Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Stacy Begg & Morgan Lindsay
How a student budget and a penchant for white turned a blogger’s townhouse into a brilliant oasis.
Jordana Garbati walks briskly, her bag filled with term papers, her head filled with ideas. She’s hurrying to Wilfrid Laurier University, where she has a class to teach, papers to mark and coursework to study. All day long, her mind is at work, so it’s with a happy sigh that she drops her laptop, kicks off her shoes and steps into the wide open space of her 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom townhouse in Waterloo, Ont.
“I have a very busy mind, so I need a very calm home,” she says. And to her, nothing says calm like the colour white. (In fact, she loves white so much that she’s devoted her blog, White Cabana, to how to decorate with it.) “I’ve had a thing for white since high school,” she says. “I painted the walls of my bedroom white, and every apartment I had after that was white, too.” The look she created was always crisp and eclectic, but that wasn’t the only reason she was drawn to white. It fit with her student budget, too. “I had no money for furniture, so I’d get things at thrift stores and garage sales and paint them,” she explains.
Jordana no longer rents a student apartment, but a lot of those white-painted items are still in her home. She splurges every now and then, but she still loves a bargain. “I’ll wait a long time to get something I want at a good price,” she says. For example, it took nearly three years of searching to source a French provincial bed frame with a curved footboard that was within her budget. When she finally found one on an online auction, she pounced. “It wasn’t perfect – the caning was frayed and broken – so I had to do some repairs,” she says. “But I guess watching all those DIY shows paid off, because it looks great now!”
So do the living room armchairs bought from a thrift store, one of which she re-covered using big-box-store drapery. “The fabric was so sturdy and such a lovely warm shade of white,” she says, “and not to mention inexpensive – what did I have to lose?”
For all its upcycled decor, the house has an airy uncluttered ambience. The rooms are open and spacious, the furnishings pared back. Asked how she keeps it so organized, Jordana explains: “I use each room for its intended purpose and nothing more. I do my marking and blogging in the office. I eat in the kitchen’s breakfast nook if I’m alone, or in the dining room if I have people over.” This way, she says, everything stays where it belongs.
Of course, in the living room she reclines and relaxes after long days. Jordana loves the welcoming plush sofa in front of the large window. “It was my first ‘real’ couch after a parade of hand-me-downs,” she says of the English roll-arm piece. Before splurging on it, she comparison shopped and saved up. Needless to say, the sofa has special meaning – as do any pieces that represent a shift in her lifestyle. “I confess I am very protective of it,” says Jordana. “No chocolate cake on the couch!”
The living room of Jordana Garbati’s Waterloo, Ont., home makes it clear how much she loves white. White artwork is mounted on white walls behind a soft-hued sofa flanked by leggy white side tables, all underscored by plush pale grey carpeting. The room glows. Wood details in the Mid-Century Modern side chair (which was re-covered with inexpensive drapery), coffee table (purchased at a garage sale) and fabulous ficus (only $30!) keep the space warm and homey.
When Jordana moved in, she gave her kitchen an instant update: Laminate countertops were replaced with marble ones, and the dark brown cabinetry was refaced for an easy uplift. Jordana created the backsplash herself with tiles she scored on Kijiji for just $10. “It was a fun challenge,” she says.
In the kitchen’s eat-in area, a simple white table is complemented by striking colourful dining chairs. They were painted as part of a group project Jordana did while studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Each seat boasts a different design inspired by painter Joan Miró.
“Everyone tells me this is their favourite room in the house,” says Jordana. “But it gets very messy! I mark papers, write and read here.” The gallery wall, covering almost every square inch of available space, features a variety of ad hoc art, from framed wrapping paper and birthday cards to homemade paintings and vintage postcards to prints collected from around the world. The desk, a former dining table, is a roadside find, and Jordana found the rug in her parents’ basement. Modern chairs offset the traditional desk and offer a clean-lined counterpoint to the gallery wall and rug.
For Jordana, beautiful design is also functional. “I use everything in that hutch,” she says of the milk glass, vintage crystal and cake plates on display in the dining room, where Jordana usually hosts a dinner once a month. She uses everything on the Mid-Century-style sideboard, too, which showcases sculptural Alessi collectors’ items.
“Oh my God, I love my princess bed!” exclaims Jordana. A student budget forced her to wait three years to find one she could afford, but she finally scored this French provincial beauty on an online auction. A minimalist lamp and understated nightstand let the bed take centre stage.
Whispers of pink and gold echo the illustrious romance of the big bed. Here, a collection of accents includes a mirror bought at an auction, a tassel garland, a framed Dior print from a Paris flea market and artwork done by fellow blogger Erica Cook.