more spacious. In the middle of the room a tulip table holds a bouquet of bright spring flowers; overhead an Empire chandelier, a $100 find on Kijiji, helps to anchor the delicate presence of the table. A white lacquer buffet moved from its previous spot in the dining room. It became the perfect spot for a pair of mid-century modern lamps that had been consigned to the basement for 15 years.
“I really like a mix of things and I love moving things around. It’s been like that for two months, but it’s going to change.”
The lamps share space with antique candlestick holders, a signed set list from a Ramones concert and a pot full of maidenhair ferns.
Another big project was the creation of a library/dining room. “It was always something I wanted to do, I felt I would use it more because it was multi-purpose. I do not use it more, but I like how it looks.”
Bertelsen used Ikea Billy bookcases as the base of her library, framing the shelves in to give the appearance of a built-in unit. During construction she came up with the idea of making secret covered shelves within the framework. In these vertical spaces she stores her camera tripod, vacuum attachments and even jars of preserves. A custom harvest table combined with replica Panton S chairs creates the old with the new vibe Bertelsen likes, and a saddle from her childhood riding days is displayed in a corner.
The revamping of the foyer and dining area was nothing compared to the kitchen makeover, a project that took a year to complete.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t stand the floor anymore,” she says. “It was cold, the tile was hard, I just started smashing it up.”
Ceramic flooring was replaced by vinyl tile over in-floor heating Bertelsen installed herself. Working with the help of her sister, interior decorator Lisa Frid and Carol Reed Interior Design of Oakville, the kitchen was redesigned as a more functional space. New cabinets and butcher block countertops combined with the checkerboard floor give the kitchen a French flair. An antique candy counter with a marble top acts as an island.
Now Bertelsen, an avid cook, has a warm wood surface for making pasta dough and the cold marble for pastry. “There’s always some sort of ball of dough in the fridge just begging to be rolled or tossed.”
And toss she does, coerced into an action photo even though she’s dressed in black and wearing bangles. But that’s the way Bertelsen rolls from her cosy, comfortable house in Dundas where stuff still has status.
It was cold, the tile was hard; I just started smashing it up. KAREN BERTELSEN
Renwald on Dundas home
In her kitchen Karen Bertelsen flips pizza dough. Her house and garden have been a feature on her blog The Art of Doing Stuff. She’s done it all herself.
Feature wall in Karen Bertelsen’s Dundas kitchen.
The parlour room at front of home. Karen Bertelsen was just featured in The New York Times.
“I really like a mix of things and I love moving things around,” Bertelsen says.
Bertelsen had drifted into minimalism but has come back to a balance she can live with.