A cosy post-war home gets some designer love on a tight budget.
Photography By Larry Arnal
Not every small space in this city is a condo with a large glass wall of windows and kitchen that’s part of the main space of the home. Small spaces are just as common in many of Toronto’s post-war homes. Yet the same rules apply when it comes to designing these spaces even though the look and feel is completely unlike a condo.
A GOLDILOCKS SOFA
We met this homeowner when she was searching for a sofa, a search that went on she told us, “for years.” Her ongoing challenge was due to the rheumatoid arthritis in her knees and because she isn’t particularly tall. If the angle of the sofa wasn’t appropriate—too deep, too soft or too hard—it put pressure on her knees, making a long-term sit, not very comfortable.
Sometimes the only answer is customized; however, sometimes the right piece will present itself. Because we had designed the sofa selected, we were familiar with its dimension and we believed it would work.
It was a Goldilocks moment for her when she finally found the sofa “that was just right.” Delighted that we were able to help so quickly, she wondered if we could deal with her whole house, but she was quick to say that she lived in a very modest home and had limited funds for a renovation.
Great design doesn’t happen only in large spaces or only with a big budget. We wanted to see her home and learn the difficulties she was dealing with, and successfully assist her with this project.
She had not entertained for years because the combination of inherited furniture and some structural issues made it too difficult. This was definitely a cosy post-war house in Toronto. The main floor was a living, dining, kitchen and hallway.
All of the doorways had been arched in a previous renovation. In a small space, you definitely do not want to make entrances smaller or uninviting. Perhaps during the same renovation, the fireplace was fitted with a brick façade but that choice really overpowered the room. We liked the fireplace; however, she didn’t use it because she was uncertain of the chimney.
Proportion is an important part of any design and even more so when you are dealing with a smaller space. For instance, the kitchen wouldn’t accommodate the size of replacement appliances. And the linoleum flooring had to go. We decided to change the floors throughout with hardwood to keep the space feeling as large as possible.
SMALL THINGS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
We addressed the issues in this makeover the same way a design TV show does. With her budget in mind, we resolved to find items that were either on sale, discontinued, offcuts from other projects. This client had seen our work and trusted us to make good decisions that she would be happy with.
We removed the archway doors to open up the rooms because one room esthetically borrows from the other to make both feel larger when they are more connected. We removed the fireplace brick and added an ethanol firebox to maintain the fireplace and also get around the chimney issues.
The addition of simple mouldings created a mantel and added detail to the façade. We had enough space on either side of the fireplace to install wall sconces, which add to the overall lighting in the room.
Along with the new sofa, a padded ottoman does double-duty as a coffee table. We added glass side tables, lamps and an area rug—this room was almost complete.
Custom-made drapery in a cream and cranberry fabric dress the living room; the cream colour dominates while the cranberry is an accent. In the dining room, the exact opposite occurs. The cranberry colour dominates in the drapery with a touch of cream at the border.
To tie the two rooms visually together, the chair fabric in the dining room is the same as the living room ottoman. The round dining table allows easy movement in the room and the thin, long credenza gives the sense of a sideboard. Add lamps and accessories and, voilà, the two rooms were finished on budget.
DESIGN DECISIONS ON A DIME
The project was done on an incredibly frugal budget as we sourced discontinued or sale items throughout, such as inexpensive new cabinets, countertop, and appropriate-sized appliances. As we explained to the homeowner, these deals and choices had to be made very quickly so being allowed to make decisions on her behalf made the process smooth and cost-effective.
The reveal was a resounding success; the homeowner cried with delight at every room and has become the biggest advocate for having a designer help with a small space. She will tell you it’s the best money she ever spent and plans to enjoy it at every party she hosts.
Glen Peloso and Jamie Alexander are co-founders and principals of Peloso Alexander Interiors. They bring 35 years of combined experience to creating environments that merge the client’s lifestyle, personality, and architecture. pelosoalexander.com, twitter @glenpeloso & @glenandjamie, Facebook.com/glenpeloso