Image by: Donna Griffith | Styling: Christine Hanlon
Hushed tones and plenty of natural light make for a dreamy retreat
When these newlyweds ditched their condo for a house — as so many do — they set their sights upon Toronto’s leafy Summerhill neighbourhood , which they admired for its older homes. The couple found a 2,290-square-foot four-bedroom semi built in the 1930s that fit the bill in terms of age and locale, but it hadn’t been touched since the ’80s.
“It was so dark,” says one of the homeowners, referring to the interior, which was coated in dowdy browns and suffering from tiny rooms and windows, as well as a gloomy kitchen partitioned from the rest of the house. “We needed more light and a large kitchen for my husband, who loves to cook,” she says. Simply put, the house was hardly what you’d call a love nest. So the homeowners enlisted Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent to give their starter house a style transfusion.
“We wanted to create a classically inspired backdrop with clean-lined furnishings and art,” says Amy. The homeowners didn’t want to go too stark or too stuffy, so they settled on a transitional look with bold lashes of black and modern furnishings boasting traditional details. And, of course, they addressed the cramped spaces and lack of light.
To that end, the designers reworked the layout, removing the powder room, relocating the kitchen and expanding the windows at the front and back of the house. “We opened everything up so the light emanating from the new windows and existing skylight would stretch further,” says Ryan.
As for the finer details, near-black accents add striking drama against the palette of soothing greys, blues, browns and whites. “The colours in this home are very subtle, tone-on-tone and easy to live with,” says Amy. “We wanted the house to make an impact as a whole – not for any particular wall or accent to stand out above the rest.”
Whether the homeowners are upstairs lounging in the relaxed media room or downstairs sipping tea in the more formal living area, there is indeed a clear sense of cohesion, which is a hallmark of this home — and what makes it a far cry from its gloomy beginnings.
A dynamic explosion of hexagonal and subway tiles gives the third-floor bathroom edge. The contrasting grout as well as the blackened metal fittings, chair rail and sconces look sharp against the white backdrop.
Watery blues and greys lend a serene painterly feel to the tranquil second-floor family room.
The long and linear print of birch trees (with hand-applied copper leaf) echoes the shape of the low-slung sofa, which is clean-lined to suit the quiet space.
“I loved being able to customize the house to our needs,” says one of the homeowners. “My husband really loves the new kitchen.”
Stylish sun-filled family room.
A time-worn Toronto house is transformed into a lively family home with a welcoming design.
"We moved so we could have a pool,” says homeowner and decorator Jenifer Glover of J.G. Interiors. It was 2008, and she and her husband, Norm Brownstein, were keen to create a fun backyard oasis in the city for their four children: Gabriele, 15, Jackson, 13, Hayden, 10, and Maya, 7.
So when a house with pool potential in a prime Toronto neighbourhood came up for sale, they took the plunge, even though it was far from perfect. “We loved the location and the lot, which had space for a pool, but we didn’t love the house,” says Jenifer. “It was a rundown 1930s build with faux Tudor features. Our plan was to freshen up the rooms with paint to tide us over until the eventual tear-down and rebuild.”
Jenifer relaxes on a black leather bench in the family room.
Jennifer's family room before the elegant home renovation.
The design of the sun-filled family room had a surprising jumping-off point: the television. “With the TV in place on a custom cabinet, I designed the shelves above it and repeated them and the cabinet on the other side of the fireplace,” says Jenifer. “This symmetry allowed me to fill the opposite space with artwork that balances out the television.”
Lively patterned toss cushions dress up the family room’s classic linen sofa.
This vignette design in the family room is testament to homeowner Jenifer Glover’s personalized approach to decorating: “These are things I’ve picked up over time because I love them.”
Crafted from the same walnut as the kitchen island, the family room’s custom wood cabinets and shelves are both stylish and practical. “The wood ties these rooms together while really warming up the space,” says Jenifer.
The kitchen before its complete restaurant-inspired renovation.
Wooden accents and sophisticated accessories infuse the new-build kitchen with old-world charm. The gold-framed mirrors reflect one of Jennifer’s favourite inspirations: restaurant design. “I love sitting in restaurants that have mirrors angled downward – the light and the images that bounce back are wonderful.” Secondhand bentwood stools and an elaborate chandelier from France have a rich vintage feel that tempers the room’s white surfaces. The steel window frames and mullions were painted black to mimic the industrial appearance of the French doors.
A rustic-look dining table in the kitchen's eat-in area holds up to a house full of kids because, according to Jenifer, “It only gets better with age.” The space features framed artwork created by the couple’s children. “It’s elements like kids’ art that turn a house into a home,” she says.
Anything but oppressive, a dramatic black painted ceiling glams up the formal dining room. “It feels like the night sky,” says Jenifer. With leather and chrome dining chairs, a vintage-look brass pendant light and a traditional rug, the room has an edgy eclectic vibe.
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Find everything you need to know to maintain a functional, clean bed long term.
