Bentley Flanders: Decor Tips for Your Small Home Image

Bentley Flanders: Decor Tips for Your Small Home

By Lucas on Oct 30, 2013

With condo sizes getting smaller, those of us without a designer bone in our body are finding it more and more difficult to decorate our homes. Luckily, we recently had the opportunity to ask the owners of Bentley Flanders for a few tips.

Bentley Flanders is a new design emporium on King Street East by Alex Donovan and Jack Lochhead. The impressive 8,000 square foot showroom officially opened June 21, 2013.  The company was named after their favourite companions at home, their dogs. Bentley was Jack’s Cocker Spaniel and Flanders is Alex’s Bichon Frise.

Newinhomes (NIH): What's your background? How did you get involved in the design industry?

Alex Donovan (AD): I initially studied Fashion Design at Ryerson, followed by Experimental Sculpture and Fine Art Painting at OCAD. My first foray into interior consulting was through Ethan Allen. I learned a lot about the construction of furniture and the quality that sets bench-made furnishings apart from other manufacturers. From there, I was sought out by Horsefeathers. My love of antiques and beautiful one-of-a-kind objet allowed me to further my design aesthetic, which has become known as colourful, layered and eclectic. It was here that I honed my talents in visual merchandising with the daily challenges of a busy design destination that was ever evolving, along with developing my design consulting business. Eventually, this led me to the creation of 1212 Decor where I was Creative Director for a number of years.

Jack Lochhead (JL): my pre-graduate studies were Architectural Technology, graduating in Interior Design. Although my focus was more retail and commercial design my love for residential design was a large part of my personal life, along with a love of art history and fashion. Out of college, I started in retail design and merchandising for a large Canadian retailer designing the interior space to maximize the flow of merchandise and customer traffic patterns. From there after a small detour in fashion I helped launch the Restoration Hardware stores for the Toronto market, with a very successful Management run at the Yonge street location. After being recruited as General Manager of Ridpath's and managing its retirement after 104 years in the Toronto landscape of fine furniture. I teamed up with Alex to open Bentley Flanders.

NIH: What kind of furniture should someone living in a small space be using?

AD: Small spaces need not lack personality, by adhering to less bulky designs with your home furnishings you will allow maximum functionality such as seating, e.g. a thinner sofa arm and depth that still allows a good 21" depth to sit comfortably. Don't sacrifice comfort and the need for ample room to relax on the upholstery pieces you choose. You may need to sacrifice one of two occasional chairs and add a second chair that is a smaller footprint such as a cocktail chair for those that are visiting. A pull out sofa bed can also double as an extra sleeping area in smaller space living situations. A clear glass cocktail table that provides the centre focal point in a living setting allows for a more fluid space and can make the space seem larger than it is. Remember to choose one stellar accent piece (perhaps a beautiful chest or console along with a well chosen piece of art or a mirror to complement in order to draw the attention of those enjoying the space and create some dynamic presence which will provide a point of view that is reflective of your personality.

JL: Furniture that will suit the space and give you multi-purpose. For example we have wonderful plastic chairs and metal tables that are Italian made with UV protection that can be used indoors and outdoors. They come in an array of colours to suit any palate. If you like to entertain there are a wide range of dining tables that start small and can pull out to entertain up to eight people. The Italians have a wonderful design sense for manufacturing expandable furniture which is really starting to take hold in the North American market due to the small scale condo.

NIH: Are there particular colours that suit a small space more? If so, why?

AD: It is often thought that light pale or neutrals are essential to create the illusion of a bigger space where there isn't. Not to say that is incorrect, but often bold colours can create dramatic expression along with well chosen elements in a space to trick the eye into believing it is larger than it is. The simple idea of painting walls and ceilings to match creates a seamless effect that makes it harder to define the space as a whole. When using colour boldly remember to keep the choice of floor covering lighter so as not to weigh the room down. Another tip is to use wallpaper throughout (pattern or a simple texture) including it as a ceiling cover as well. Often a white ceiling or use of contrast mouldings versus a coloured wall (no matter the colour) can increase one’s awareness of the scale of the room especially if it is on the smallish side.

