Image by: Stacey Brandford | Styling: Morgan Lindsay & Stacy Begg
A PR maven updates her Toronto kitchen to create a chic space with staying power.
Christine Faulhaber is no stranger to trends. “It’s my job to be on the pulse of what’s new and now,” says the head of Faulhaber Communications, a PR and marketing firm in Toronto. When this in-the-know gal’s kitchen got an update last year, it was destined to have a covetable current look. But first, the 420-square-foot space – which hadn’t seen more than a coat of paint since the ’80s — needed to be brought into this decade.
Seeking help to gut the room and start over, the well-connected homeowner pulled out her loaded Rolodex and called in designer Amy Dillon of AyA Kitchens and Baths. “For the most part, we kept the layout pretty similar,” says Amy. “But we tweaked things to improve usability.” The upgrades included replacing cabinets with space-saving pullouts, swapping bulky appliances for sleek, well-integrated options and supplanting the old island with a longer narrower one that accommodates seating without impeding flow.
With function taken care of, Amy focused on the finishes, opting for elements befitting this fashion-forward professional. She cites the sleek two-tone cabinetry, open storage and a feature wall sans uppers as examples. “Trends can date themselves down the line,” says Amy, “so I incorporated them in a subtle way, using a neutral palette.” The über-popular encaustic-look backsplash tiles are case in point. “The slew of prints is a bit aggressive,” admits Christine. “But they’re monotone, so it’s a safe choice.” Time-tested additions, such as Mid-Century Modern-style seating, grasscloth accent wallpaper and copper accessories round out the room, cementing its staying power.
Designer Amy Dillon grounded the white cabinetry with dark grey accents — but only a few. “I wanted the space to age gracefully, not look like that typical two-tone kitchen you see so much,” she says. Marble-look Caesarstone countertops, which flow into a waterfall edge on the island, help achieve that goal.
For the dining area, Christine went with one of the hottest trends — Mid-Century Modern furniture — and chose chairs in a punchy shade of blue.
Though Amy chose minimal modern flat-panelled cabinetry, she varied the look by incorporating some open storage. “Display space is important to me,” says Christine, who showcases cookbooks and collectibles, such as her grandmother’s porcelain teacups. “These types of pieces give the space character and make it feel more like the rest of the rooms in the house.”
Christine fell for the bold encaustic-look backsplash tiles immediately. “The prints — there are 33 in total — are mostly traditional, so they have long legs,” she says. For a slightly more current effect, she had her contractor double up on the watery pattern, the only contemporary motif in the bunch. “The backsplash is a safe place to try a trend,” she advises. “Worst-case scenario, I tire of it in 10 years. I’d probably want to change my kitchen by then anyway!”
Christine incorporated touches of copper, the metal du jour, starting with a Tom Dixon pendant light in the eat-in area. The zone received the same space-smart treatment as the rest of the kitchen with dual-tone built-ins.
The whimsical artwork printed on Plexiglas is actually an image from a photo shoot Christine produced five years ago to mark the 10th anniversary of her PR and marketing agency, Faulhaber Communications. She used classic grass-cloth wallpaper as a backdrop to amplify the piece.
Take a peek inside this renovated schoolhouse.
What better place to spend the winter than in an old schoolhouse in an idyllic rural setting?
Growing up in Toronto and then living in Vancouver for 21 years, Janet Appleton, owner of The Dog Tack Shop, was a devoted city girl with a low-maintenance condo as her dwelling of choice. Then one fateful date, she happened upon a real-estate listing for a converted heritage schoolhouse on eight acres in Schomberg, Ont. "I saw it online and fell completely in love," she confesses. "It was all purple inside with shag carpeting everywhere. Everyone tried to talk me out of it, but I had a vision."
Moving back to Ontario meant being closer to family and many of the craftspeople she works with for her business. So in a lifestyle-changing move, she bought the place, taking possession of the property more than three years ago with her two boxers, Marco and Benny, in tow.
