“Sometimes in period homes, we may be a bit afraid to mess with the character or original details – but I think if the concept or idea makes sense for our modern way of life but doesn’t take away from the overall character of the space then why not try it out,” shared Emilia Wisniewski of Studio 1Nine1. When her clients, an academic couple with two kids, a dog, and a cat, approached her they had already been living in their Edwardian house for over 15 years in the west side of Toronto called “The Junction”. Over the years they had done some updating: mainly the kitchen and more recently the electrical, but their beloved home was in dire need of a renovation.
“The dual fireplaces in the living and dining room were literally crumbling – the hearth was completely destroyed, the cast iron fireplace insert in the dining room was loose, the mantles had shifted and there were actual gaps between the mantle and the wall,” Emilia said. The fireplaces weren’t the only part of the home that was falling apart: the ceiling in the dining room had a hole in it from when they had recently replaced all of the electrical wiring, something crucial for a home that was around 120 years old. The walls as well were a strange shade of high-gloss beige and some of the windows had been repainted so many times that they no longer opened. “It sounds cliché to say, but the home had really great bones – it just looked kind of sad and devoid of character. My clients are such lovely people, with great personalities and their home did not reflect that at all,” she said.
The first thing that Emilia had done was to sand everything down, from the floors to the walls and mill-work. Then she suggested switching the mantles of the living and dining room after restoring them. “The larger mantle with the built-in mirror now looks so much better in the living room – it commands attention and, quite frankly was a bit overwhelming in the dining room.” For the dining room fireplace surround, she chose a dolomite marble hexagonal tile that had the faintest amount of purple, and for the living room fireplace surround a marble herringbone tile. But the true show of personality of the main floor is in the form of the Thistle Wallpaper by Timorous Beasties that she used for the ceiling in the dining room. “I originally envisioned installing the paper above the plate-rail,” the designer explained, “but then decided against it as the actual repeat of this particular paper would just not be that impactful in a ‘strip’ above the plate rail. So I swapped out the colorway and suggested to my clients that we paper the ceiling. It made that dining room so cozy and comfortable!”
As for the decor, Emilia had to balance elegance (because of the home’s historical bones) with a casual feel. “They are not overly formal people, so I wanted to make sure that the space was warm and inviting,” she said. She was able to restore their dining table, reupholster the dining bench and selected locally made pieces such as the sofa by Gresham House. The last step was to include pieces like the oversized hare artwork above the sofa and the Kelly Wearstler throw pillows. “I styled the main floor on a Friday ” the designer shared, “artwork was installed, accessories and flowers were set up – and later that evening I got an email from my client saying that when she came home from work she almost started crying. She was so beyond thrilled!”