Our clients had lived in their home for over six years before reaching out to meet with designers. They were seeking to transform their main floor space into a series of rooms that would meet their needs as a young, active family with an open door for friends and a love for throwing parties. The gardens and patios on the property offered ample room and flow for outdoor entertaining, room to run around for their kids and dog, plus evening cocktails street-side. Unfortunately, the majority of the interior main floor living spaces were rarely used. The challenge was to create a better flow between generous, disjointed rooms to make them inviting, more usable, and beautiful enough to become an appropriate backdrop for custom designed pieces, carefully curated furnishings and art.
Connecting on our approach and the core issues that needed to be addressed, we launched into a creative dialogue that established a language and storyline that addressed function, sightline opportunities and pushed them a little outside of their comfort zone. We find this is where we get a true read on who our clients are: by challenging conventions and getting a reaction. Always remember… feeling uncomfortable is a good thing when redesigning your home.
We began by working through a series of furniture layouts and concept boards in order to determine the best use of the space based on our clients’ needs. We were not moving walls or widening transitions; we worked within the existing footprint, which also set boundaries on the challenge. Sometimes our clients have images they have torn out from magazines or have done some research on Pinterest or Houzz, which helps us get a sense of what they like. Other times, we are starting from scratch with a completely blank slate. Ultimately, visuals help get clients and designers on the same page.
Coming from the world of hotels and restaurants, where first impressions set the tone, I treated our clients’ home with the same thought process. The house had two entry points: the most used being the side entry and the lesser being the main entry for guests. Both were important for setting the tone for the home, both for family and for visitors.
The main entry vestibule and large centre hall had previously been areas that were poorly lit and bland, all the while having beautiful crown moldings that were not standing out. This was an area of first impression and it said nothing about the clients or their home.
LIFTING THE PALETTE
We wanted to lift the palette in these areas to highlight the trim details and provide a great backdrop to their emerging contemporary art collection. In the vestibule, we selected a few statement furniture and lighting pieces, and a wallcovering that wrapped the room with a quiet texture and palette. This allowed the simple milk-glass and brass pendant to sing on its own.
The large centre hall stood as the main connection between all adjacent rooms. We wanted this to be inspiring and light, while providing interest, texture and a backdrop to the clients’ art. This was a space that would get the most activity through daily living, as it connected directly to the main staircase and to four principal rooms. It was also a space we encouraged our clients to treat as a room — especially when entertaining — and not just as a pass-through. It was generous enough and well-positioned for overflow between rooms. Here we lifted the palette in the same colour, painting the trim, ceiling and details. We chose a stunning and understated wallcovering, with a refined nod to birch bark, to provide a backdrop to the artwork. We extended this wallcovering into the side entry area, primarily to visually connect the space to the rest of the home, but also because it was forgiving to the departures and arrivals of daily activity, and it provided interest and texture on the large open walls without art.
MAKING ROOMS SPECIAL
While we treated the rooms flowing off the centre hall as unique, they would also serve as an extension of the storyline. Between the furnishings, lighting, carpets and artwork, we created a personality for each room. More dramatically, we juxtaposed the palettes of the spaces off each other: one room light and airy, the other dark and intimate.
We wanted the formal dining room to feel comfortable, encourage good conversation and set the mood. We had the room paneled with classic detail and integrated an antique mirror into the details to visually extend the room. We had the panels, trim and ceiling painted in a mid-grey palette with a high-gloss finish, which made the room feel intimate, in contrast to the lighter neighbouring spaces. The room also featured a rhythm of timeless comfortable dining chairs around an antique table we convinced our clients not to part with — along with the matching sideboard. While we tend to gravitate towards cleaner lines, we liked these two pieces and felt they would work beautifully within the contemporary seating. We also designed a clean-lined interior-lit china cabinet, in contrast to the antique pieces, and selected a jewel-armed pendant to sparkle above the dining table.
For the formal living room, we went light and fresh and chose a soft, curved sofa to make the room inviting. We complemented it with a stunning carpet and a selection of beautiful pieces — both found and custom designed. We worked with the asymmetry of the fireplace location, placing furniture in a composition that created good flow and conversation. We designed a few pieces, including a large bench with a rich dark velvet texture, to create interest against the lighter carpet beneath, and to connect with the darker rooms beyond.
The adjacent lounge had been somewhat of a repetitive room where the grand piano had previously sat alone. We wanted to make this a room that complemented the sightlines of the formal living room, while feeling warmer and cozier; a place to play the piano or get into a good book. We painted the entire room — walls, trim and ceiling — a mid-grey (similar to the dining room) and designed a wall-panel to sit behind the tufted sofa to improve the room’s acoustics. We also carefully chose colourful accents and a carpet with playful colours to sit opposite the quieter formal living room. The carpets we selected played a big role in connecting the rooms… we feel they must tell a story together. The overall result is a house that flows beautifully and seamlessly with inviting rooms that provide a backdrop for beautiful pieces to sing.