Making the old new again: Richvale revival

A 12,000-square-foot home in Richmond Hill gets the update it needs to help regain the neighbourhood’s title as one of the best areas to live in the GTA.

There’s more than 100 years of history steeped in the Richvale community in Richmond Hill, Ont., but the last couple of decades especially have seen the neighbourhoods in the city’s south end truly bloom. The enclaves of cottage-style houses just streets away from the bustling Yonge and Highway 7 urban centre have been revitalized, with new builds and new life breathed into the area. While there remain nods to Richmond Hill past—including a small, charming library dating back to the early 1980s—the area has transformed. Drive down Westwood Lane, for example, with its mature trees, manicured lawns, spacious lots and palatial homes, and you’ll get a feel for how Richvale has evolved.

When Hammond Properties International introduced designer Flora Di Menna to a Westwood Lane home for sale, Di Menna instantly loved the well-established area. So much so, she bought it for herself. Di Menna, an interior designer with a booming business in neighbouring Vaughan, knew she’d tear down the existing home and rebuild. What stands now is her 12,300-square-foot dream home, with six bedrooms (each with an ensuite) and nine bathrooms. (The build was done by Cumberland Luxury Homes, a company Di Menna entrusts with all of her luxury design builds.) It’s a contemporary manor that celebrates the best parts of modern design—rounded lines, natural elements,
tone-on-tone palettes (with plenty of white), striking art, as well as hits of sleek chrome, stainless steel and glass. “It’s often a challenge to design for yourself, as I’m an interior designer who works for a range of clients in different areas of design, from luxury residential and hospitality to corporate and retirement homes. The variation in my design exposes me to a wide range of design ideas and options,” she says. “Although it may be somewhat challenging, I focus on lifestyle and work the design around that concept.”

This was indeed the inspiration behind the home. “The mandate was to make each space function individually and within the overall floor plan to ensure a smooth transition between formal and informal areas of the home,” Di Menna says. “I wanted a functional floor plan that would lead effortlessly through the home and garden from the front gate to the backyard oasis, proper space planning, appropriate lighting, substantial built-in cabinetry and a colour palette that was consistent throughout.” She hoped to maintain a sense of grandeur that comes with a home of this size, but also wanted to create intimacy, which is no small feat when you’re dealing with 12-foot-high ceilings.

The opulent space is filled with countless impressive touches—no detail is overlooked. For example, Di Menna wanted the entry foyer to bring in plenty of light to filter into the front rooms, so walls were fitted and framed with eight-foot-high custom lattice panels in silver metallic, she says. “A custom-made plaster ceiling motif that mimics the lattice panel design is subtly highlighted by indirect LED lighting.” She also brought in a nature theme, which is carried throughout the abode. “The living room is used mainly during the day, so we chose white-lacquered panels cut out with a bird and branch design and placed over silver metallic back panels which flank the white Calcatta marble fireplace,” Di Menna says. The master bathroom plays on this theme, with a feature wall of mosaic tiles in a leaf-and-branch pattern of glass, stainless steel and white marble. (The triangular freestanding Hansgrohe Axor Massaud bathtub fits in beautifully.)

There’s so much to love in the home but the kitchen and family room are standouts for Di Menna. “They are located adjacent to the terrace, so they provide exceptional views of the lush backyard oasis with lap pool, gazebo and eternal flames urns that spill water into the pool.”

Photography by Jac Jacobson Photography