An artist’s touch — decorating A.Y. Jackson’s former studio

Maple easels just the start in recreating Algonquin Park

By Anita Murray, The Ottawa Citizen December 5, 2012 12:10 PM

Decoration A. Y. Jackson StudioGroup of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson’s love of nature provided the inspiration for Mill Street Florist’s decoration of the studio and home he built in Manotick.

Stepping into the grand studio that was also his living room during the recent Homes for the Holidays tour, the first thing you notice is the mini forest created on the mantel that stretches the length of the room.

Groupings of birch and delicious-smelling spruce branches with moss and orange and purple orchids nesting in hollowed out bark at their feet made a natural home for a couple of moose statues brought in for the occasion. “I know, kinda crazy but it fit, didn’t it?” laughs Mill Street owner Joanne Plummer. “You can’t have a Canadian wood scene without a moose.”

It was almost like transporting yourself to one of Jackson’s beloved settings; an effect that delighted current homeowner Irene Staron.

“They have completely transformed our home into a little piece of Algonquin Park,” she said on the eve of the tour. “They have truly captured the essence of the space.”

And that was the intent, says Plummer, a Manotick girl and huge Jackson fan.

“We decided right from the minute that we knew that we were doing the home that it would be a sort of Algonquin-inspired, very organic feel.”

Built in the 1950s, the modern bachelor pad would be Jackson’s home until illness forced him into the city. A niece who took over the home added the garage, sunroom and back deck in the 1980s before Staron and her husband renovated after buying the home in 2006. In recognition of the home’s significance, the studio was left intact.

For the tour, the scene was set even before reaching the house, as – fittingly – easels of birch and maple displaying “paintings” of fungi, moss, pine cones and foliage greeted guests walking up the gravel path to a front porch set with a charming bistro table that held a cube of green mums wrapped in a bow while chairs were framed in greenery and berries and a bench was dressed with rose petal pillows.

Back inside, the natural theme continued. An organic structure of maple branches hung with German glass ornaments framed the trees outside the massive studio window.

“I just loved that,” says Plummer. “It’s so tactile.”

In the renovated kitchen, designed using the space-saving tricks of a boat galley, an elegant trio of turquoise Portuguese glass vases each held a single stem of oncidium orchids while pine cone-filled containers lined the window.

“I wanted to have a very gentle touch in there but it had to have a splash of colour,” says Plummer, who has decorated a home for the tour every year but the first, when she instead donated items for sale in the fundraising boutique for the Hospice at May Court.

In a bit of fun in the sunroom, an arrangement that Plummer refers to as the “Whoville” tree took centre stage. “The Whoville tree is a favourite of mine that we just keep reinventing year after year.” The arrangement, which was created as a pint-sized option for those in a nursing home or hospital, reminded her of Dr. Seuss after the tip bent over one year. “So now we hang an ornament off the bent tip.”

The rear deck of the compact house, meanwhile, featured an explosion of colour set perfectly against a backdrop of woodland grown by Jackson himself. There were roses, crab apples, Ilex berries and more featured in a horizontal arrangement known as Pavé.

One would think the master painter would be pleased.


“It’s the easiest of easy,” Mill Street Florist owner Joanne Plummer says of this simple pine cone arrangement.

She says the display works best as a series of containers, but you could do just one.

Choose your container and fill it with an arranging foam or wet sand. Then take whatever pine cones you’ve gathered and wrap a 24-gauge wire, available at a flower shop or craft store, around the bottom of the pine cone.

Cover the surface of your container with sheet moss, also available at a flower shop, then insert

the wire through the moss and line the cones up in straight.

To dress your arrangement up a bit more, you can use cranberries in place of the moss with your pine cones sitting on top of the berries.

Source: Mill Street Florist, 1136 Mill St., Manotick, 613-692-5000,

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Original source article: An artist’s touch — decorating A.Y. Jackson’s former studio