You’re diligent about washing your sheets, but do you clean what’s underneath them? In addition to the expected bodily fluids and dust, your mattress comes in contact with all types of microscopic filth, chief among them dust mite droppings. Dust mites live in upholstery and feed on skin cells (something you’re constantly unwittingly shedding), and beyond being plain gross, their droppings can cause allergic reactions. So it’s high time you add mattress cleaning, a seasonal chore, to your to-do list. Having removed the sheets, vacuum the surface using the upholstery and crevice attachments. Spot clean any stains using an enzyme-based upholstery or carpet spray, such as a pet-odour remover. Then liberally cover the mattress with baking soda; let sit for a full day. Finally, vacuum up all the powder and enjoy a truly freshly made bed.
Buyer’s guide: In the market for a new mattress? Check out our shopping tips:
Cost: Set a realistic budget (don’t cheap out on a good night’s sleep) and stick to it. This is a big-ticket item, so the store may be willing to bargain.
Quality: Pay attention to details (stitching, seams, etc.), which will reveal how durable and well made the mattress is.
Comfort: Always lie down to get a feel. If you’re debating between two models, opt for the firmer one – it will soften over time, and you can buy a plush mattress pad if need be.
Policies: Familiarize yourself with the return policy and warranty before purchasing.
The average lifespan of a mattress is about a decade. If yours is showing surface wear, sagging or becoming at all uncomfortable, it may be time to trade up.
Seasonal to-do: On rotation much like the groove that develops in your go-to spot on the sofa, over the years, different areas of your mattress get uneven wear. To help it last longer, make a habit of rotating the mattress once a season. Alternate between flipping it from head to toe one season and upside down the next. (If your mattress has a pillow top, then only flip it head to toe.)
Very airy: Air circulation is key to deterring bacterial growth, so give your mattress some breathing room: If possible, place it outdoors in the sun (the UV rays will add an antimicrobial kick) every few months. When you go out of town, leave it bare of sheets.
Do: Use a mattress cover. Launder it frequently, especially if you suffer from allergies.
Don't: Saturate your mattress with water or use any sort of dry-cleaning chemicals; both can cause irreparable damage.
Stock up on these tools to create the ultimate mattress-cleaning kit
1 ￼Deodorizer: Nature’s best odour absorber is baking soda, and this one is sourced without the use of chemicals. Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, Well.ca, $5.
2 Dirt sucker: This handheld is specially engineered to extract all the microscopic dirt from your mattress. V6 mattress vacuum, Dyson. $330.
3 Stain remover: This non-toxic spray tackles organic stains without leaving behind any harmful residue. Nature Clean Pet Stain & Odour remover, Well.ca, $9.
A kitchen boasting restaurant-design pedigree
Trendy meets traditional in this family home built from scratch.
Homeowner Tanya Krpan (pictured here) saved on accessories by loading the family room sectional with an assortment of ready-made toss cushions.
Tanya isn’t afraid to play with negative space, as seen in the home’s grand entryway. “Normally, you’d expect a mirror or big piece of art hanging above the wainscotting,” she says. Leaving the wall blank and layering small pieces on the console allows the millwork to shine.
Black casement windows and decorative accents create contrast in the neutral space. Tanya scored the vintage coffee table when her office was being redecorated.
The family room’s classic-cool mix feels right for a young family.
The kitchen, of course, is the true star of the show. Tanya’s restaurant-design pedigree shines through in the room’s floor-to-ceiling tiles, mix of open and closed storage and high-end appliances. She opted for white Shaker-style cabinetry and warmed up the space with a walnut island and brass hardware statement lighting and fixtures.
Another bistro-inspired touch was her choice of dark honed-limestone tiles for most of the main floor. “The tile grounds the space since there’s an abundance of white everywhere,” Tanya explains. “And it’s proven great for hiding dirt.”
Everything in the Krpans’ home is designed for everyday life and entertaining, from the large sectional in the family room to the round tables in the dining room and the kitchen’s eat-in area. “It’s more social to sit at a round table,” says Tanya. “You see everyone’s faces.”
Cabinets with glass doors allow Tanya to display her favourite serving pieces and special glassware. She had the back of the kitchen cabinets tiled to highlight this focal point of the kitchen.
Tanya and Jure – with their sons, Ivan, 3, and Cruz, 2 – have recently welcomed a baby girl named Belle.
The living room’s crisp white, grey and black scheme gets an energy boost from fresh greenery, pops of pink and plenty of pattern – check out the Moroccan-style rug, the ikat-print and chevron-patterned toss cushions and the graphic stool fabric.
To offset the costs of the more expensive permanent elements, Tanya was meticulous with her decorating budget. She incorporated secondhand pieces, such as the family room coffee table, and sourced inexpensive art for the living room mantel. Affordable colourful accessories add youthful edginess to the living spaces. “I love the femininity that the splashes of pink add to the living room and family room,” she says. “Plus, by the time I got to the decorating, I was living with three boys!”
In the dining room, Tanya likes the juxtaposition of the modern Sputnik-inspired chandelier with the traditional coffered ceiling. The artwork was a DIY project Tanya and Jure painted together on her 30th birthday.
Though this house has been well loved for years, there’s a sequel in the works: Tanya and Jure are in the process of building a new home. “We’ll keep some of the same elements but go a little more modern in the kitchen,” says Tanya. We’ll definitely stay tuned.