JL: Everyone is afraid of dark colours, for me I think they make small spaces bigger. You can either paint a couple of feature walls, or the entire room. There is always that fear of colour which is so unfortunate and has made today’s design trend a cold beige and grey world.

NIH: We've always heard that big hanging wall mirrors are a great way to make a space seem larger. Is this still the case with today's design trends? What are some of today's design trends for more intimate units?

AD: In the recent past it was a design element that was used to expand a space that may have seemed limiting. Although it is still a legitimate way to do so, there are many other ways to create a larger appearing space. Large scaled art is an excellent way of magnifying a wall and thus creating the essence of a larger space. I believe that larger hanging chandeliers can increase the dramatic effect over a dining table thus drawing attention away from the overall space. I also believe in using larger decorative elements that can seem out of keeping for a small space but at the same time draw more attention to the height of a room (even fooling the eye into thinking the ceiling height is higher than it is). Not all elements can be done on such scale, but well chosen decorative pieces or lighting can create shadows that make a space appear to have more depth and thus more visual space. We find higher ceilings appealing because the rooms seem more open and less claustrophobic. By drawing the eye upwards with a towering tree or plinth base and vase for instance one can create interest as well as the illusion of extra height that will fool the eye and thus make a room seem more airy.

JL: For me large scale mirrors either hung or free standing floor mirrors give that perception the space is bigger.

NIH: Do you have any tips for pet owners living in a small condo unit or house?

AD: I am the proud owner of an adorable Bichon named Flanders. As part of my household it was important to remember that he now added to the mix as far as accommodating his needs. His toys as a puppy were always scattered about, but as he grew older less toys and more attachment to particular items made it easier to maintain the chaos of years previous. I chose an antique Asian rise bucket to house the extra stuffed toys that are used occasionally. There is compromise in having any pet so ones environment has to become somewhat more relaxed. I believe in a dog having his or her own space and a special bed tucked into a corner is best placed especially because they prefer quiet out of the way spaces to sleep the afternoons away.

JL: Again it all comes down to scale. Obviously a St Bernard is not going to suit a small scale condo. But if you are a dog lover like me, a small dog is a great companion for you and your space.

NIH: Let's flip things around for a second. What should someone do with large living areas? How can someone make sure they are making the most of all their space?

AD: I would recommend that the same ideas are just as relevant to a large space. However, the luxury space allows for environments that can be ultra minimalist or very layered. I believe in conversational settings (many depending on the scale of the room). Different areas of a larger open space can allow for multi-purpose, such as a music corner, a reading nook, a setting in front of a fireplace or a couple of intimate sitting areas to entertain guests. Once again, large pendant lighting or chandeliers and large works of art are drama makers and exploit the scale of a larger room.

JL: Once again it comes down to scale. Buy furniture that suits the space available, and I don't mean fill the entire space, but float some pieces in the room to give the illusion the space is being used. Also, if your large area is your living room and dining room, the space should be designed so it flows together with your furniture pieces and not grouped so it looks like you are creating two separate rooms.

NIH: October is DIY Month on our blog. Do you have any tips or craft ideas for simple, handmade home-decor projects?

AD: I recommend that a four or six screen panel can allow for the division of space in a small condo or add a focal point behind a sofa or in a corner of a room. You can do this as a DIY project by having 1" thick MDF board cut at your local Home Depot at a height that is as tall as you feel comfortable with – I think the taller the better for drama sake.  Cover the panels in a wonderful grass cloth wallpaper or simply paint the screen to accent other colours that are part of your environment. To attach the screen panels use piano hinges and Voila!, you've created another way of expressing your personality in your home.

We thank Alex Donovan and Jack Lochhead for the great tips. We hope you find a way to use some of these tips to decorate your intimate condo or small home!

To see what’s trending, visit Bentley Flanders showroom located at 573 King Street East. For more information, call 416-644-4286 or visit

Sign-up for our Newsletter