Image: Jason Hartog
Design specialist Jo Alcorn turns her small Toronto home into a place for living large.
"This house had everything," says design specialist Jo Alcorn, founder of Whitewash & Co., of the sparkling Toronto home she began renting three years ago. It had a cottage-style screen door that let in fresh air and a little backyard that was perfect for her dogs, and the entire house was bathed in sunlight. "At 1,200 square feet, however, it was pretty tight - at least for someone like me, who wants lots of room for entertaining," she says.
Main floor layout
But this was a short-term rental while Jo looked for, purchased and then renovated her current house. So, instead of lamenting the temporary home's diminutive size, she celebrated its virtues and set about making it cute and cozy for work and entertaining.
The first step? Large pieces of furniture. "Rather than making a room feel crowded, they make it seem bigger." Why? "Out of necessity, you're forced to have fewer items in a room," she explains. "That means your gaze isn't busily darting around the space, landing on lots of smaller things."
One of Jo's favourite small-space tips is to use paint for depth and dimension rather than colour. In this narrow space, the walls behind the kitchen cabinetry are painted a charcoal colour, creating the illusion of shadows.
A challenge for Jo was that the main floor living space was limited, and half of it was dominated by a staircase. So she employed little tricks to fit in the function of a living room and dining room without it looking cramped.
The oversized artwork stacked on the sideboard against a wide-striped wall in the dining room makes a big statement when visitors come through the front door. "This prepares the eye for the large-scale decor throughout," says Jo.
When she's not entertaining, Jo keeps the settee in the tight dining room against a wall and out of the way to ensure an easy flow of traffic. When needed, she simply pulls the settee up to the dining table for added seating.
White sideboard accessories
Jo made a plain black sideboard trendy by incorporating a white paint colour. "It's a cheap way to make inexpensive furniture look one of a kind," she says. The white decor accessories feel fanciful and airy.
Rather than ignore an awkward nook next to the kitchen, Jo embraced it by adding a comfy slipper chair that's perfect for reading. The full-length mirror was made even higher by setting it atop stacks of old books.
"There's a lot going on for such a small room," admits Jo when talking about the living area. "What makes it work is the dark colour on the feature wall combined with lots of white decor accessories." The over-sized white pieces atop the hutch make the ceiling seem higher, and the coffee table with pops of turquoise draws the eye to the room's centre.
A large coffee table in the middle of the living room adorned with a French bulldog figurine, a punchy blue box and a few great table books keeps both the eye and conversation in motion. Jo uses big pieces with iconic shapes so the look of her Toronto home is clean, not bland.