By Lisa van de Geyn
Photography by Gillian Jackson
If you can imagine it, consider what this fabulous downtown Toronto terrace looked like prior to designer Lisa Aiken, the owner of Terra Firma Design Inc., revitalizing it: “The homeowner went from a green-and-white stripe design she never really liked with unusual furniture you could only sit on in a certain way to something truly spectacular,” she says.
Aiken is right. If there’s one word to describe this outdoor space, it’s without a doubt, spectacular.
The homeowners of this impressive condo brought Aiken in to redesign and reinvigorate their outdoor space. The prominent couple were very open to the process and excited to take their terrace in a completely new direction. “This was my first time working with them and they have exquisite taste. They just have the most incredible interior I’ve ever seen, and I knew that we had to make the terrace match and now it absolutely does.”
There are three parts to the terrace on this side of the condo (and a duplicate terrace on the other side of the building), so Aiken had to keep each section top of mind. She was decisive when it came to what she knew the space needed: seating, drama, grandeur and colour. “The couple host big parties — charity galas — at their home and I knew the outdoor space had to seat as many people as possible without feeling crammed,” she says.
For the main seating area, she had comfort in mind and opted for two large couches (they’re each about 95 inches long), lots of chairs, ottomans, coffee tables, a glamorous chandelier and planters filled with soft colours. “This space has massive glass doors. I painted the trim in black and it really adds to the drama. There’s soft stucco all inside the walls, which I also painted out. This is an enclosed space, complete with heaters, and it’s gorgeous,” she explains.
Of course, the main colour that Aiken used to awaken the space is a royal purple. “It’s done in all different purples — it’s so vibrant. It’s based on colours the homeowner wanted to work with. We started off in one tone and then ended up including more purple,” she says. “It’s funny, because there are fresh flowers all over their home in every room, and she would take me into rooms and show me colours she loved in the flowers. That’s why it took so many months to nail down the fabrics we ultimately decided on — there were so many stunning hues to choose from.” Aiken says it’s all about the cushions and the mixing of fabrics — some coming from local vendors, some from farther away. “There are just so many beautiful pieces. I looked at hundreds of fabrics before I knew what I was going to go with. It wasn’t about what was trending. It was more about the homeowner and her interior, and I wanted to draw from that,” she says. “I know that the design and decor inside their home makes them happy, so I knew they’d be happy with those colours outside. She loves pinks and purples and that’s what she was asking me to see. We ended up with a nice mix. She trusted me when I told her we needed to do this colour.” One of the most amazing additions to the project is what Aiken calls the lounging terrace (there are a couple lounge chairs and umbrellas) where the homeowners wanted to see something different — they already had some statues and other art forms, and they wanted a change. Aiken came up with the brilliant idea of doing a huge custom mural, which the homeowners just loved. “I brought in an artist, Margaret Cresswell, and we worked with all kinds of imagery and colours, and it took months and months to refine, eliminate, include, edit, etc. It was taken from an image the homeowner liked and Margaret went away and came back with a bunch of canvas samples. We looked at the colours we were drawn to and went from there,” says Aiken. The mural is an incredible focal point, and it lights up at night. There are two custom upholstered benches in front of it for extra seating — a place where the homeowners and guests can sit in awe of the artist’s work.
The couple are ecstatic with the redesign and spend every moment possible in their outdoor oasis. “These were some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. They have such a unique space and a unique place,” she says. “It’s very unusual to have an enclosed area like this and now it’s truly an extension of their home.”