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
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
A spacious kitchen with a cozy and eclectic vibe.
Inspired by a box-office hit, this homeowner puts a country spin on the beach house look to create the weekend getaway of her dreams.
When the homeowner of this 3,600-square-foot Canadian weekend getaway near Caledon, Ont., saw the movie Something's Gotta Give, she was star struck. Not by actors Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson or Canadian cutie Keanu Reeves, but by the sprawling Hamptons beach house movie set that played a starring role. Apparently, the rom-com's seaside retreat home left quite a few viewers swooning. But for this homeowner, customizing the on-screen dream to suit her property and her outdoorsy family (including her husband and two daughters) was key. "I wanted to achieve the look on the exterior but in a vernacular appropriate to an Ontario country house, which is why "Inside, I wanted that crisp yet comfy aesthetic of the movie, but realized in earthy tones that would reflect the surroundings."
Detailed traditional millwork-beadboard, raised panels and coffered ceilings - all in white creates the tailored architecture she envisioned. The coziness comes from plush-to-the-touch upholstery, comfy nooks like the kitchen's bay window banquette and an eclectic mix of furniture that personalizes the home and gives it an evolved-over-time feel. Old-fashioned mullioned windows were left bare to bring the outdoors in. "I didn't want anything competing with the stunning view," she says of the 45 acres of meadows, forest and rolling hills. "I didn't even want the colour palette to conflict with it." She chose natural earth tones, dark woods and rich fabrics to warm the white walls and balance the expansive windows.
"You want things to be easy in a country house." And though it may not have been easy to create, she made it look as effortless as it does on the silver screen.
In the light-filled entryway, the abundance of white is grounded by the dark wooden floors, banister and stair treads. The newel post boasts an early 20th-century feel.
“When it’s just us four, we eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the kitchen table because the view is spectacular,” says the homeowner. Durable indoor-outdoor fabric on the banquette ensures easy cleanup.
The Wolf gas range was a must-have (it’s much like the one in the film’s memorable pancake-making scene between actors Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton). Double-hung windows, recess-panelled cabinetry and a glossy white subway tile kitchen backsplash gives an overall timeless feel.
This elegant chrome fruit tree sits on top of the marble countertop and adds a decorative yet useful function to the kitchen space.
“The kitchen’s a real copy-cat of the one in the movie Something’s Gotta Give,” says the homeowner. She was keen to create a comfy, eclectic vibe by mixing elements like a farmhouse-style sink, vintage-look faucets and industrial-inspired stools topped with a contemporary polka-dot fabric.
The simple white-coloured bowl and clear cups add a contemporary vibe to this country-inspired home.
Guests can enjoy pre-dinner drinks on the screened-in porch’s cozy sectional while the host barbecues just outside in the courtyard. After dinner, the kids love to roast marshmallows in the double-sided wood-burning stone fireplace.
The three-season room, which is a destination for family and frequent guests, had to be large enough to be multi-purpose. The two marble and iron tables are where most meals are served in the summer.
“I didn’t realize how much people would fight for spots on that canopy sofa,” says the homeowner, who admits that she herself has a hard time getting up from it to make dinner.
Though the homeowner was encouraged to install stone steps from the house to the pool, she opted for a grassy slope. “There’s less chance of tripping, and you feel a connection to the environment,” she says. A border of mixed perennials blends seamlessly into the surrounding countryside.
“I wanted enough comfortable seating areas in the kitchen to accommodate everyone,” says the homeowner, who entertains guests often all year-round. Two sets of French doors flank the fireplace for easy flow to the screened-in porch. “When you open them in the summer, the breeze just flows right into the kitchen,” she says. “It’s like being outside.”
In the multi-function dining room, the wooden tabletopwas stained a darker shade and given rounded corners so people could easily slide in and out of the banquette. On most weekends, this is where the family plays games and the girls do homework.
These radiant orchid inspired flowers add colour to the open-concept seating area that connects to the kitchen. The rustic vase adds a country-like feel.
The stairway landing gets an unexpected pop of colour thanks to a fuchsia seat cushion.
Tour this Vancouver home's modern eclectic look.
This Vancouver home's modern eclectic look is a testament to the power of a sister act.
Now that the dust has settled on their massive whole-house renovation, homeowners Anna Wright and Alistair Sale – both busy professionals and parents of Lewis, 10, Freddie, 8, and George, 6 – each have their favourite features of the new interior. For Alistair, the cook of the family, the open kitchen is the (long-awaited) best part. Anna is most excited about the master ensuite bathroom she doesn’t have to share with the kids. And for the boys, it’s their bigger playroom in the finished basement.
The Vancouver family lived in the 3,700-square-foot 1920s home for five years before embarking on the huge overhaul. “I’m so glad we lived in the house for a while first and figured out what we wanted,” says Anna. “If we’d done the renovation right away, we would have done things very differently, and those decisions probably wouldn’t work for us now.”
The crisp white brick fireplace surround, built-ins and original wood panelling set off the dark grey on the upper walls of the den. Leaded glass cabinetry doors are another original feature. The antique chandelier was picked up at a London flea market.
A contemporary pale orange sofa pops against the white panelling and dark grey walls. The Mid-Century Modern desk was a lucky find at an antiques store a few years back, as was the Tolix chair.
Going vintage is often a more economical decorating idea than buying brand new, says Sophie.
The birdcage pendant light adds another unexpected dose of colour and whimsy.
In the dining area, an antique zinc-topped table from a French flea market pairs well with mismatched colourful Eames dining chairs. “We thought the different hues of the dining chairs would be quirky and fun,” says homeowner Anna Wright.
The designer pendant light was a pricey find from London, England.
Expanding the existing skylight and adding more windows above the sink brought loads of natural light into the white painted kitchen. Homeowner Alistair Sale greatly appreciates the bigger sink, but extra kitchen counter space, double wall ovens and a gas cooktop were at the top of his must-have list.
French doors lead out to a newly enlarged wraparound deck off the open kitchen/dining area, making the backyard much more accessible. The kitchen peninsula is perfect for casual breakfasts and homework time.
The zinc top on the antique dining table can take plenty of wear and tear from everyday family meals; the stark white modern dishware strikes a pleasing contrast against the patinated surface.
A desk area in the kitchen serves as the family workspace and offers plenty of storage space for the kids’ paperwork and school supplies. Inspirational photos and small pieces of art bring personality to the nook.
The new master ensuite bathroom is Anna’s retreat from hectic work and family life.
The matching gold mirrors in the master ensuite are a glitzy big-box score.
Grey and white cement floor tiles provide ornate pattern in the otherwise serene white room.
The bathroom floor tiles themselves weren't very expensive, but shipping the from California was.