Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Morgan Lindsay
Designer Maggie Burns revises the layout and lightens the palette of her rowhouse to make it feel remarkably roomier.
People love to complain about stairs. "My knees are shot – let's move to a bungalow," they grouse. But not Maggie Burns. I longed for stairs and a lawn," says the energetic 28-year-old designer and Toronto native. The sentiment is completely understandable when you consider she was living in one of those New York City apartments that are so cramped, you practically need a folding toothbrush.
That was 2015, and Maggie had just completed a one-year degree at the esteemed Parsons School of Design and was moving back to Toronto – all while simultaneously launching her own design firm, Maggie Richmond Design. One of the newly minted graduate’s earliest clients? Herself.
She had just purchased a charming century rowhouse in the hip Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood near Nadège, a French bakery and a favourite haunt (this girl has her priorities straight). “When I first saw the house, I fell in love with its location and its potential,” says Maggie. “But there was a lot of work to do! The home’s layout didn’t lend itself well to its narrowness.”
At only 10 feet wide and just shy of 1,200 square feet, the two-storey house was palatial by New York standards, but small if Maggie wanted to stretch out and entertain friends. Just the same, it had good bones – and, best of all, the stairs she so desired. The only problem was their location. “They were encased in drywall, so they looked heavy, and they were in the middle of the main floor, taking up almost a third of the space,” she recalls.
Plus, the stairs divided the dining and living rooms into two tiny boxes. So Maggie embarked on a six-month renovation to create a breezy open-concept space. She brightened the home and made it feel spacious with crisp white walls (in place of busy textured wallpaper) and light grey engineered wood floors (replacing dark cork).
In an ambitious effort that ended up costing nearly half her budget, Maggie tore down the staircase and replaced it with a stylishly streamlined version installed at the side of the living room. “The dramatic floating stairs became the focal point,” she says. The new steps also connect to the finished basement – previously a rental apartment that could only be accessed from an outside door.
To accommodate the change, Maggie also reconfigured the second floor, removing a third bedroom and inadvertently exposing a skylight over the stairs. "I've been told it's not a good idea in terms of resale to remove a bedroom, but I had to make way for the stairs," she says. Today, the skylight floods the main floor with light and, together with pale new floors, lends the illusion of more space, making this home an even further cry from her old cramped NYC quarters.
Though small and located at the front door, the living room feels open and airy because of the ultra-edited furniture selection. A low-slung armless sofa, portable wooden side chairs and a small angular side table keep things uncluttered and ease traffic flow.
The galley kitchen was in great shape when Maggie bought the house, so she left it intact. It came with high-end appliances and pretty crystal knobs on the doors. “I kept the original subway tile that runs along the walls, and added pendants [not shown] and pot lights for additional lighting,” she says.
Though it cost 40 percent of Maggie’s overall budget, relocating the staircase made a 100 percent improvement to her home’s layout.
Maggie nearly replaced the dark-hued front door, but decided to keep it after seeing how charming it looked in the space. Her dad created a stained glass window for the transom. “Its copper trim matches elements throughout the main floor,” she says.
A graphic punch of black in the quartet of retro Tulip chairs is emphasized by the splashy artwork. The mirror bounces light around the space and picks up the sheen in the soft grey floors.
A combined washer-dryer in the galley kitchen makes doing a quick load of laundry super convenient.
Relaxation reigns in the subdued bedroom, where a quilt and watery-hued toss cushions suggest a catnap. A glass lamp and monochromatic artwork keep the visual clutter at bay.
Maggie pulled together a light-filled office nook just outside her bedroom. The glossy streamlined desk, slatted rubber chair and casually leaning artwork create an understated vignette. The desk also serves as an extra drop-off spot for her laptop in the evenings – a smart reminder to maintain serene sleeping quarters and keep work separate.
A floating vanity and clean-lined mirror show off the Carrara marble floor and shower wall in the master bath. “Because I don’t have a lot of space – roughly 41 square feet – I had to be careful about the scale of each component,” says Maggie. The pared-back elements lend a serene quality. “It’s my favourite spot in the house,” she adds.
Despite all her hard work, Maggie recently sold her belove rowhouse to move in with her fiancé. And just in case you're curious, the resale value wasn't affected by the removal of a bedroom. To bring even more appeal to the home for the sale (which happened to coincide with our photo shoot), Maggie hired design firm Modern Staging Spaces to help her accessorize . Her house sold in a flash. With style like this, how could it not?
Learn the tips & tricks to washing white sheets without bleach.
Learn how to wash your white sheets without using bleach.
My friend recently shared her reluctance to buy white bed sheets, saying she loves the crisp, clean look of white bed linens, but feared they’d take on the look of a tattered white t-shirt after a few washes. In light of this conversation, I'm sharing how to wash white sheets (and keep them white) without bleach. Read on to find out more.
