Photography: Valerie Wilcox
It wasn’t her forever home, but designer Laura Fremont gave her heart – for a time – to a fab rental in Toronto’s Corktown.
"Even with all the white walls, it didn't look like a rental," says designer Laura Fremont, of her former two-floor apartment in a historic brick row house. "The finishes were modern and polished without competing with the original architecture,” she says. Other standout features included double-height ceilings, two outdoor spaces and a sleek glass stairwell.
That said, as with any rental, decisions had to be made about where to spend and where to save. She knew she and husband Simon Ioia would one day move to a bigger place – full disclosure: they already have, to accommodate the joyful arrival of daughter Paige – but Laura didn’t want the rental to feel like a hotel room, either. Instead, she made judicious choices to design for the present, but with an eye to the future.
First, Laura reviewed the dimensions. “It seemed unlikely we’d have towering ceilings and double outdoor spaces in our next home, so I cut costs on ceiling fixtures and outdoor furniture. And I went cheap and cheerful on the rugs,” she says. For feel-good items, Laura spent more. “My husband and I collect art and take it wherever we go, so we invested in some new pieces.” Two splurges enhanced the livability of the place: first, since she loves to read in bed, Laura opted for an upholstered headboard; second, she went with a custom sofa since that was where the couple relaxed at night. For colour, Laura introduced blue accessories with touches of pink, anchored with smoky greys and black. Where necessary, she improvised. “When I wanted more colour in the dining area, I poured some wine, hauled out the watercolours, and painted some artwork for the wall!” The end result shows that although renting isn’t necessarily a long-term commitment, if you put your heart into it, it’s not hard – or costly – to turn a rental into your home.
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | UMBRELLA, Wayfair. SOFA, CHAIR, COFFEE TABLE, HomeSense. UPHOLSTERY and PILLOW SEWING, Canadian Down & Feather Co. SOLID PILLOWS, Primavera Furnishings Inc. OMBRE STRIPE PILLOWS, BASKETS, Elte Mkt. PLASTIC CHAIRS, balcony TABLE and CHAIRS, IKEA. CONSOLE TABLE, CB2.
“The rooftop deck was like a tree-top paradise,” says Laura, who prettied up a box-store patio set with custom accent pillows. The glass-topped coffee table was chosen for its extra storage shelf, while budget-friendly plastic chairs and metal bar were easy-care options. A tiny folding bistro set from Laura’s former condo was pressed into service on the apartment’s secondary outdoor space: a balcony off the kitchen.
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | POUF, IKEA. VASE, Vintage Fine Objects.
Laura didn’t want anything to detract from the beautiful modern finishes of the glass-and-wood staircase. “But we needed a place to drop our keys and sunglasses,” she says. This table was the perfect size, but it was dark wood. “I sprayed it white and removed its ornate handles. It’s still traditional, but the pouf brings it up to date.”
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | RATTAN LIGHT, Wayfair; custom CANOPY and HARDWARE, Residential Lighting Studio. MIRROR, Decorum Decorative Finds. TABLE, Morba. CHAIRS, Crate and Barrel. BUFFET, Shelter Furniture. ART, Kim Rempel (large piece beside mirror), Canvas Gallery; Laura Fremont Design (four small pieces). FRAMING, Elgin Picture & Frame. RUG, West Elm. VASE (on table), Absolutely Inc.
“To keep the dining table from floating in a sea of hardwood, I set it on a rug,” says Laura, addressing the challenge of decorating an open living-dining space. A curvy mirror and curly bistro chairs offset the linear sideboard. By the mirror, Laura’s impromptu watercolours added a personal element. “The colours in the wall art were so happy and match the rug – which I didn’t plan!” Touches of black lent gravitas.
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design
“I like to layer pieces, not line them up like soldiers in a row,” says Laura. “To bring dimension, I used tones that were already in the room, picking up on the blues and smoky tones with bowls, vases and art.” Her savvy advice? “Don’t be shy about not-perfect pieces,” says the designer. “That art is a West Elm piece from years ago that has a dented frame.”
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | FIREPLACE PAINT COLOUR, Chantilly Lace OC-65, Benjamin Moore. ART (over fireplace), solid blue vase (on mantel), West Elm. BOWLS (on mantel), solid PILLOWS (on sofa), TRAY (on ottoman), Elte Mkt. SOFA, STOOLS, Silva Custom Furniture. SOFA FABRIC, Threadcount Inc. STOOL FABRIC, Primavera Furnishings Inc. RUG, Woven Treasures. Kelly Wearstler IKAT PILLOW, Kravet. Mongolian lamb PILLOW, Absolutely Inc. Velvet OTTOMAN, Article.
This room’s palette was inspired by the artwork and rug. Twin stools and striped chairs from Laura’s former home look timeless with the modern fireplace. The custom sofa was dressed with pillows in blues and pink. “We debated between this navy blue ottoman versus a coffee table, but the reality was, we watched a lot of TV, so we went with the comfy option.”
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | BEDSIDE TABLES, Guff Furniture. DRESSER, DUVET, SHAMS, IKEA. BEDDING THROW, Etsy. Striped PILLOW, Elte Mkt. Hide PILLOW, Love the Design. BENCH, Silva Custom Furniture. BENCH FABRIC, Primavera Furnishings Inc. ART, Tony Koukos (beside window); Cobie Cruz (over dresser), Canvas Gallery; (over bed), Angus & Company. RUG, West Elm.
Storage solutions are welcome in any space, especially in rentals. “Rather than spend on storage, we raised the bed with blocks, and put bins underneath, and hid it all with a bed skirt,” says Laura. She improvised a dresser by pushing together two end tables. Art is important to the couple, and Laura knows that an art collection is a great way to bring personality to a rent- al’s white walls. The oversized piece here was an investment. “It’s beautiful to view from the bed,” says Laura.
Photography: Valerie Wilcox | Design: Laura Fremont Design | STOOL, VASES, Vintage Fine Objects. ART, Isabelle Trudel-Benoit, Canvas Gallery. HAND TOWEL, Ginger’s.
“The acrylic stool is vintage. I upholstered it in white leather, so it’s stylish but neutral,” says Laura. “I knew it could easily make the move to a future home.” Adding wall art, luxe towels and a couple of vases dressed up the already-chic bathroom with its light-up mirror, which is fitted with a handy hidden medicine cabinet that provides more storage.