Home is ‘The Compound’ for TV personality and design expert Amanda Forrest, her partner and nine kids … plus the horse and the puppy.
You’re apt to take a second look at the striking woman who may be behind you in the lineup at Costco or the supermarket. Where have you seen her before? She looks so familiar. Yes she’s beautiful, but it’s not because she’s all dolled up in jewels and stilettos that you risk another glance. Amanda Forrest doesn’t roll that way.
That’s it! Amanda Forrest. The popular television personality, design expert and tastemaker lives right here in Ottawa. Who knew?
You’ve probably seen her on the Marilyn Denis Show, ogled the drool-worthy images on her Instagram page, or recognized her work via any number of websites, events and publications dedicated to style and beautiful spaces.
But did you realize she has a lot of the same balls in the air as you do? It’s true. Sure, they may be accessorized with gold lamé, driftwood, skulls or any number of glorious design finds; nonetheless, they include kids, pets, her own brand and thriving business, work deadlines, travel obligations and a blog she keeps up-to-date.
Truth is, the woman who goes to work at places involving makeup chairs and photo shoots goes home to a place full of youngsters and the requisite bedlam. “We’re a blended family with a combination of nine children,” she laughs. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Count them, nine: a 21-year-old, two 19-year-olds, a 17-year-old, two 14-year-olds, an 11-year-old, and identical twin six-year-old girls. “To be extra crazy, we also have a horse and a dog,” she adds. (The horse is named Armani and the puppy is Lorde.) “It’s like a funny farm.” You can hear more laughter in her voice when she mentions, “People call us the Kardashians of Carp.”
The family address, situated on a little over an acre, is dubbed The Compound. “It’s very quirky, almost an Alice in Wonderland kind of project,” she enthuses. On the blog at amandaforrest.com, she describes how the move to this city came about; and you can be assured there was no tumble through a rabbit hole to land here.
In fact, Amanda called British Columbia home for a decade and a half. In recent years, she was living half the time on the west coast and half the time in Toronto. Eventually, the bicoastal lifestyle was exhausting, and too much for the kids. They longed for family dinners in the same time zone. In a bid to create work/life balance, she sold her B.C. house and headed to Ontario. After renting in Toronto and searching extensively for the right place, Amanda and the twins first set eyes on The Compound—and Carp—on a frigid winter day. It was -30 C; they were captivated anyway.
“The girls swirled and giggled through the rooms, calling out their bed locations, hiding in closets and chasing up and down the front and back staircases,” she writes. The natural light was appealing, as was the privacy of the setting. Another attraction was the creative studio space, where she could work when time allowed. Yet another was the size of the place: there are seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, and the kids have their own floor. “We call it the Child Hotel.” It includes a girls’ bathroom and a boys’ bathroom with double sinks in each.
Now settled, Amanda is quick to point out life at The Compound doesn’t resemble the glossy imagery in a style magazine: “There’s many a day when I head out the door and there are Cheerios on the floor. I’m doing the same thing as everybody else,” she points out: working hard, parenting, looking for cost savings in the realm of decorating. “I have no problem getting stuff at Value Village. Good design is not about money.”
At Amanda’s place, you’ll find a mix of high and low décor items. There are baskets to keep things tidy, fabrics that are kid-friendly and durable, and artworks that are treasured. There is room for the youngsters to play music, to get creative and to dream.
At dinnertime, there are candles on the table and classical music on the stereo. “We are teaching the kids to appreciate the beautiful things. All these little things, these guidelines, help us to appreciate our lifestyle, our life and each other.” As a result, the kids are considerate.
It’s a style of family living that’s reflected in the designer’s professional life, too. “I love to teach, to see people succeed, to enable women to have confidence,” says the media personality who is a vocal supporter of female entrepreneurs and children’s rights.
In an interview published on the Meade Design Group blog, designer Iván Meade asks, “What is your design philosophy?” Amanda Forrest responds: “To maintain a down-to-earth demeanor and an upbeat style. To create an exceptional space that reflects my clients’ character and lifestyle.”
How does that philosophy reveal itself at The Compound? You’ll have to follow along at instagram.com/amandaforreststyle and amandaforrest.com to find out.