Skip to main content

Emma Doucet's favourite room in her Ottawa home is this bedroom.Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

Emma Doucet was always fascinated by the rooms people live in, but she wasn’t always a designer. “It never really occurred to me that interior design could be a career,” she says. For the daughter of a city councillor, the family business was public service, and Doucet enjoyed it – that is, until she didn’t. “I found myself stuck in this really stereotypical situation where I hated what I did and didn’t feel I was making a contribution,” she says.

She started taking on a few side design projects. But it was a contest win for best budget bathroom design, through House and Home magazine, that gave Doucet the bump in confidence she needed to hang out her shingle. Grassroots Design was born, and eight years later, with a staff of 15, Doucet says she helps people embrace design in their lives.

“I like to say that good choices tend to cost the same amount as bad choices,” Doucet says.

Favourite Room: A renovation inspired by a trip to Japan and the philosophy of wabi-sabi

For the redesign of the master bedroom in the 19th-century Ottawa home Doucet shares with her husband, Sebastien Labelle, and their three preteen children, Felix, Cléa and Evangeline, Doucet made sure it was comfortable enough for the whole family. “That meant a king-sized bed, but also making sure the carpet on the floor is cozy, as well,” she says.

When watching movies as a family, if her middle daughter fusses, “she’ll grab a bunch of pillows off the bed and lie on the floor,” Doucet says. “Another reason why it’s so important to have pillows.”

When it came to picking a colour palette for the space, it was all Doucet. “When I design bedrooms for my clients I come up with a serene palette that’s really restful,” she says. “But what I ended up coming back to time and again in my own space was colour, colour, colour,” she says. The wallpaper, by Hygge & West, in arsenic green, and the teal velvet headboard, with wings for tucking into, were among the first elements selected. “After that it became a process of mixing and matching,” she says.

“I really agonized over the duvet cover,” she says. “It’s kind of embarrassing. I think I went through six.” A pom-pom version from Anthropologie was a winner: both neutral and fun. The antique gold mirror above the bed and a chest of drawers belonged to Doucet’s grandmother.

“I like a little bit of wood in my spaces because I feel like it relaxes your eye,” she says. The modern light fixture is from Luminaire Authentik out of Montreal. “I like how it’s a contrast to everything else that feels pretty traditional.”

The curtains are from Tonic Living, the side table from West Elm and the braided cotton rug from Wayfair.

But the Ikea Pax wardrobe – with painted doors, and black wax worked into the grooves, to give a look that’s not “super Ikea,” Doucet says – holds the piece de resistance: a flat-screen television.

“Everyone says you shouldn’t have a TV in your bedroom, but I love watching TV in my bed. It makes me feel like I’ve made it,” Doucet says. It’s just a matter of designing it properly. Doucet inset hers, out of view upon entry, so the bed and window remain the focal point. “As somebody who goes into a lot of people’s houses, I find that often the TV is on a random piece of furniture, and you can tell it’s been guiltily brought up,” Doucet says. “That actually looks worse.” As Doucet can attest, good design is about making good choices.

Get the look

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, design, entertaining, shopping and living well. And follow us on Instagram @globestyle.