Drab kitchen goes bold in black and white
A Toronto couple with a shared vision cooks up an ambitious renovation plan for their outdated kitchen and backyard.
They say a renovation can lead to a separation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for this Toronto couple. “We agree on absolutely everything design-wise,” says Melissa Evans-Lee, marketing director of Bayview Village Shopping Centre, about her media CEO hubby, John Lee. “Sometimes I think we share a brain.” The pair’s united vision for the three-bedroom Victorian fixer-upper they purchased in the city’s west end in 2006 was clear – and ambitious.
Over the course of a decade, every room was redone, but it all began with the kitchen, a priority for these foodies and skilled home chefs. A total gut job liberated the 135-square-foot pass-through cooking space from its decrepit pale yellow-painted wooden cabinetry, dark green linoleum flooring and outdated basic appliances. The original window and radiator were left intact, lending old-world character to newly installed budget-friendly modern finishes in white. Oh, and the walls were painted black. When asked about the bold choice, Melissa laughs. “Is it? We didn’t get the memo,” adding that nearly every wall in the house was painted a dark colour, from charcoal to navy. Black also spills out to the backyard for an extra dose of drama.
Thanks to a generous helping of black paint and a good dose of stainless steel, Melissa Evans-Lee and John Lee’s Toronto kitchen oozes sophistication. Tidy open storage and the large original window mask its modest proportions.
“I’m a very visual person, so I like to have everything on display,” says Melissa with regard to the plenitude of open storage. But she does admit that keeping everything orderly requires a certain personality type (“Can you say OCD?” she says with a laugh). Everyday dishes and oft-used ingredients are kept in sight on floating shelves and in the island’s open base, while overflow is hidden away in a small pantry. Black and white accessories throughout look fancy and offer function.
“I think saying dark walls make a room feel dim or small is a complete fallacy,” says Melissa. “Black adds something really amazing to the mix: drama.” Case in point is this group of picture ledges she uses to display her best-loved cookbooks, which rivals some of the most affecting art walls.
Potted herbs enliven the kitchen’s dramatic black and white scheme and also add a nature-inspired feel that helps create a connection between the indoors and out.
Whether dining on buffet-style tacos or a four-course meal, guests enjoy interior-calibre comfort on vintage Bertoia chairs and the newly built-in banquette, which Melissa cleverly cushioned using dog beds and indoor toss cushions. “Everything is movable,” she says. “These chairs can easily go in the dining room, the toss cushions in the den.”
Choice furnishings and accessories (in a chic black and white scheme that matches the interior) create an integrated outdoor dining space – “it’s oven to patio table in about five steps,” says Melissa – that plays host to dinners à deux and mingling guests alike.
Tucked into a corner of the backyard, this stone patio outfitted with vintage metal seating and a hand-me-down coffee table is a serene spot for lazing around with a book under the pleasant shade of two mature trees. Low-maintenance potted ferns add fluffy texture.
A once tiny starter house is transformed into one family's dream home.
A once tiny starter house is transformed into one family's dream home.
A young family goes from starter home to forever home – without moving! – thanks to two talented and trustworthy designers.
How to Build Your Dream House 101, a case study. Lesson One: Start from the ground up. When these homeowners (he’s a lawyer, she’s a nutritionist and stay-at-home mom) realized that the tiny Vancouver bungalow they’d been living in for the past 12 years was far too small for their family (which includes two growing boys, aged 9 and 10), they had it bulldozed. They loved their lot, but the home had never been renovated, and the foundation footprint needed to be expanded before they could go bigger – so demolition was the obvious option.
Lesson Two: Understand exactly what your dream house entails. Having lived on the property for more than a decade, the homeowners had crystal-clear ideas about how to make the most of the ample light and stunning views. Plus, they analyzed their lifestyle and knew what it demanded – a large open-concept living space (so the family could be close even when they’re not in the same room); plenty of über-organized storage (since this super-sporty gang bikes, skis, swims and plays soccer); a quiet area away from the kids (because, well, kids); and a kitted-out kitchen for the wife, who’s an avid home chef.
Lesson Three (and perhaps the most important of them all): Hire people you trust to deliver the dream. Enter Sophie Burke, whose sister introduced her to the wife (they’re friends). “I felt Sophie would understand the needs of a young family and not make things too precious,” says the wife. “I had seen her clean, elegant and sophisticated style on her Pinterest boards and in other projects she’d done and just knew that if I couldn’t decide on something, I’d be happy with her choices.”
