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.”
Image by: Stacey Brandford | Styling: Morgan Lindsay & Stacy Begg
A PR maven updates her Toronto kitchen to create a chic space with staying power.
Christine Faulhaber is no stranger to trends. “It’s my job to be on the pulse of what’s new and now,” says the head of Faulhaber Communications, a PR and marketing firm in Toronto. When this in-the-know gal’s kitchen got an update last year, it was destined to have a covetable current look. But first, the 420-square-foot space – which hadn’t seen more than a coat of paint since the ’80s — needed to be brought into this decade.
Seeking help to gut the room and start over, the well-connected homeowner pulled out her loaded Rolodex and called in designer Amy Dillon of AyA Kitchens and Baths. “For the most part, we kept the layout pretty similar,” says Amy. “But we tweaked things to improve usability.” The upgrades included replacing cabinets with space-saving pullouts, swapping bulky appliances for sleek, well-integrated options and supplanting the old island with a longer narrower one that accommodates seating without impeding flow.
With function taken care of, Amy focused on the finishes, opting for elements befitting this fashion-forward professional. She cites the sleek two-tone cabinetry, open storage and a feature wall sans uppers as examples. “Trends can date themselves down the line,” says Amy, “so I incorporated them in a subtle way, using a neutral palette.” The über-popular encaustic-look backsplash tiles are case in point. “The slew of prints is a bit aggressive,” admits Christine. “But they’re monotone, so it’s a safe choice.” Time-tested additions, such as Mid-Century Modern-style seating, grasscloth accent wallpaper and copper accessories round out the room, cementing its staying power.
Designer Amy Dillon grounded the white cabinetry with dark grey accents — but only a few. “I wanted the space to age gracefully, not look like that typical two-tone kitchen you see so much,” she says. Marble-look Caesarstone countertops, which flow into a waterfall edge on the island, help achieve that goal.
For the dining area, Christine went with one of the hottest trends — Mid-Century Modern furniture — and chose chairs in a punchy shade of blue.
Though Amy chose minimal modern flat-panelled cabinetry, she varied the look by incorporating some open storage. “Display space is important to me,” says Christine, who showcases cookbooks and collectibles, such as her grandmother’s porcelain teacups. “These types of pieces give the space character and make it feel more like the rest of the rooms in the house.”
Christine fell for the bold encaustic-look backsplash tiles immediately. “The prints — there are 33 in total — are mostly traditional, so they have long legs,” she says. For a slightly more current effect, she had her contractor double up on the watery pattern, the only contemporary motif in the bunch. “The backsplash is a safe place to try a trend,” she advises. “Worst-case scenario, I tire of it in 10 years. I’d probably want to change my kitchen by then anyway!”
Christine incorporated touches of copper, the metal du jour, starting with a Tom Dixon pendant light in the eat-in area. The zone received the same space-smart treatment as the rest of the kitchen with dual-tone built-ins.
The whimsical artwork printed on Plexiglas is actually an image from a photo shoot Christine produced five years ago to mark the 10th anniversary of her PR and marketing agency, Faulhaber Communications. She used classic grass-cloth wallpaper as a backdrop to amplify the piece.
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.
This master bedroom and ensuite demonstrate that neutral is anything but boring.
This master bedroom and ensuite prove a neutral scheme is anything but boring.
After purchasing a semi-detached dwelling in one of Toronto’s sought-after midtown neighbourhoods, this young couple quickly abandoned the home’s wonky layout and dated decor in order to welcome the opposite: a clean-lined, contemporary and predominately white interior. The challenge then became making the monochromatic scheme come alive. The solution? The expert touch of Croma Design’s Ryan Martin and Amy Kent. “The homeowners wanted a house that was modern but not stuffy or sterile,” says Ryan. Here, we look to the three-storey abode’s master bedroom and ensuite for decor lessons that might just have you embracing a neutral palette and kicking colour to the curb.
During the reno, designers Ryan Martin and Amy Kent opted for an expansive window with distinct black framing. “We could have done a white frame, but adding that touch of black gives life and character to the otherwise clean-looking master bedroom,” says Ryan. This design choice also draws attention to the property’s verdant back garden.
Thanks to its rich woven quality the grasscloth-clad accent wall is the understated showpiece of the room. Says Ryan: “You can see the seams where the wallpaper lines up, but that’s what shows off the material’s texture and embellishes the look.”
When it was time to decide where to splurge, the homeowners knew they couldn’t do without oil-finished oak flooring, which is carried throughout the house. The timeless grey-brown shade anchors the space and lends an additional layer of warmth.
A wall of custom built-in closets is any homeowner’s dream, but that’s not to say function should come before style. In addition to providing ample storage, these units feature subtle moulding that adds architectural presence to the bedroom. Similar built-in wardrobes also flank the hallway that leads to the ensuite.
It’s often the subtle details that make or break the look of a space. The key, explains Ryan, is to create cohesion. For this modern ensuite, the designers strategically chose metal faucets that coordinate with the other dark accents in the room – including the shower door hinges.
The stylish washstand was the starting point for the space’s contemporary scheme and helped steer the clients away from an all-white aesthetic. The washstand’s Carrara marble top has soft grey undertones, which add depth to the look,” says Ryan.
“It was important to design a nice, clean bathroom that wasn’t too stark,” says Ryan, speaking to his and Amy’s decision to include bright brass-finished elements like the sconces and mirrors. Overall, the contrasting metallic pieces add a touch of glitz. To establish an elegant-meets-edgy look, the design duo used Carrara marble throughout in various shapes, such as rectangular wall tiles and hexagonal floor tiles. “We even used a dark grout to enhance the formats of the tiles,” says Ryan.