This Toronto dwelling, with its book-laden walls and cozy corners, is a reader's dream.
Easygoing, trusting and super stylish: These homeowners were downright dream clients for designer Robyn Rider, whom they hired to revamp their newly purchased three-bedroom dwelling in downtown Toronto. The protege of the designer who’d transformed their previous house, Robyn was the prime candidate to deliver an updated look to these downsizing lawyers’ home.
“They have great taste and great pieces to work with,” says Robyn – plus, lots of books. Though the homeowners significantly reduced their large book collection, the remaining titles were more than substantial, including legal references, favourite reads, hardcover sets and prized heirlooms. It’s only fitting, then, that the only directive Robyn was given was to accommodate this veritable library, which ended up dictating much of the main floor’s design.
Robyn added floor-to-ceiling bookcases throughout the entire main level to achieve the perfect marriage of library and living space. This is especially evident in the dining room, which she designed as a place to not only eat meals and host dinner parties but also to lounge by the fire with a good book. To that effect, a cozy armchair by the fireplace is accompanied by a reading lamp and footstool, and the banquette at the round urn-based dining table is extra-deep and extra-comfy. “I wanted to create an intimate area that could accommodate guests, but where the homeowners wouldn’t feel ridiculous when it’s just the two of them,” says Robyn.
While the central kitchen marks a bit of a departure from the scholarly look, it still feels like a seamless part of the open-concept living area. “I used cabinets featuring the same profile and colour as the millwork in the adjacent dining and living rooms,” says Robyn. Integrated and panelled appliances as well as cabinetry with footed toe kicks lend the space a furnished feel, while oversized lantern-style pendant lights above the island are the kind you might find over a formal dining table, further blending the lines between the cooking zone and the rest of the home.
After all, the kitchen leads right into the living room, which returns to books. “I didn’t even try to organize or colour code them,” says Robyn of her approach to keeping the look cohesive. “It would have felt too contrived.” (Plus, the husband is pretty particular about organizing things by subject.) So, to temper the mismatched assortment, Robyn created a serene envelope of white millwork and cream walls, which she used throughout the main level. “We could afford to be quieter with the paint palette considering the books and the bold textiles,” she explains, noting examples like the traditional multi-hued heirloom needlepoint rug and contemporary zigzag-patterned armchairs. “The homeowners definitely didn’t need to be convinced to use colour,” says Robyn. “It actually took some convincing to leave the walls neutral!”
Once Robyn finessed the final details of the newly designed house, the homeowners unpacked and arranged their last tomes onto the shelves, ready to begin their new chapter.
French doors – which lead to a backyard oasis that borders a ravine – let a tremendous amount of light into the living room of this Toronto house designed by Robyn Rider. Because of the kitchen’s proximity to this space, it was decorated with statement pieces, such as oversized lantern-style pendant lights, to unify the areas.
Black soapstone counter- tops break up the white kitchen cabinetry that would have otherwise looked too clinical in this cozy space. Even though it’s quite high maintenance, soapstone adds warmth and lustre. “It’s an extra layer of luxury,” says Robyn.
The first space you see when you walk through the front door is the powder room. It sets the tone for the punchy greens and bold prints used throughout the rest of the house.
The library-inspired living room features clever design details, such as space-saving pull-out shelves in place of side tables. “I was channelling British townhouse style, in which everything has a purpose,” says Robyn.
Reminding Robyn (pictured right) of gardens in Provence, the table base, an oversized urn, was the jumping-off point for the dining room’s palette. “I love its intense green colour,” says the designer, “and I just went with it!” The homeowners also love the extra-deep banquette. Robyn used a bold botanical print on the Roman shades to blur the border between indoors and out, imparting a lively and verdant atmosphere.
A dining area and reading nook rolled into one, this room sees a lot of action. The bookcases, lined with selections and collections most meaningful to the homeowners, lend an old-world vibe that is punched up by the fresh armchair fabric.
A serene departure from the rest of the house, the main guest room is soft yet sophisticated. The antique settee is a family heirloom that Robyn had reupholstered with a contemporary centre stripe design. From there, Robyn layered in more powder blue and cream elements into the space but brought in dove grey to counter the femininity. “Powder blue on its own can border on prissy,” she explains.
Photography by Stacey Brandford
Fresh and refined white and lilac living room.
Take a tour of this cozy family-friendly retreat bursting with farmhouse chic.
The pink front door complements the pretty scheme inside and makes the residence stand out.
Elements like the curvaceous loveseats, Scandi-style brass armchairs and salvaged wood coffee table lend the living room a casual yet refined aesthetic. A built-in bench gives a bay window purpose.
The second bay window, which looks out onto the lush front garden, creates an intimate sitting area in the living room. Chairs from the homeowners’ previous house were recovered in a sophisticated floral fabric.
The living room’s wall colour – white with a lilac undertone – was the jumping-off point for the home’s feminine scheme. “This white makes everything feel so fresh,” says designer Margie Doyle White.
