By Adriana Ermter
“My design specialty is creating a century-old feel or reimagining an existing one,” says Vanessa Ferro, the owner and principal designer for her eponymous design company at 90 Lakeshore Road West in downtown Oakville, Ont. Ferro’s coveted for it, too. The one part architectural-history buff , another part world traveller and third part designer is renowned for her mix-mastering touch, bringing layers of texture and dramatic tension along with comfort and luxury into every home. “I appreciate the architecture, the crown mouldings, ceiling medallions and other Old-World details,” adds Ferro. “I respect time periods and a house’s bones, but a home doesn’t have to be stuffy or untouchably ‘magazine ready’ to be beautiful. It’s not how we live.”
It’s this philosophy Ferro’s clients desire. Predominantly living in centuries-old mansions, farmhouses and cottages, clients prefer her timeless vintage and contemporary-chic aesthetic to the please-look-but-don’t-touch museum quality often associated with historic homes. Never mind that her design style is oh-so lovely. With Ferro at the helm, you’ll find sparkling antique chandeliers hanging above worn, wooden kitchen tables. Oversized white, fireclay farmhouse sinks punctuated with the perfect patina of unlacquered brass hardware. Cozy cushioned window seats dotted with French-country fabric-covered throw pillows. Lush jewel-toned, custom-made wing chairs nestled within rooms wrapped in the most luxurious and unique wallcoverings. Ferro doesn’t miss a beat. Every space is well thought out, layered and crafted with the personalities of both the home and the homeowner in mind. It’s this aesthetic that has earned her a reputation as both an expert with deep-rooted knowledge of historic homes and as a tastemaker with one-of-a-kind decor and furnishing finds at her fingertips. “I love finding and sharing beautiful things with people,” affirms Ferro. “Curating and handpicking architectural salvage and unique home decor pieces doesn’t feel like work.” It does, however, require hours dedicated to unearthing the right pair of vintage monkey sconces, velvet sofas, and artwork featuring antique etchings and more — it’s a shopping technique Ferro describes as searching “for just the right mix of the new and the old.” Some treasures are found in Toronto stores while others are found on forays, traipsing through London, Paris and New Orleans, to name a few of her favourite cities.
“FERRO DOESN’T MISS A BEAT. EVERY SPACE IS WELL THOUGHT OUT, LAYERED AND CRAFTED WITH THE PERSONALITIES OF BOTH THE HOME AND THE HOMEOWNER IN MIND.”
Recently, while on a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Ferro discovered a local artist whose series of whitewash-framed, paint embellished European Vogue covers became a must-have purchase. The dozen she carefully packed and brought back with her are now showcased alongside other rare finds in her newly opened store, The Boutique at Vanessa Ferro Design. Conveniently located on the main floor, steps above the Vanessa Ferro Design studio, this entrance into Ferro’s world, features exotic wallpapers and everything from Sicilian orange-scented hand soap and perfumed Parisian candles to an assortment of pillows under Ferro’s own label, each one custom-sewn from a favourite fabric pulled from her personal collection. All combined, the store is a co-mingling of Ferro’s best pieces and a sneak peek inside her imagination with all its design possibilities.
“The Boutique is like a business card, really. It advertises my work. People can see me, who I am and what I can do,” says Ferro. “Downstairs in the design studio is where it all comes to life. It’s where I get to conjure up ideas for my next project. I just love spending time down there…and why not?” she asks, laughing. “What’s better than designing people’s dreams?”