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Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Morgan Lindsay
Designer Maggie Burns revises the layout and lightens the palette of her rowhouse to make it feel remarkably roomier.
People love to complain about stairs. "My knees are shot – let's move to a bungalow," they grouse. But not Maggie Burns. I longed for stairs and a lawn," says the energetic 28-year-old designer and Toronto native. The sentiment is completely understandable when you consider she was living in one of those New York City apartments that are so cramped, you practically need a folding toothbrush.
That was 2015, and Maggie had just completed a one-year degree at the esteemed Parsons School of Design and was moving back to Toronto – all while simultaneously launching her own design firm, Maggie Richmond Design. One of the newly minted graduate’s earliest clients? Herself.
She had just purchased a charming century rowhouse in the hip Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood near Nadège, a French bakery and a favourite haunt (this girl has her priorities straight). “When I first saw the house, I fell in love with its location and its potential,” says Maggie. “But there was a lot of work to do! The home’s layout didn’t lend itself well to its narrowness.”
At only 10 feet wide and just shy of 1,200 square feet, the two-storey house was palatial by New York standards, but small if Maggie wanted to stretch out and entertain friends. Just the same, it had good bones – and, best of all, the stairs she so desired. The only problem was their location. “They were encased in drywall, so they looked heavy, and they were in the middle of the main floor, taking up almost a third of the space,” she recalls.
Plus, the stairs divided the dining and living rooms into two tiny boxes. So Maggie embarked on a six-month renovation to create a breezy open-concept space. She brightened the home and made it feel spacious with crisp white walls (in place of busy textured wallpaper) and light grey engineered wood floors (replacing dark cork).
In an ambitious effort that ended up costing nearly half her budget, Maggie tore down the staircase and replaced it with a stylishly streamlined version installed at the side of the living room. “The dramatic floating stairs became the focal point,” she says. The new steps also connect to the finished basement – previously a rental apartment that could only be accessed from an outside door.
To accommodate the change, Maggie also reconfigured the second floor, removing a third bedroom and inadvertently exposing a skylight over the stairs. "I've been told it's not a good idea in terms of resale to remove a bedroom, but I had to make way for the stairs," she says. Today, the skylight floods the main floor with light and, together with pale new floors, lends the illusion of more space, making this home an even further cry from her old cramped NYC quarters.
Though small and located at the front door, the living room feels open and airy because of the ultra-edited furniture selection. A low-slung armless sofa, portable wooden side chairs and a small angular side table keep things uncluttered and ease traffic flow.
The galley kitchen was in great shape when Maggie bought the house, so she left it intact. It came with high-end appliances and pretty crystal knobs on the doors. “I kept the original subway tile that runs along the walls, and added pendants [not shown] and pot lights for additional lighting,” she says.
Though it cost 40 percent of Maggie’s overall budget, relocating the staircase made a 100 percent improvement to her home’s layout.
Maggie nearly replaced the dark-hued front door, but decided to keep it after seeing how charming it looked in the space. Her dad created a stained glass window for the transom. “Its copper trim matches elements throughout the main floor,” she says.
A graphic punch of black in the quartet of retro Tulip chairs is emphasized by the splashy artwork. The mirror bounces light around the space and picks up the sheen in the soft grey floors.
A combined washer-dryer in the galley kitchen makes doing a quick load of laundry super convenient.
Relaxation reigns in the subdued bedroom, where a quilt and watery-hued toss cushions suggest a catnap. A glass lamp and monochromatic artwork keep the visual clutter at bay.
Maggie pulled together a light-filled office nook just outside her bedroom. The glossy streamlined desk, slatted rubber chair and casually leaning artwork create an understated vignette. The desk also serves as an extra drop-off spot for her laptop in the evenings – a smart reminder to maintain serene sleeping quarters and keep work separate.
A floating vanity and clean-lined mirror show off the Carrara marble floor and shower wall in the master bath. “Because I don’t have a lot of space – roughly 41 square feet – I had to be careful about the scale of each component,” says Maggie. The pared-back elements lend a serene quality. “It’s my favourite spot in the house,” she adds.
Despite all her hard work, Maggie recently sold her belove rowhouse to move in with her fiancé. And just in case you're curious, the resale value wasn't affected by the removal of a bedroom. To bring even more appeal to the home for the sale (which happened to coincide with our photo shoot), Maggie hired design firm Modern Staging Spaces to help her accessorize . Her house sold in a flash. With style like this, how could it not?
25 ways to decorate with paint
These tips and tricks on how to decorate with paint will breathe new life into a dull, tired home.
Update your home's interior and exterior using a fresh coat of paint to decorate. Bring energy and optimism, create a calming, relaxed atmosphere and renew old furniture using paint colours, finishes and accents .
1 Establish a more intimate space by painting the ceiling a darker colour, creating the illusion of a lower ceiling.
2 Soften an awkwardly angled wall or room by painting it one solid colour.
3 For a modern effect try painting the walls and trim the same colour. Use a flat paint for the walls and a semi-gloss for the trim.
4 Make a tight space seem larger and airier by painting the ceiling a lighter version of the hue painted on the room’s walls or white.
5 Paint your front door a statement colour that stands out from the rest of the house. Try a gorgeous historical blue or a radiant ruby red - not something you see every day.
6 A home's exterior plays a large part in how the world, or at least neighbours and visitors, see you. Revitalize your home with a fresh coat of paint every three to six years.
7 If you want to invigorate your home's exterior without painting the entire exterior, freshen up the trim. White or rich neutrals, depending on the house's exterior colour, can easily update the look of your house.
