Green Goddess: One Designer’s Love of Colour

While this wasn’t the designer’s typical project, the homeowner’s desire to take a chance on Alexandra Naranjo’s fearless use of colour made it a perfect match.

It’s safe to say this wasn’t the typical design project Alexandra Naranjo is usually hired for. The homeowners of two properties, sitting on a whopping 500 acres outside of Toronto, are from Dubai, but quickly fell in love with the Canadian landscape and ultimately planned to build their dream vacation homes on the land. The property would include a main house that Naranjo would create using her elegant, opulent signature design, as well as a guest house done up in full English-country style. While it’s not her typical go-to, Naranjo says this is one of the most creatively interesting projects she’s worked on. “I really liked creating this estate,” she says. “It shows a different side of me.”

Naranjo was brought into the project because of her unapologetic and confident use of colour. While the homeowners gave her carte blanche to follow her design instincts, they did have one request—they wanted her to take colour to the next level. “Their other homes in other parts of the world, including Dubai and London, are very lavish but neutral spaces. They wanted a wow factor for this location,” she explains. The owners also needed Naranjo to make sense of the guest house by creating a functional floorplan—the first time she saw the space, it was completely open. “It was one big room and looked like a banquet hall,” she says.

She immediately went to work and had several jumping-off points she knew she wanted to pursue including the creation of a great room, bringing in plaid wallpaper, using various shades of green and ensuring the incredible views of trails and a lake remained visible at all times. Naranjo had her design assistant, Melissa McMorris, working on renderings, and brought in M-Squared Contracting to bring her vision to life. Together they had to decide where each room would be and where walls would be put up. She quickly took inspiration from traditional English-country design and chose plaid Mulberry Home wallpaper and green beadboard in the entrance and extra-wide hallways. Finding the right hue for the beadboard was a project all of its own. “I thought about doing it cream and cranberry
and was debating about the right shade, but one morning I woke up and decided on green. I knew this was it. It had the warmth I was looking for, so I carried the shade throughout.” The chandeliers are focal pieces that also tie into the theme—they’re brass with an equestrian feel, complete with leather straps.

For the great room, she designed two fireplaces made from local stone facing each other with a huge window and sliding door along the back to bring nature into the space. “I also had to do something big for seating,” she says, adding she opted for two 14-foot-long sofas in green velvet to compensate for the scale of the room. There’s also a strong sense of the Great White North in the room—not only does the ultra-Canadian moose make an appearance, the art flanking each fireplace depicts our country’s four seasons. “There is an English influence in the home, but it definitely has Canadian touches for visitors from afar,” she says. “I want them to feel like they’re sitting in a lodge somewhere in the Rockies.”

The bedrooms, each with two queen beds and spacious seating areas, were also given the English treatment and focused on greens and nature. “I wanted these rooms to feel like coach houses and I pulled in elements from the rest of the home to tie them together,” says Naranjo. One bedroom brings in a more aqua-turquoise palette with grass cloth in blue and white tones on the wall; the other is inspired by fabric the homeowner chose based on their granddaughter’s love of birds. Grass cloth covers this room, too (this time it’s sage green), and there’s a botanical-toile pattern in the drapery. No detail is overlooked—the chairs, for example, bring in plaid from the hallway, and include beautifully custom piping and brocade.

The complete renovation and design of the two houses on the property (they’re about 150 steps from each other) spanned a year and a half. “This project was my baby. It took a long time, and everything had to be perfect for the couple. They put a lot of trust into me and asked me to do my thing and make it next level,” she says. “They were so trusting that I asked them not to come into the space after a certain point in the process and promised a reveal party and private tour of their own home. It was no surprise that the reveal went just as perfectly as we’d planned.”

Design by Alexandra Naranjo
Photography by Stacey Brandford