First, pre-soak the sheets in a tub filled with warm water and ½ cup of white vinegar. Let the sheets soak for up to one hour. Wring them out before moving to the washing machine Pre-treat. I use The Laundress Wash and Stain Bar on any stubborn spots.
Wash in warm water. You may regularly run a cold cycle for clothing (cold water means less shrinking, fading and setting stains; plus, it saves energy), but consider a warm–hot cycle for deep cleaning white bed linens. Use a gentle detergent. I’ve been using The Laundress Whites Detergent; its formula contains enzymes that keep whites white and extend the life of white fabrics. It's also nontoxic and free of allergens and dyes – so I'm happy to get into bed with it, so to speak.
Weather permitting, hang outside on the line to dry and let the sun do its thing. If that's not possible, tumble dry on low. Do you have any tips for washing whites? Top Photography, Nina Teixeira; Middle and Bottom Photography, Petal and Post.
Don't underestimate the power of a stellar side table—it holds the ability to add an instant dose of chic to your living room or bedroom.
Looking for an easy way to upgrade your space with the latest trends? Replace the standard side table beside your sofa or bed with one (or two!) in a stand-out silhouette. To make it easy, we’ve hand-picked the coolest ones to suit every budget. From a brushed brass pedestal option to a wood retro pick, these stylish pieces are sure to make your room so much sleeker.
1. Brass-finished aluminum Oxford side table with marble top , CB2, $349.
2. Powder-coated steel Peggy side table, EQ3, $79.
3. Powder-coated steel Gladom side table in light yellow, IKEA, $29.
4. Brushed brass burnished side table with antiqued mirror top, Art Shoppe, $499.
5. Ash Cavour side table with melamine-finished MDF top, Structube, $99.
6. Lacquered steel stay side table in Stone Grey, Urban Mode, $363.
7. GlucksteinHome polished stainless steel Clare side table with glass top, Hudson’s Bay, $849.
8. Powder-coated aluminum Nero side table with marble top in Grey, Crate and Barrel, $449.
Image by: Virginia MacDonald | Styling: Christine Hanlon
Designer Tara Fingold artfully mixes an array of lush textures and soft mauves and pinks to create a soothing master bedroom and bathroom for a busy couple.
More often than not, it’s a designer’s role to gently nudge a homeowner out of his or her comfort zone. But in the case of the owner of this distinctive master suite, no prodding was necessary. “The client embraces colour , texture and non-conventional pieces,” says designer Tara Fingold. “It was amazing how open she was, and how she kept pushing for something interesting.”
It was about a year ago when the homeowner and her husband purchased this 1920s Georgian abode in a well-established Toronto neighbourhood and collaborated with Tara on a top-to-bottom home renovation. “With very precise planning at the beginning, we were able to finish in six months,” says Tara. “The house has beautiful bones, so we just needed to give it an update.”
Soothing mauves and pinks, and a layering of textures (the grasscloth wallpaper, chevron-patterned silk drapery, inlaid nightstand and strie wool rug) create a sumptuous, inviting look in the master bedroom. The strie velvet channel-tufted headboard turns the bed into a show-stopping focal point.
Clean-lined shapes temper the space’s femininity – the look is sophisticated, not girlie or frou-frou – and a layered effect enhances the warm and inviting feel. The master bedroom, with its combination of textures that includes the grasscloth wallpaper, velvet headboard, wool rug and silk drapery, is especially lush. “I wanted to create a delicious mood when you walk into the room,” says Tara.
The dressing room boasts a built-in makeup desk and a bank of drawers, which serves as both a dresser for extra storage and a window seat.
For the busy homeowners (a professional couple with three small children), the overhaul included creating a 600-square-foot restful retreat that now comprises the master bedroom, ensuite bathroom, a dressing room for her and a walk-in closet for him.
These flowers goes well with the colour scheme of the suite.
The bathroom’s high-gloss lavender vanity is outfitted with a marble countertop and brass faucets and pulls. The vintage resin-framed mirrors and crystal and brass sconces lend a dose of character and balance out the vanity’s contemporary straight lines.
Gold handles go great with purple drawers.
The glass panelling and calacatta marble tiling in the shower are light and airy elements that enhance the bathroom’s serene vibe. “I like marble’s natural characteristics,” says Tara. “I could not get that random pattern and elegance without using marble.”
A mix of calacatta and thassos marble forms the herringbone pattern on the floor, which continues into the dressing room. “That’s where the homeowner gets dressed and puts on her makeup, so it’s much more durable than carpet,” says Tara. “But it’s heated, so it’s just as cozy.”
Tara used a pale lilac quilted fabric to upholster the dressing room closet doors, adding a bit of softness and texture to the space. Lucite pulls are quiet yet sophisticated.
The dressing room’s beautiful brass chandelier, adorned with crystal doves, is a whimsical touch. “The doves look like they’re dancing around the perimeter,” says designer Tara Fingold.
Toronto-based designer Tara Fingold.