8 Shutters and porch gables are the perfect place to express a love for colour and decorate with paint.
9 If you really want to set a mood in a room, then use different paint hues to create an energetic or relaxed atmosphere or to warm up or cool down a space.
10 Ash purples, bronzed greens and lacquer reds reflect a feminine classicism, inspired by needlework, appliqués and period furniture, that is back in style.
11 Conjure up images of rural life with wonderfully rustic plum, teal and red clay tones.
12 If you have a lot of dark wood furniture add an exotic, Middle Eastern influence by painting the walls a deep, rich purple or blue.
13 Expressing your individuality in your paint colour choices can result in more unexpected pairings of colour, pattern and design styles.
14 If you’re colour shy, go with all-white walls. The absence of colour is as effective as the presence of colour.
15 Use a variety of neutral shades and have fun mixing several textures in your rooms to keep things interesting.
16 When choosing a bold colour be sure to tie it into the whole scheme of the room.
17 Contemporary paint effects like stencils and colour washes create interest and surprise. Think of these effects as unframed artwork adorning your walls.
18 Use lightly washed stripes to create a sophisticated French country look (especially if you use blue, yellow or white hues). This is a subtle technique that adds texture and sheen to a room.
19 Create a fun mural, like clouds or the night sky, on the ceiling. This is a great way to decorate with paint in a child's room, nursery or family room.
20 Fresco is a wonderful painting technique that can help hide surface imperfections. It gives a soft, mottled look that adds depth and interest to your walls.
21 Add a splash of colour to neutral walls by selecting zones on a wall or ceiling and painting them a different, often contrasting, colour from the main wall. This technique is known as colour blocking.
Accents & accessories
22 Feature a wall at one end of a hallway by painting it a contrasting, dramatic colour; that will serve to visually bring it forward.
23 Give chairs, dressers, drawers, tables and desks a new lease on life with a new colour or coat of paint. You’ll be surprised how quickly that old, ugly chair becomes your new favorite accent piece.
24 Get in touch with you inner Pollock by applying dripped and splattered paint to an article of furniture. Make sure the piece is painted a solid colour (preferably white or black) before you start throwing different paint shade onto it.
25 Make the kitchen pop by bringing in a bold colour. Paint the backsplash or the cabinetry a bright colour that you love (and can live with).
Designers and decorators share they favourite kitchen trends for 2017.
For many of us, the kitchen is the hub of the home. It’s where the family convenes every night for dinner. It’s where homework is done and family meetings are had. And it’s where guests gather even though the dining room table is set and a fire is roaring in the living room. There’s something about the kitchen that makes it far more than merely a utilitarian space. If you’re thinking about updating your kitchen this year, check out these hot trends, as identified by designers.
Photography: Michael Nangreaves
1 "Mixing metals is my favourite kitchen design trend for 2017. I think it reflects a more individual, less formal approach to design that is popular with millennials and non-millennials alike. While it takes a bit of an expert eye, it is totally appropriate to mix metal finishes in your faucet, cabinet pulls, chair legs and pendants!" - Designer, Lisa Canning.
Credit: Stacey Cohen
3 "One top kitchen design trend I love is to have sections of the upper cabinet extended onto the counter. Let's face it, we all love our small appliances (i.e. toaster oven, espresso machine) but we may not want them on display all the time. A multi-purpose kitchen island has been the go-to solution to disguise the microwave and dishwasher, but unless the island is 10 feet long, it is challenging and perhaps impractical for the island to house the small appliances we use daily off the counter. By having the upper cabinets extended to the counter and small appliances sitting behind doors, you can achieve a sleek design statement without sacrificing your morning coffee!" - Blogger and Decorator, Tim Lam.
: Donna Griffith
4 "In 2017, we will continue to see cabinetry painted white and various shades of grey. I think that we will also see cabinetry painted warmer tones such as greige (grey & beige), taupe and mushroom. Islands in a different colour or stain than the perimeter cabinetry will continue to be prevalent. In addition, handcrafted islands that look like furniture with legs will be popular for that unfitted kitchen look. It also adds personality and charm and the kitchen then looks like it has evolved over time. Quartz as a counter will continue to be popular as consumers become aware of its benefits." - Interior Designer, Vanessa Francis.
Photography: Monic Richard
5 "After years of white on white kitchens, our clients are asking for something different again. While you might not want to paint an entire kitchen in one colour to stand out from the crowd, the tendency in 2017 will be to mix natural wood, paint and metals in the kitchen. Try framing the range hood and the island in chrome to add sparkle to the space. Add texture to your cabinetry with a mix of light wood veneered lowers and white lacquered uppers." - Interior Designer, Tara Fingold.
Photography: Donna Griffith
6 "Say hello to dark metals in the kitchen. Polished chrome and nickel accents are giving way to black faucets, burnished steel pendants and matte black cabinetry handles. The dark finishes can work in sleek modern kitchens or the most cottagey of cooking spaces. With white kitchens continuing to dominate, a dash of black can provide high contrast and instantly update tired cabinetry." - Blogger and Designer, Jennifer Flores.
7 "Terra Cotta is back! But it's not the tangy orange clay you're used to. In 2017, Reclaimed Rose Terra Cotta will be hitting it big. Following the trend of reclaimed wood, the rich creams and pale pinks of this antique terra cotta tile will be the next phase in the modern farmhouse kitchen. Look for hexagon or herringbone for a modern take on this old classic. Pairing over-sized pendants and industrial decor with reclaimed terra cotta will help keep the space current." - Designer, Andrea Haraldsen.