Image: Stacey Brandford / Styling: Ann Marie Favot
Designer Shirley Meisels imbues a home with modern design and family-friendly function.
In many ways, decorating is all about practice – trying things out, making mistakes, learning, perfecting and revising. And it all begins with simple observations: “Taking note of what a family really needs – and wants – in their home is so important,” says designer Shirley Meisels, owner of Toronto’s MHouse. This was the philosophy that guided her when a pair of professionals with kids contacted her to help design their 2,200-square-foot 1940s home.
The house had already been gutted and a small two-storey extension was added to the back. This created a beautiful blank canvas for Shirley to begin designing the clean, bright rooms the homeowners were after.
“For the couple, modern, clutter-free spaces were really important,” says Shirley. “And for the kids, lots of room for the happy chaos of free play was what mattered.” The challenge was to bring these elements together and to do so in a way that would flatter the space.
Shirley set out to select furniture durable enough to withstand plenty of kid action – easy-to-clean fabrics and surfaces were must-haves. In addition, while the homeowners wanted the pieces to be cozy enough to curl up in, they were also after contemporary lines. In other words, no overstuffed sofas.
“A wish list like this can seem impossible,” says Shirley. “But it’s not. Natural fibres, such as wool blends, clean beautifully. And it’s a misconception that tight-backed sofas are uncomfortable; in fact, they can be incredibly soft and supportive.” Similarly, the idea that minimalist design isn’t kid-friendly is false. “As long as there’s lots of storage, your home can be as calm and modern as you like.”
With that in mind, the designer included storage everywhere, employing tactics like stylish baskets in the living room and built-ins in the family room. “I call pieces like these catch-alls,” says Shirley, “anything that can collect overflow, such as toys, throws and electronics. Two minutes to put them away and the room looks as good as new.”
To maintain the bright and airy vibe, the palette is predominantly soft and ethereal. Shirley chose a quiet symphony of grey, white, navy, dark purple and black. Then, she added unexpected hues, such as muted pinks and hazy blues. “These touches of pink and blue provide some vibrancy, but they do so in a way that is experienced as neutral,” she says.
Large-scale photographs from the couple’s travels hang on the walls. Personal items like this are deeply important to creating a home. Sure, they work as sophisticated design elements, but they also inspire beautiful memories and, in doing so, encourage family bonds that are certain to last a lifetime.
A soft clean-lined sofa provides comfy seating without crowding the living room of this Toronto home. The round table is a safe choice in a house with kids, and its curves balance the lines of the fireplace and sofa. The marble fireplace surround and textured rug add subtle pattern.
“Before you decorate, know how you’ll use the space,” says designer Shirley Meisels. Since everyone enters through the front door, having a place to drop keys and remove shoes is crucial. The glass banister on the staircase is modern, so Shirley complemented it with a graphic light fixture and a brass-framed mirror.
TREND: WOVEN-LOOK DESIGNS
The warm tones of the show-stopping veneer pendant light and solid wood table in the dining room are countered by a cool iceberg print and pale blue drapery. “The blues also soften the black elements, such as the chair legs and tabletop accessories,” says Shirley.
TREND: WARM WALNUT ACCENTS
Shirley outfitted the home with hits of navy blue, as seen on this side of the kitchen island. To offset the cost of the luxe marble slab backsplash, the island’s waterfall countertop was made of more affordable quartz. The walnut stools and light fixtures visually warm up the room.
Open to the kitchen, the family room is a happy space. “The pouffe and lightweight coffee table can be moved if the kids need more space to play,” says Shirley. Built-in storage flanks the fireplace, and the photograph above it is of a tea plantation in India the couple travelled to.
TREND: PALE BLUE HUES
"A sloped ceiling and tight quarters made decorating this nook in the master bedroom a challenge,” says Shirley. But a super comfy Saarinen Womb chair keeps the space airy in appearance yet cozy enough for reading and unwinding.
The master bedroom’s rosy drapery and navy upholstered headboard echo the sophisticated blue and pink touches seen in other parts of the home. “A wall-mounted shelving unit with concealed and open storage makes the space feel more airy,” says Shirley. “And the faux fiddle-leaf fig tree looks natural, but doesn’t need to be watered when the family travels.”