Images: Donna Griffith
When you put a fashion designer with a penchant for vintage fabrics in a dated Victorian home you get a veritable patchwork of past and present that's vibrant and modern, clean and historic.
When fashion designer Julia Grieve first saw the house she would eventually buy, it was dour and decrepit with a pack of raccoons cockily waddling around in the attic. "It was falling apart! I couldn't believe anyone would live here," she says of the four-bedroom 3,000 square-foot Victorian fixer-upper in Toronto's east end. After a year, Julia moved into the three-storey home with her husband, Doug, and their three children.
It's hard to believe the newly renovated space - now filled with super bright flourishes against a brilliant white backdrop - was ever so inhospitable. The year-long overhaul entailed stripping the building back to its bricks with the help of her cousins, designer Susan Shaw and renovator Andrew Shaw. "It was a period house, broken into many little rooms, but I wanted it to be modern and spacious," says Julia, referring to the main floor, which is now mostly open concept. A pocket door, staircase and fireplace mantel are the only original features left in the house, which had had the same owner for 70 years. "It was a real gut job," says Julia.
Colourful accents and playful patterns invigorate the modern living room. Homeowner Julia Grieve switches the toss cushions with the seasons - red at Christmastime and bright hues in spring. The quilted retro fabrics come from textiles that Julia comes across at work. Vintage sidechairs were reupholstered in a punchy black and white print; for fun, Julia painted their teak frames blue-grey.
Coffee table accents
Blue feature wall
A bold blue feature wall greets visitors in the entryway. "I think of blue as a staple - it's a go-to shade within wardrobes and interiors because it works so well with other colours," says Julia. "If you're going to commit to a hue on the wall, I'd always choose blue."
Instead of an enclosed formal dining room, a great room with a kitchen and dining area fits the family's easygoing lifestyle. The pocket door (another authentic feature) can be pulled shut (although it rarely is) to separate the eating areas from the living one.
Mismatched vintage china
On the dining table, mismatched vintage china makes for a cheery tablescape. "It's all about the mix of old and new to keep it from looking old-fashioned," says Julia, who regularly scours Goodwill, church fairs and Anthropologie for eclectic dishware. "You'll never find white plates in my house," she says.
Table runner and napkins
The key to using colour in both fashion and interior design, Julia explains, is striking a balance. "It's being classic and modern with an edge," she says. In the dining room an embroidered runner, bright napkins and placemats bring detail and flow nicely with Julia's love of pattern.
"The kitchen is my favourite room," says Julia. "The three kids love sitting at the kitchen island eating, laughing and doing homework." Shaker-style cabinetry provides textural interest in the mostly white space, which also features marble countertops and a dark-tiled backsplash to offset the lightness. The stool slipcovers, with their saturated swirls of royal blue, green and rusty orange, were once old, forgotten drapes.
Julia's kitchen boasts stainless-steel appliances giving it a sleek and clean look. She coaxes out her children's inner Picassos by showcasing their vibrant artwork in the kitchen. "They take such pride in their work and get excited about what goes up," she says. "This way, you never have a cluttered fridge door. Plus, it's a great way to introduce colour to the walls."