Sophie and the project’s lead designer, Jennifer Millar, were involved from the start – from recommending an architect to build the 2,800-square-foot four-bedroom house to shopping for its finishing touches. “Both designers are smart and talented, and I was always impressed with their selections – unique and interesting yet unfussy,” says the wife. “How could I not trust them?”
With carte blanche to create the family’s dream home, Sophie and Jennifer set about creating a traditional aesthetic (which ties in the exterior architecture) with a clean, contemporary character. “Finding the right balance between the two styles was one of the biggest challenges for us,” says Sophie. But the timeless and trendy palette of black, white and grey used throughout the space helped unify it all. In the open-concept family room, dining area and kitchen, old-world touches like window casings, wall panelling and thick baseboards are tempered by sleek simple-lined furnishings and punched up by of-the-moment elements, such as herringbone tiles, brass hardware, Mid-Century Modern pieces and industrial light fixtures.
The designers also delivered all the practical features the homeowners sought: a quiet sitting room closed-off from the rest of the house, ample storage to accommodate all the kitchen gadgets and sports gear, a separate upstairs bathroom for the boys and a rec room and laundry room in the basement. In addition to the homeowners’ family-friendly requests, Sophie and Jennifer offered up another brilliant idea: to include an office nook in the family room so the kids would have a spot to complete their homework while remaining close to their parents. No doubt the homeowners will be thanking the designers for years to come – not only for delivering their dream home but also for anticipating needs they hadn’t considered. It goes to show how far the words “I trust you” can take you. That’s the best lesson we learned today.
The small sitting room of this Vancouver home is closed off from the rest of the open-concept living space. A retreat where the family reads or the adults entertain, it’s a spot for solitude in this otherwise ultra-active household.
“The homeowner is a really talented baker and cook. Her former kitchen was teeny tiny and cut off from the rest of the house, but she still came up with incredible creations,” raves designer Sophie Burke. In the sprawling new space, with its ample storage, second oven and magic corner (to name just a few highlights), we can only imagine the meals this home chef now creates! (Drool....)
The kitchen’s herringbone-tiled walls offer a dramatic yet subtle look.The trendy pattern is grouted in grey for a more vintage vibe – a testament to the interplay of new world and old in the house.
The family didn’t need a formal dining room, but they did desire a large space for hosting holiday dinners. So Sophie and her colleague, Jennifer Millar, selected a dining table that can extend to seat 16 and stashed an extra pair of chairs in the boys’ rooms to accommodate more bums. The striking light fixture lends the perfect industrial edge to the panelled wall. “Jennifer is a genius at sourcing lighting,” says Sophie.
“We just went all in,” says Sophie of covering the main-floor powder room walls in chic gold polka-dot wallpaper. While the brass picture light and faucet follow suit, the simple mirror and sink temper all the glitz and glam.
With a cubby for each family member along one wall and meticulously laid-out closets on the other, the mud room is an ultra-organized treat for the active family.
The cozy family room, which has its own office area, is open to the kitchen so the homeowners can keep an eye on the kids, whether they’re doing homework or watching TV.
Grey paint not only modernizes the traditional panelled wall but also blends in with the TV.
Simple, serene and pared back, the master bedroom, with its layered textures and neutral hues, is one of the most feminine rooms in the house, says Sophie.
A basket makes the perfect vessel for a potted tree in this kitchen.
Trends come and go, but these four stylish accent pieces are here to stay.
This tropical beauty is coveted for its wide, glossy leaves and towering height. If you can’t find the real thing (or discover it’s too fussy), try a good-quality imitation. Artifical Fejka tree, IKEA, $15.
Towering above the mantel, this tree in a burlap “bucket” is a fresh, organic counterpoint to a contemporary hand-painted wall mural.
A basket makes the perfect vessel for a potted tree in the California-modern kitchen of Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg.
In a handsome den, a fig adds a sculptural note to an empty corner.
Whimsical and eye-catching, the juju hat, a type of African headdress, has become a contemporary decorating staple. The piece’s round bull’s eye shape makes it a natural focal point over fireplaces, beds and sofas. Plus, it injects a note of softness to hard-edged modern rooms. Feather headdress in White 30", Snob, $500.
A canary yellow headdress is a can’t-be-missed feature in an otherwise neutral dining room.
