Grand stylePublished on October 2, 2009

  • The living room which showcases traditional decor with a contemporary twist. The FORTVNY Cushions on the chairs are from Arevco in Westboro (who also refurbished the crystal chandelier). Photo by Mark Holleron.

  • Candles complete an elegant centerpiece. Photo by Mark Holleron.

  • Limestone flooring runs throughout the home. Photo by Mark Holleron.

  • Karen Grand. Photo by Mark Holleron.

  • The master bathroom showcases floor-to-ceiling Callacotta marble. Photo by Mark Holleron.

To know Karen Grand is to love her! She is a sharp-witted, clever woman with style like no other. A visit to the new townhome she and husband Richard share with their two university-aged daughters is awe-inspiring to say the least.

The New Edinburgh residence has just been through a major renovation and it definitely serves as a tribute to Karen's design and decor talents. A stunningly elegant kitchen has been cleverly incorporated into the entrance and sets the tone for their "grand" style of living and entertaining on all levels. And, if the traditional style cabinets in dark mahogany with glass doors to showcase polished silver pieces, doesn't establish the high-style glamorous character of this home - then a glimpse at the crystal chandelier dangling from a two-storey living room ceiling will do the trick.

It would be difficult to pigeon-hole the talented dynamo into one area of expertise. She is well known as a brilliant decorator, but has also earned a reputation as a celebrity event planner. With clients in both Ottawa and Toronto, Karen is a sought-after seasonal decorator and party planner. Christmas is her busiest time, and if you see a beautifully planted outdoor urn on a drive through Rockcliffe during the month of December, it was probably done by Karen.

Ottawa At Home had the opportunity to visit the Grands in their new digs and get some decorating and entertaining tips from the detail-oriented designer, who generously shares her secrets to setting a stunning dining table.

Did you study design or let it evolve through experience? I got my degree in Interior Design over 25 years ago and worked in office planning.

You have an amazing talent for detail and pulling things together. Have you always had such a keen eye? I have always enjoyed every aspect of design, right down to having fresh flowers placed on my bedside table, to a beautiful Aubusson cushion placed on a chair in my front entrance.

When I was growing up I would often rearrange my bedroom furniture and paint and re-paint the walls - much to my parent's dismay! It was very exciting to change up my personal space. It was a reflection of me.

Now, I love to watch my daughters pick out clothes and wonder why they choose this color or that design. I am always fascinated by observing others to see how things work together. What I love about design is that there are no rules. It's all about personal taste and how it makes you feel. Everything I have experienced in design has led me to where I am today.

What do you think you see in a room that others might not? It is always the attention to detail and the small little things that pull everything together. Whether it's the fringe on a cushion, the placement of art or details on furnishings, these are the makings of great design. The perfect pair of shoes completes the package. I see those fine details.

Describe your personal style . . . My personal style is classic-traditional, with a contemporary twist.

Does your style change with new surroundings or adapt to each new space? My style never changes - when it works it works. If it's not broken, don't fix it!

How did you implement this style in your home? We worked with amazing people on our townhouse renovation and the job just seemed to flow. The emphasis was to create a very "tony" look without diverting from our classic, traditional style. We achieved this by incorporating a mixture of materials, including wrought iron, limestone, antique marble mouldings, mahogany cabinetry and architectural hardware. We changed the entire layout so that it would accommodate our art and furnishings.

Tell us more about Grand Expectations. Grand Expectations is a business I opened around eight years ago. It started when friends would ask me to come over and decorate their homes for Christmas, Thanksgiving and even for private parties. My company evolved into party planning, weddings and seasonal decorating. Christmas is very busy and takes me as far as Toronto.

What are your favourite types of projects to work on? My last job was organizing an incredible party in Muskoka, on Lake Joseph. The planning took six months and all of "Hollywood North" was there. The event was held on a remote Island. Toilets, tents, musicians and caterers had to be barged in. The end result was incredible. It was the party of the summer!

My favourite decor projects are outdoor seasonal planters. I use a mixture of different types of greenery and decorations. Holiday decorating is a specialty of mine and my style is simple, elegant and uncluttered. Not every room needs to be done.

Are you available for hire? I am always available for hire, although people must commit early for the Christmas season as I book up very fast.

Can you offer some tips for creating ambiance when entertaining? I consider lighting to be crucial. All of our lighting is on dimmers so that I can control the mood. I adore candles and mix silver and crystal candle sticks together. I like to layer my place settings, starting with a great cloth. Charger plates define your place at the table and mixing china patterns creates depth. I love beautiful crystal and use it every day. Setting a gorgeous table is never difficult. Being creative is the key to an elegant place setting.

How do you create wonderful centrepieces? Centrepieces can be created anywhere and everywhere at anytime! Not just on dining tables, but to dress up hall tables, bedrooms and bathrooms too. This adds color, texture, taste and style to any room.

I love all flowers and usually work with ones that are in season. In my home right now, I have white orchids arranged in containers as they are long lasting. The initial cost might be a bit more, but the arrangements last for months. Sometimes I change the containers for a different look to suit the placement. I also like using small bouquets that are simple and require minimal effort, but add so much to a room and give great pleasure.

Karen Grand can be reached at

Karen's Tips for Setting a Grand Table • Settle on your theme and remember that less is more! • Make sure your table is large enough to accommodate the number of guests. • Get creative. If your dining room cannot accommodate your guests, then move the table to a larger space. Some of our most memorable dinner parties have taken place in our foyer and living room. • Linens help set the tone and theme of a well-dressed table. Great fabric can easily be made into a table cloth. Keep linens laundered and pressed. • China and flatware should all fall into place with your chosen theme. This also decides your floral centrepiece, which should be low enough for guest to see across. Never have an over-done or fussy centrepiece. • Be consistent. Napkins to the left of the fork or on the centre of the plate. • No more than three glasses at a place setting - red, white and water. • Decide on the final seating arrangement and use place cards to mark the spots. These can be purchased from stationary or specialty shops. • Always be a relaxed host, ready to enjoy your party!

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