Image: Michael Nangreaves
In this charming Toronto home, the whimsical Christmas decor is constantly evolving and wonderfully bespoke with every passing year.
A tradition of change might sound contradictory, but it’s the holiday norm at Chanele Krausz’s house. “Every year I implement a new Christmas scheme,” says the decorator, who shares this visually intriguing uptown Toronto semi with her husband, Ryan, an investment adviser.
And though the young couple has lived here for only two years (it’s their first home together), the tradition of transformation is already in full swing. “Last year it was all red and green,” says Chanele. “This year, everything is calm and classic.”
Her eclectic take on the holidays is in sync with her year-round design ethos. “I like a mix of antique and modern – rustic and glam all in one – unified by colour and texture,” she says. “Rooms should have layers of interest that inspire conversation.”
Before any conversing could begin, the 1,200-square-foot 1930s home required a serious overhaul that came with a big price tag. When the couple first viewed the house, they fell in love with its spacious rooms and character-filled details, like the living room’s curved niches. But there was one original feature they didn’t bank on: knoband tube wiring. “We had to replace it before we could move in, which was a huge expense,” says Chanele. “It meant other upgrades would be cosmetic only.”
So the couple painted almost every surface, including the brick fireplace, and refinished the floors. Once the space was anchored by neutral walls, Chanele endowed it with her signature mix of treasured inherited pieces, cheap and cheerful thrift store finds and meaningful vacation souvenirs.
To translate that knockout mélange into the calm and classic Christmas look she desired, Chanele relied on the interplay of white and grey augmented by judiciously chosen complements. “Traditional ornaments, fresh greenery and gold accents convey a timeless look,” she says. The style is evident even on the home’s threshold. “Our front porch proves holiday dressing doesn’t have to be complicated – a wreath and four urns filled with simple greenery.”
Back inside, one Christmas tree (versus last year’s two) keeps things easygoing. It’s placed in the dining room rather than the more expected living room window. “Entertaining during the holidays is important to us, and we spend a lot of time at the dining room table,” she says. “Having the tree here lets us take it in and, as a bonus, it radiates the best light for dinner parties.”
The get-togethers kick off after the first weekend in December, which is reserved for the couple’s annual tree shopping and trimming ritual. “We pick out our Christmas tree after work on the Friday,” says Chanele. “On the Saturday, I make eggnog with rum, put on Frank Sinatra’s Christmas carols and we order pizza. Ryan gets the tree in position, helps with the lights and then hangs out while I put on the decorations.” And no matter how often Chanele reimagines the holiday decorations, this is one Christmas tradition she and Ryan have no plans on changing.
A pair of slim antique sofas that homeowner and designer Chanele Krausz bought on Kijiji look like they were custom-made for the living room’s dimensions. “The symmetry creates a striking feeling of grandeur in here,” she says. The original curved niches that flank the fireplace, two of six in the house, are crafted from plaster.
The front porch’s wooden steps are softened by a runner and accented with natural arrangements in handsome urns.
“The wreaths hanging in the living room windows look like an art installation and are beautiful from the outside, too.” Chanele cozies up the vintage cane chairs with sheepskin throws during the winter. The layered console tables offer space for decorative items above, and books and drinks below.
The living room coffee table is styled with some of Chanele’s favourite items. “I collect books with beautiful covers as pieces of art,” she says. “They incite interesting conversations.” The snow globe and walnuts are seasonal accents.
This dresser, one of the two flanking the fireplace, has an antique look that belies its provenance. “The pair is actually from a big-box store,” says Chanele. “I stained them and changed the hardware. They provide ample storage and are the perfect height for serving cocktails when we entertain.” A thrift store lamp sits in front of framed abstract artwork Chanele painted.
Chanele and her husband, Ryan, inherited the solid oak dining table from his family. “We lightly sanded and restained it, retaining all of the imperfections in the wood,” says Chanele. “The table will outlast us, and we don’t have to worry about damaging it – it gets better with time.” A collection of vintage brass candlesticks in lieu of a centrepiece continues the show of gold-toned accents featured in this year’s holiday decor.
When Chanele and Ryan purchased the house, the trim, doors and panelling were the original gumwood. “I hesitated to paint it all white for fear I’d regret it,” says Chanele. “In the end, budget made the decision for us, so the staircase and living room doors remain unpainted.” A garland of fresh greens and an evergreen branch in a vase add layers of holiday spirit.
Chanele temporarily covered an Italian oil painting with white canvas to provide a backdrop that lets this fun metallic-toned garland shine.