When matched with the beautiful bedding, this hot pink juju hat offers a decorative one-two punch of boldness.
White feathers keep the mood calm in a home office nook, adding texture without the distraction of colour.
Soft underfoot and graphic in impact, Berber-style rugs can be made from nylon, synthetic fibres or wool. But it’s the natural creamy tone and black zigzag or diamond design that really set these rugs apart, making them a perfect fit for spaces both contemporary and traditional. Wool Souk rug 8" x 10", West Elm, $1,139.
Preppy splashes of green and pink liven up the neutral rug in this youthful living room.
A feminine bedroom gets graphic impact from the black lines of the rug and the Hollywood Regency-style ribbon trim on the valance.
Distinctly Italian in flavour, this living room vignette shines with just three colours: cream, black and honey brown.
The versatile Moroccan-style leather pouffe – a more sophisticated version of the beanbag chair – comes in almost any colour imaginable, with metallic versions on offer as well. Pouffes can present as playful or polished – it’s all about the context. For a dash of global flair, this piece can’t be beat. Moroccan leather pouffe in Pink, The Cross Decor & Design, $395.
A white pouffe with reverse stitching goes upscale as a spot to put on shoes or makeup in this dreamy dressing room.
In this stylish nursery, a pink pouffe provides a chic footrest for a nursing mother.
There’s no need to worry about little ones running into sharp edges – pouffes are super soft and toddler-safe.
Give your space a budget-friendly update for fall.
Give your space a budget-friendly update for fall.
Give your home an update with these fabulous finds all under $100.
It can be fun to update your home with seasonal accents but it’s not something you want to blow your budget on. If your home is begging for an overhaul this fall, go for it … but do it on a budget! These fab fall finds all clock in under $100 but will give your home just the oomph you’re craving!
This gorgeous glass vessel is not only the perfect home for a bouquet of fresh or faux flowers, but even when not filled with beautiful blooms, it is a stunning decorative item to grace any room in your home with. Featuring a gold-finish metal collar and a striking teal colour, this piece will look great in your home this fall. Short Metal Collar Vase, Teal, Indigo, $35.
Surround yourself with the gentle, calming glow of candlelight this fall season. This beautiful candle is made from soy wax and will give you 60 hours of burn time. Featuring marine notes, as well as notes of stone fruit, rose and moss, it will also fill your home with a delightful and inviting fragrance. Candlefish Ceramic Candles, Anthropologie, $28.
It’s time to change up the art on your walls! Inject some new colours and at the same time, give your home a whole new look by swapping out existing art with new pieces that will make your walls feel fresh and revived! This beautiful piece is alive and vibrant with colour and will make you happy each time you pass it. Dream Peachy, Minted, starting at $21.
Throw blankets come in all shapes, sizes, colours and, yes, price points! We love the look and soft feel of this plush fleece throw but we are also digging the price point, too! Updating your home for the season doesn’t have to cost a fortune and this cozy throw will not only look good on display but will keep you warm on those long, cold fall nights. Textured Fleece Throw Blanket, Wayfair, $55.99.
When it’s dark and chilly outdoors, head to the sanctuary in your bedroom where thoughts of spring reign supreme! This printed duvet cover and sham set features a gorgeous meadowlark print on 100% organic cotton percale. Colourful and cheerful, this is a quick and easy way to update your bedroom. Meadowlark Print Organic Duvet Cover & Sham, Pottery Barn, $23 - $95.
Instantly turn your home into a gallery! These 3D faceted mirrors are stunning sculptural pieces that will add a healthy dose of modernism to your home. The unique trio of mirrors will catch and reflect light in interesting ways in your home and will certainly be a conversation starter when friends come to visit. 3D Faceted Mirrors, West Elm, $79.
Wood and tile floors can get cold underfoot during fall and winter so warm things up with a cozy area rug. This pretty rug features a fall-inspired motif and colour palette and is easy to add to any room in your home – and subtract when you no longer need the warmth underfoot. The perfect seasonal decorating accent! Anni Floral Round Printed Rug, Urban Outfitters, $79.
Curtains not only provide a perfect finishing touch to any room but they can also add some extra insulation to keep the cold air from drafty windows at bay. These 100% cotton curtain panels are yarn dyed and have an elegant drape you’re sure to love and we love this soft shade of grey, a pleasing neutral that will easily suit many different styles of rooms. Wallace Grey Curtains, Crate & Barrel, $79.95 - $99.95.