Inside a Tudor-style home in Toronto that makes the most of its quirky ceilings
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Interior designers Hayley Bridget Cavagnolo and Michelle Smith shared the same thought the first time they saw their clients Jessica and Jordan on the third floor: “This needs wallpaper.” “I mean, all those angles…” says Cavagnolo, who was working as a project manager at Smith’s company, MRS Studio, at the time (she has since spun off under Hayley Bridget Interiors and continues to work on upcoming renovations For couple). After considering small-scale floral and dot prints, they came up with a trellis pattern that not only subtly mimics some of the house’s Tudor-style windows built in 1888. “Burier is better,” they agreed. At the same time, Jessica saw it as too risky. “But I’m happy to say we don’t regret it,” she shares. “It’s now one of our favorite locations.”
Fortunately, the funky roof angles were moved upstairs, and the rest of the 3,400-square-foot home in Toronto’s charming Rosedale neighborhood was open and spacious, so they didn’t need to spend money knocking down or moving walls.
Choosing new finishes and furnishings would be their main expense, since the only things they brought with them were two photographs of the Jordans. It was up to professionals to fill in the gaps — primarily with antiques from auctions, like the little green box under the entry console that Cavagnolo’s painter mother later lovingly restored. “It’s getting harder and harder to get good deals, so if we see something we like, we buy it and feel confident they’ll use it,” Smith says.
When it came to a more permanent decision, the designers, along with contractor Jimmy Makindzi at Alair Construction, had to be more convincing. “Hayley and Michelle gave us the kitchen lights and asked us to choose between two colors: blue or yellow. I chose blue and Michelle said, ‘We’ll go yellow.’” “Now every time I look at it, I can’t imagine it being blue,” Jessica says.
The white fixtures lining the wall above the upper cabinets are one of Cavagnolo’s favorite choices (she converted them from flush mounts to sconces). Meanwhile, the dining table located off the island is what the designer calls “Michelle Smith’s own table.” The setup is a workaround for not having any built-in seating on the island, plus it brings you closer to the massive original fireplace, which the homeowners would light on winter mornings. “Anytime anyone comes over, we hang out there,” Jessica says.
On a typical Sunday morning, the ground floor is the family headquarters. While their 8-year-old daughter Naomi and 2-year-old son Hugh are in the living room watching cartoons, mom and dad take turns refilling their Moccamaster coffees in the pantry. But when everyone returns to their rooms at night, it’s not difficult to achieve peace. In Hugh’s space, fabric-covered closet doors that match the upholstered bench envelop you like a warm hug. For the sunny window nook, Cavagnolo commissioned her brother, a tattoo artist, to create an illustration on paper that she could frame.
On evenings when Naomi has friends over, the completely wallpapered floor becomes their slumber party haven. “Two of them can sleep on the daybed, and then two more will sleep on the daybed,” Cavagnolo says. The headboard wasn’t easy to get up there — when the movers realized it wouldn’t fit in the small drawer, they had to get a crane and move the piece, along with the sofa, through the window. “There was no other way,” Smith recalls. “Otherwise you’ll have to make all the children’s furniture.”
The headaches continued when the designers saw that a subcontractor had accidentally cut two holes in the bathroom sink instead of one — and the whole thing had to be redone. “We intentionally laid the left side flat so they could have space for their stuff,” Smith says. “It’s one of the best little pieces, that vanity. I want to be a guest there.”