For Margie, formerly a designer on W Network’s Take This House and Sell It, the tricks to injecting the space with character were keeping the layout intact and adding or updating architectural details; replacing the tired, dark kitchen with something timeless and white; and incorporating key elements to create an urban English farmhouse aesthetic.
A reclaimed wood trestle table surrounded by linen-covered chairs gives the dining room a laid-back vibe. A large-scale drum pendant light on a pulley anchors the table.
The built-in shelving unit lined with lilac grasscloth wallpaper provides character.
The kitchen’s high ceilings allowed for chunky crown moulding, and glass-fronted upper cabinets with an “X” detail add even more architectural interest. A backsplash of greyish taupe ceramic subway tiles offers a soft hit of colour in the all-white space.
In the kitchen, see-through elements like the stools keep the look bright and airy.
Homeowner Raewyn Fahlenbock with two-year-old daughter Olive.
The former garage, which was basically a windowless stucco box, was supplanted by a coach house-style structure. Its board-and-batten siding, shingled roof and shuttered windows now give the backyard a good dose of character. It also serves as a charming backdrop for the alfresco dining area.
A cedar deck and pergola define the outdoor sitting area and provide a shady spot to lounge in the backyard.
The lilac and pink plants throughout the backyard tie in with the home’s interior palette.
A glam bachelorette pad with a beach-inspired design
A 500-square-foot condo in the city is transformed into a stylish, tropical oasis.
Growing up, decorator and stylist Laura Collins would often rearrange the furniture in younger sister Jennifer’s bedroom. “My room was always a mess,” says Jennifer. “Almost weekly, Laura would come in, switch the furniture around, organize and make it look pretty again.” So when it came time to furnish her first bachelorette pad in Toronto, Jennifer didn’t hesitate to ask for help from her big sis, who started with a mood board that evoked a sun-drenched Florida beach house. It was a style Jennifer sought not only because it reminds her of frequent family vacations down south, but also because she admires her sister’s beachy-glam Toronto townhouse (featured in Style at Home’s June 2014 issue), which boasts a similar eclectic coastal aesthetic.
Immediately, Laura identified aqua, brass and flamingo pink as key colours for the 500-square-foot space’s fresh, fun look. “My sister is my favourite client ever,” says Laura. “She trusts me – she knows this is my area of expertise.” Indeed, Jennifer purchased almost everything on the mood board within a week of moving in.
Though the space is small, Laura picked out standard furniture instead of condo-sized options. “Larger pieces make it feel more grand and livable,” she says. But of all the furniture in the space, the brass bar cart, set in front of the balcony doors and decorated with tropical details, is Jennifer’s favourite. “It reminds me of being somewhere hot,” she says. “I wake up, sit on the comfy sofa with my cup of coffee and see the sun shining in. It makes me feel like I’m in a beach house. It’s exactly what I wanted.”
Brass, aqua, turquoise, a hint of kelly green and a spattering of flamingo pink against the neutral white backdrop lend a refined vintage tropical vibe to the main living area of homeowner Jennifer Collins’s Toronto condo.
Framed prints of exotic beaches, a robin’s egg blue task lamp and a carefully edited selection of tropical-feel objets add freshness to the desk.
The kitchen is compact but features all the essentials, including a microwave tucked under the counter, a slender fridge and a peninsula offering enough seating to eliminate the need for a formal dining area.
A vintage brass tray topped with pink tumblers in the kitchen links to the brass bar cart with flamingo-themed items in the living area on the opposite side of the space.
Decorator Laura Collins (right) sits with her sister under a vintage Turner flamingo print.
1 Calypso tray, Rosanna, $32. 2 Amir toss cushion cover in Azure, Tonic Living, $45. 3 Industrial task lamp in White, West Elm, $119. 4 Kivik loveseat with Dansbo fabric in White, IKEA, $529. 5 Lucette bar cart in Gold, Pier 1 Imports, $430.
A wooden dresser transforms into an ultra-stylish statement piece.
Put your DIY skills to the test with these simple and stylish IKEA furniture transformations.
Style at Home's talented design team puts their own unique spin on IKEA's VITTSJÖ nesting-style coffee table with three personality-packed rooms to match.
Discover how all three looks came together and how you can create the same look in your home.
We created a customized office desk for this cozy home office nook.
Using IKEA's ALEX desktop you can create the same look at home.
A simple DIY project dramatically transforms a regular wooden dresser into a luxe piece of furniture on a budget.
Using IKEA's TARVA three-drawer chest get this look at home.
Glam up a plain pendant light with a coat of gold spray paint.
Using IKEA's HEKTAR pendant light get the step-by-step instructions here.
Add some stylish storage to your space with this gorgeous do-it-yourself cabinet featured in our high/low: chic dressing room.
Using IKEA's SEKTION wall cabinet get the step-by-step instructions here.
Create your own free-standing island like the one featured in our Parisian-style kitchen. This budget-friendly accessory can be customized to suit your style while adding an extra prep area to any size space.
Using IKEA's KARPALUND base get the step-by-step instructions here.