How designer’s intuition led the way to this bright, airy showstopper

Amanda Aerin unveils the lighter side of living.

When interior designer Amanda Aerin first stepped into her clients’ Toronto home, she immediately felt a disconnect from their upbeat personality. “They love entertaining, they’re funny, well-travelled and easy-going, but the house felt very stuffy and didn’t feel like the people I met,” says Aerin. “One of the things I’m good at is seeing clients in a light they don’t see themselves in. I get their history, find out how they want their house to feel and the plans come to me—I get a visual for a space that matches their personality.”

Before contacting Aerin, the homeowners weren’t sure about their vision for their space. They were literally debating between loving or listing their home. For them, it was hard to see the potential, but when they weighed the pros of keeping their abode—it’s on a pretty cul-de-sac and has a stunning yard and pool—they realized it was time to invest.

Tasked to renovate and redecorate the dining and living rooms, kitchen, bathroom and front entry, Aerin says she knew she wanted to brighten the house and make it much livelier—it had been very dark and a bit old-fashioned. Her first order of business was to do a main-floor shuffle. The floorplan needed an update, and Aerin chose to turn the existing living room into the kitchen. She also knew she needed to go much brighter and airier. “The house was full of dark reds that felt as though they were carrying the weight of the world,” she says. “The homeowner mentioned she liked white, grey and marble, and she wanted a softness added to the space. That’s where we started.”

Living Room Showstopper

Marble was brought into the living room—the showstopping piece is the fireplace. Aerin walked through the stone yard to find the perfect slab. The stone was then sliced through the middle and spread out, creating an incredible focal point. “I liked the neutrality of the stone and the colour really gives balance to the kitchen that’s right beside the living room.”

For the room’s accessories, Aerin had noticed objects and tchotchkes the homeowners had collected from travels far and wide and asked them to pick the pieces that were most significant. The built-ins installed on either side of the fireplace were the perfect place for these items. She covered the back of the built-ins in grass-cloth wallpaper and added lighting to the glass shelves, then she framed and displayed their cherished pieces and photography. The smoky leather chairs, moody grey sofas and unexpected turquoise rug were fabulous additions to the room.

Kitchen Centerpiece

When it came to the kitchen, Aerin had a mandate. “The homeowner is a real foodie and loves to cook, so one of the must-haves was to include an island. She also wanted an integrated fridge, a second oven and I was able to give her a lady cave at the back of the kitchen so she could have a quiet place to pay bills, organize kids’ activities, etc.,” says Aerin. The kitchen has an airy feeling, and even though there’s lots of shaker-style cabinetry and drawers, it isn’t overwhelming or messy because of the integrated look. “It feels quite timeless and won’t go out of style.”

Divine Dining

The dining room is used for entertaining, and the large custom tables work beautifully when the family hosts. The mural in the room immediately catches the eye—not only does it add a sense of richness, but it helps ground the dining area in the open-concept space. “When I presented a mural, it sounded a bit old-fashioned and the homeowners thought, ‘Why include a traditional element like this when we’re updating the house.’ But it really adds soulfulness to the home and it’s very balanced,” she explains.

“The great thing about these clients is they trusted us to make decisions. A renovation this size demands many months of work, and homeowners really need to trust their designers to use their expertise and develop the right plan for their space,” she says. “It’s like a camera lens that eventually comes into focus. It’s blurry at first and hard for clients to see my vision, but when I present renderings, textures, colours and plans, they start to envision what I see. It wasn’t long before this couple realized they couldn’t see the room in any other way.”

Architect: Monica E, Kuhn

General Contractor:  Denny Vetesse

Styling: Matthew Bettencourt

Photography: Larry Arnal

Custom Dining Table:  Abacus Furniture