Meredith Heron and the art of change

The interior designer extraordinaire takes on a major redesign project: her own home.

I grew up just outside of Toronto, and am the granddaughter of a real estate agent who introduced my father to what we now know as “flipping houses.” We moved a lot but always within the same town. When I finished grade school, I started at a high school a town away with only a handful of friends accompanying me. Five years later (I’m dating myself; high school was five years back then) I moved across the province to go to university, without knowing anyone there. I zigzagged across the province for a bit in my twenties but settled in downtown Toronto for good 18 years, and for the last 16, I’ve lived in the same house, which is remarkable given that for more than two-thirds of my life, houses were just houses and not homes. I was a nomad of sorts.

Working as a designer, I began to see how different my own upbringing and approach to this concept of “home” was compared to many of my clients. Home is sacred to many—it roots their family and has deep emotional bonds for them. As I grew as a designer, I soon realized that I’m really a professional storyteller and I use the homes of my clients to tell their story, so it was imperative to dive into what this means to them and understand it on a personal level. When my son was born, now 10 years ago, I saw for the first time in my life what home can mean to people on a visceral level. I began to understand how milestones in the lives of a family are shaped and elevated by this concept of home, which far exceeds walls and pretty pieces. It is more than just the backdrop for lives lived—home nurtures and cradles us.

Designers often neglect their own homes, too busy focusing on their work for others but after having my son, I realized that designing my own home was very much needed both personally and professionally. We initially embarked on a little refresh, some decorating, a new kitchen and main bath. I felt like I was finally an adult with this transition. Our house was built in 1856 and is a Victorian Row House. It had some catastrophic renovations in the mid 1970s that saw ceilings lowered, plaster mouldings partially and completely covered by horrendous dry-wallers. We’re pretty sure that when the house was initially built, drunken sailors were on shore leave and decided to “help” build it. Nothing is square but there are some original features like the staircase and a ceiling medallion in the foyer, but at some point it became an illegal rooming house and that is how we came to find it 16 years ago.

The honeymoon period ended quickly for me after our initial refresh. Our ceiling in our living room had been dropped at least a foot, if not more. The drywall openings were maddening to this Virgo and I fantasized nightly about restoring the main floor to what “could have been.”

The house is 15 feet wide, the living room nine feet wide, and all I could think was that the ceiling in the foyer is 11 feet and what if the living room was the same—would that added volume make the house feel bigger? Our son was getting bigger and like his mom, he likes change—he’s forbidden us from ever moving…maybe it was time?

I spend so much time convincing others to invest in their homes, maybe it was time for me to walk the walk. We embarked on an ambitious eight-week (it felt like six-month) restoration. Ceilings and walls came down in the living and dining room. We redesigned the archway between our foyer and dining area to be something more Victorian and we decided to add back in plaster mouldings, but chose to leave the original in the foyer because it has too much character to change—not everything has to be perfect. Our other must-have was to remove laminate flooring on the main floor and replace with hardwood, herringbone specifically, and carry that into the kitchen as well.

We also decided it was time to replace much of our furniture and focus on livable luxury. We custom designed a new sofa with a 33-inch depth that was engineered to still be comfortable despite the reduced depth, which you need when your living room is only nine feet wide. We also custom designed a new buffet for our dining room that is only 12 inches
deep but still packs a ton of needed storage into a very small space. I played with scale to increase the perception of space, oversized wallpaper in our foyer is still there from our first decoration endeavour eight years ago and I love it just as much as I did then. The paper has been long discontinued but it still makes me smile. Our drapery in the living room is full height—our restored height is now 11 feet like the foyer. Our artwork and use of patterns also falls under the more is more, bigger is better mantra, which I fully embrace.

We finished the restoration four years ago and we haven’t stopped changing things up because this zebra can’t really change her stripes. While I love the home we’ve created, I routinely change out rugs from our Meredith Heron Collection and that usually necessitates my changing up our decorative pillows and some accents. The evolution speaks to both my own growth as a designer and tells the story of our family, with exciting
new chapters still to come.

Photography by Meredith Heron and Asa Weinstein