Sometimes when a designer starts work on a house, inspiration can come from places it has rarely, if ever, come from before. Harvey Wise, one of two principals along with Robin Nadel at Wise Nadel Design in Toronto, says this was a home like no other. In fact, it’s quite likely one of the most unique homes in the city. “I had worked with these clients on their previous house and they’re just amazing — really fun people and great to work with. They decided they wanted to sell their home and build, and they found a lot just around the corner from them. In addition to creating more space for their blended family of seven, one of their objectives in building a bigger home was to be able to entertain on a larger scale and hold fundraisers. They’re great entertainers and they’re very philanthropic,” says Wise. “I was involved in planning this space from the very beginning, collaborating on the original plans with architect Lorne Rose. The greatest thing about this project was that we knew what the clients wanted — they were looking for more drama and the use of beautiful materials. The best part, though, was that they really trusted us and let us give them what we thought would work best.”
What Wise and his team designed was the flawless interior of an impressive three-floor, 10,000-square-foot abode in Forest Hill that has plenty of space but also feels inviting. The home was expertly built by SKR Homes. The homeowner is a contractor as well and collaborated with the builder on many aspects of the construction. Not only does the space have an effortless sense of luxury, it’s also extraordinarily whimsical and fun, which is something that was important for the parents of five. “They really wanted a home that has several areas where their kids could come together. There’s a traditional family room on the main floor, as well as an incredible rec-room in the basement and a huge loft space on the third floor. The design and function of the house is really driven by the family. Home is for gather- ing and everyone’s welcome; that’s the type of people they are,” he says.
Architecturally, the exterior is magnificent — it’s a traditional Georgian red brick and limestone home that fits beautifully on the street. “It also has such a gorgeous yard designed by landscape architect Ron Holbrook. When you walk by you don’t feel like you’re looking at a brand-new home that was just put up — there’s a sense of presence and maturity to it.” That said, when you enter the house, the first thing you notice is that it’s not traditional inside. “Although there are many traditional elements, including crown mouldings, higher baseboards, wider casings and panelling, it’s the mix of materials that makes it feel so much more contemporary and today, with a timeless feel,” says Wise. “It’s got a really cool vibe to it. You don’t know where to look first. There’s a ton of eye candy in this house.”
There’s no question that the entry hall is what Wise calls “a key moment,” thanks to the combination of materials, an exquisite laser-cut large-scale mosaic floor and stone archways. “We were so inspired by creating real drama in that foyer with those materials and to create this nod to deco. I’ve never done these dramatic stone archways that literally go right to the ceiling with a beautiful stone fluted entablature at the top. I think
it’s incredible,” he says passionately. “To me, one of the biggest moments really is that entry hallway as you look all the way through to those exquisite Italian glass and metal doors to the breakfast room and kitchen area. That same feeling is repeated as you look toward the living room and the dining room because you have those same archways. Although the rooms are very different, there’s a strong continuity of colour and drama.” There’s a definite wow-factor throughout the house, but it isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t make you feel intimidated. The homeowners have colourful, fun art and a carefully selected furniture collection with many beautiful custom designed pieces, with comfort being key.
Another stunning feature, or moment, in the house is the spectacular staircase. “The railing was inspired by a French-modern design that I loved. It’s a very simple railing but it wasn’t easy to fabricate because of how refined it is. Lorne designed a traditional volute at the base of the staircase and it’s just really classic and beautiful,” says Wise. “And what made it work so well is we panelled everything throughout the stairs, and we used this unbelievable ombré chevron Missoni runner all the way from the basement
to the third floor. It came together flawlessly with all the materials.”
There are other exceptional spaces throughout the house and they’re not just on the main floor. Each bedroom is unique, well-appointed and comfortable but still has that hotel-chic feel. And the basement is full of fun amenities, such as a stocked wine cellar, a gym, a home theatre and even a salon and spa. “These clients really wanted to make sure the whole house felt integrated. The feeling created on the main floor continues into the bedrooms, the third-floor loft, and the basement — they wanted that continuity. There isn’t an area that hasn’t been thoughtfully and carefully designed and it all works so well together.”
Having moved in just before the pandemic, the home- owners have taken a shine to their new place. “It was a real privilege to be able to work with these clients and create the space they really wanted. Ultimately, I just want our clients to love where they live and be so happy there that they come back to us and share how thrilled they are. And this was certainly the case with these clients. That’s the most important thing to me.”