An itsy in­cu­ba­tor for a rest­less brain

Home is an itsy in­cu­ba­tor for all the ideas spar­ring in­side her rest­less brain

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - KATHY REN­WALD

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 theartof­do­

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.

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