Abby and Maddy were getting a lot of attention on Instagram. Their company Lambert Decorating had been doing work in the County and their before and afters were total magic. Their Insta-feed gave us all glimpses inside the sexiest PEC B&Bs and the prettiest rejuvenated country houses. We drooled over the perfect white-washing of old wooden floors and stairs—their passion for the craft was obvious, the jobs were dramatic and flawless. And the clincher: they were an all-woman business in a seriously male-dominated field. I had a couple of jobs that required a precise and conscientious brush and I knew just who to call.
When we first bought our place up in Cape Vesey, (the little stretch between Waupoos and Cressy) I loved so much about the house—except for the massive solid yellow oak staircase that was, I’m sure, pretty glorious in its time, but in our entry with white walls and pale neutral accents, it seemed monstrous. It was the same in our kitchen, recently refinished by the previous owner with dark brown cabinetry, but to me it felt oppressive. I wanted a light, airy, calm space that didn’t take away from the magical view of the garden and lake outside and I knew that Abby Lambert and her business and life partner Maddie, could make it happen.
The stairs were number one on my list. It was January and the ground was already awash in white when we moved into the gorgeous cottage at the Beach Waupoos for the week. Abby and Maddy stepped into our place and flexed their fingers: the prep alone was awesome. They carefully, efficiently, cut brown paper to shape around the hulking wooden beast and taped carefully all around. It was obviously an intimidating job, full of nooks and crannies that needed attention, but they were cool and tackled it strategically and lovingly. We chose the same white as the rest of the walls in the house (Benny Moore’s Chantilly Lace) in a high gloss, but left the flats of the stairs nude so they would float and create complexity in the space. There’s nothing sexier than a great home makeover and this was simply the best makeover of all time. The beast disappeared, finally harmonious with the space and while the glowing embers of the wood-warmed beach cottage faded, we moved back into our beautiful, bright home with a renewed joy for the season.
We decided to do the kitchen. Addicted to the rush of transformation, we rushed together the budget we were hoping to save over the next year to meet the ladies’ very fair quote and pressed ‘go’.
The photos speak volumes (Heart eyes, drool face, wavy hands) and the old adage about makeup and rouge was realized with dramatic flair.
We chatted with Abby Lambert in September, 2018 /
Painting is in your blood, right?
Painting goes back a couple generations in my family. My grandfather was a painter and my dad started a painting business in the 80’s (Lambert Decorating Quinte). Since the early 90’s he has been running our family business (Malcolm Brothers), through which he is able to subcontract out his painters. That’s where I got my start painting. I’ve been around painters and immersed in the painting world since I was born, so it wasn’t surprising to anyone when I picked up a brush. Maddy’s dad, although no longer a painter, did paint for quite a while both in Ontario and Alberta. Like any painter, he picked up some handy tips along the way that he has shared with us and he was quick to help us paint when we bought our first home.
How did you find your way to establishing Lambert Design?
I was in my early twenties, and I wanted to be an artist. I went to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), spent five years majoring in Integrated media, received my BFA, and was thrown into the real world. I moved from Toronto to Kingston, then finally back home to Belleville. I spent that entire time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, then my dad asked me to work for him. I jumped at the opportunity and fell in love with painting. Eventually, my dad told me during a slow time that I should look for a side job or two, and so I did. The side jobs didn’t stop and eventually I was working for myself. Luckily for me, Maddy had also shown an interest in painting and soon joined me. I sometimes look back on my twenties and feel that I wasted so much time looking for what was under my nose the whole time. It was definitely worth the wait though. Although running a business is stressful and seems to be 24/7 most days, it is truly gratifying to be welcomed into people’s homes to make amazing transformations to their spaces. I wouldn’t change it, or my journey to this point, for the world.
What’s so great about painting?
Painting is one of the easiest ways you can change the feeling and the vibe of your space without undergoing full out renovations. Colours have the ability to have an affect on you, they can lighten spaces and they can create dramatic spaces. Painting is beautiful and something we love because we can help to turn your home into something personal to you through the addition of colour. But painting isn’t all about colour choices and slapping paint on a wall—we take great pride in prepping spaces before we paint, whether it is walls, cabinets, or even floors. There are steps to each job before we even think about pouring paint from the can and these steps are critical in ensuring a finish that not only looks good, but is also durable and will stand the test of time. Another thing that sets us apart is our dedication to finer finishings. One of our most requested jobs is cabinet painting, which requires extreme care and attention to detail. We pride ourselves on our use of top quality products and paints, which speaks for itself in the results.
What’s it like to be an all-female business in this industry? Real talk.
It’s definitely no secret that the trades are male-dominated, although we are beginning to see more tradeswomen. It does come with its challenges and uncertainties and there’s always the fear of not being taken seriously, and needing to prove that we can do it just as well or even better than the guys can. Luckily, we haven’t been on the receiving end of much criticism from men in the trades, but there is sometimes the look of curiosity from other contractors when we walk into the paint store to pick up our order. We’ve heard some stories from other tradeswomen who haven’t been so lucky, and that always sticks in the back of our minds. We are thrilled with how we’ve been welcomed by other painters in the community, not only for being a female company, but also a new company. One painting company in particular, European Painters (great guys, amazing work), has been extremely supportive of us. When we first started, they gave us their phone number and told us to call them anytime we needed advice. We’ve received many calls from potential clients saying they got our name from them. It’s been extremely humbling knowing that we have that camaraderie and it has made us feel welcomed into the trade.
Best County jobs ever, and go…
Our County clients have been really special to us. They’ve all been amazing, hospitable, and full of creative ideas for transformations. Our very first County job (which was also one of our first jobs as a new company) was for Amanda and Tim who have the B&B ‘Trinity on the Lake‘. We did cabinets for them, and we were taken by their hospitality (and their beautiful cottage.) One of our greatest achievements was actually for you, when we did your staircase. It was a job that not only showed off to others what we could do, but also showed us what we were capable of. That incredible transformation always makes the phone ring—we’ve had so many calls from people who saw your staircase and were impressed with our work. We also did work for the incredibly talented photographer Tara McMullen, who runs ‘Sanctuary in the County‘. We did some work in her home, as well as a whole transformation in her Toronto studio. Another cool job was for Veronique Dryden in both her home and her rental property; the colours she chose for both were amazing. She has an awesome eye for colour and made some bold choices that turned out stunning. It was really fun for us to do something dramatic and out of the ordinary. One of our most recent jobs was for Leslie who runs The Lake House at Smith’s Bay. The space was incredible, it felt like we were on a vacation while working. The architecture in the cottage, although a little challenging to paint, was absolutely beautiful. We’ve had so many wonderful jobs in the County, I could write of many more spots that captured our hearts.
So it’s official: you and Maddy are planning your wedding…
Well, we haven’t yet set a date, but we have decided on one thing—we want to have it in the County. Having travelled throughout the County for both work and leisure, we’ve seen so many beautiful spaces. We would love the opportunity to share what the County means to us with our friends and family, especially those who are not from the area. It’s appealing to us not only for its charm, but also because we want to support other local businesses. There are so many great venues, caterers, and of course, the wine—it would be a shame not to take advantage of what the County has to offer. We’re homebodies when we’re not working, so we also thought about having a honeymoon B&B hop in the County. We’ve worked in so many great spaces and now we want to see even more of them.