Nestled into eight acres of bucolic countryside, the Old Deacon Schoolhouse is a well-preserved example of a typical rural Ontario schoolhouse.
Although the schoolhouse isn't designated a heritage building, Janet was determined to design the interior with an environmentally aware decor approach that respected its history.
Janet with her two boxers, Marco and Benny, on the steps of the schoolhouse. Many bricks on the home's exterior have children's initials etched into them.
A few boughs of natural greenery adorn the entryway door. Homeowner Janet Appleton has no idea what the numbers at the entrance might have meant but she and her guests love to speculate.
An iron staircase salvaged from Toronto's first telegram building leads to the loft. Janet ripped shag carpeting off its treads to reveal the maker's mark from St.Lawrence Foundry.
Antique books include her great-grandfather's bible and her great-grandmother's hymnal. The bench, marked 1954, was a gift from her grandfather to her mother.
In the main living room, the doors flanking the fireplace mantel are the original boys' and girls' entrances to the school. Stained-glass windows were added in a previous renovation. Janet's mother, Judith, lovingly helped source many of the home's furnishings, including the dark grey Louis-style armchair.
The harvest table in the dining area was one of the many pieces left behind by the previous owners that Janet was able to incorporate into the new design. Huge barn beams were left intact and exposed to lend warmth to the predominantly white interior.
During the winter, Janet decorates with a light touch, utilizing the natural materials found in abundance on her property.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
This master bedroom and ensuite demonstrate that neutral is anything but boring.
This master bedroom and ensuite prove a neutral scheme is anything but boring.
After purchasing a semi-detached dwelling in one of Toronto’s sought-after midtown neighbourhoods, this young couple quickly abandoned the home’s wonky layout and dated decor in order to welcome the opposite: a clean-lined, contemporary and predominately white interior. The challenge then became making the monochromatic scheme come alive. The solution? The expert touch of Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent. “The homeowners wanted a house that was modern but not stuffy or sterile,” says Ryan. Here, we look to the three-storey abode’s master bedroom and ensuite for decor lessons that might just have you embracing a neutral palette and kicking colour to the curb.
During the reno, designers Ryan Martin and Amy Kent opted for an expansive window with distinct black framing. “We could have done a white frame, but adding that touch of black gives life and character to the otherwise clean-looking master bedroom,” says Ryan. This design choice also draws attention to the property’s verdant back garden.
Thanks to its rich woven quality the grasscloth-clad accent wall is the understated showpiece of the room. Says Ryan: “You can see the seams where the wallpaper lines up, but that’s what shows off the material’s texture and embellishes the look.”
When it was time to decide where to splurge, the homeowners knew they couldn’t do without oil-finished oak flooring, which is carried throughout the house. The timeless grey-brown shade anchors the space and lends an additional layer of warmth.
A wall of custom built-in closets is any homeowner’s dream, but that’s not to say function should come before style. In addition to providing ample storage, these units feature subtle moulding that adds architectural presence to the bedroom. Similar built-in wardrobes also flank the hallway that leads to the ensuite.
It’s often the subtle details that make or break the look of a space. The key, explains Ryan, is to create cohesion. For this modern ensuite, the designers strategically chose metal faucets that coordinate with the other dark accents in the room – including the shower door hinges.
The stylish washstand was the starting point for the space’s contemporary scheme and helped steer the clients away from an all-white aesthetic. The washstand’s Carrara marble top has soft grey undertones, which add depth to the look,” says Ryan.
“It was important to design a nice, clean bathroom that wasn’t too stark,” says Ryan, speaking to his and Amy’s decision to include bright brass-finished elements like the sconces and mirrors. Overall, the contrasting metallic pieces add a touch of glitz. To establish an elegant-meets-edgy look, the design duo used Carrara marble throughout in various shapes, such as rectangular wall tiles and hexagonal floor tiles. “We even used a dark grout to enhance the formats of the tiles,” says Ryan.