By revolving each room’s design around a superbly unique piece of art, designer Andrea McMullen and her team breathe colour, life and pleasure into a new home in Whitby.

By Adriana Ermter


Designer Andrea McMullen, the founder of the highly impressive fi rm ADM Design, Inc., was faced with a dilemma: She had a client — a downtown Toronto condo dweller — who had purchased a brand-new, three-storey home in Whitby, Ont., but six months past the homeowner’s possession date, the new abode sat empty, locked and gathering dust. She was reluctant to move.


So, what’s a designer to do? That’s easy, says McMullen. “You make her new home absolutely spectacular,” she states with confidence and delight. In this case, the homeowner had bought pre-construction, and by the time her closing date rolled around, she was having second thoughts about relocating. “She wasn’t sure she ultimately wanted to be there,” she says. “However, my client loves art, so we purposefully designed every room around a stunning focal piece to create maximum joy. I just knew that when she saw the finished space, she’d want to move in and enjoy her new home.”


Sure, it’s not McMullen’s typical design modus operandi, but it proved to be an innovative and completely effective one with high impact. Granted carte-blanche by the homeowner — who brought only a white lacquered dining room table and a painting from Paris into the four-bedroom home — McMullen transformed the new build into a warm, welcoming, modern-contemporary haven bursting with colour. Flashes of bright pink can be found exploding off the laundry room walls. Long oval emerald-green tiles shimmer in the upstairs ensuite and midnight-blue paint revolutionizes the dining space. Interspersed throughout are light-toned, wide-plank hardwood floors. Black iron hand railings flank the multi-level staircase and a palette of soft grey, sleek white and neutral beige can be found on the walls, within the furniture and featured in a grand triptych painting hung near the foyer.


All that said, McMullen’s design inspiration was ignited by a three-dimensional sculpture of a panther created by a Toronto-based visual artist named Perry Lansing. “The homeowner and I met at a Perry Lansing art show,” explains McMullen. “She was looking around and wanted to buy a piece but didn’t know where to put it in her home, so she asked me for my help. We connected and she ended up hiring me.” The Lansing piece is a life-sized black panther sculpture crafted from head to tail with upcycled denim. If that wasn’t hip enough, the names of Motown greats (think Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder) are printed on the piece. It stands mid-leap atop a white pillar in the family room. It’s positioned perfectly, in the vicinity of the room’s second Lansing sculpture — a lacquered three-dimensional jean jacket adorned with white metal angel wings — which hangs above the fireplace. Nestled between them is an onyx and white-hued 10-foot-high feature wall that makes another impressive statement.


Across the room, the open-concept kitchen’s white cabinetry and large waterfall island create an airy contrast. High-end features, complete with a gas range stove and pot-filler faucet, a herringbone tile backsplash and a floating, curved metal art sculpture make their mark. To the right, a cantilevered black table and chairs rest atop an onyx and white area rug. An intricate, black metal, star-like chandelier with round glass lights hangs from above, and an abstract black-and-white painting by Elena Henderson completes the cozy-chic vibe. “I was raised in an art gallery, so I understand the aesthetic fabulous pieces can bring to a space,” says McMullen. “It’s all about the composition. I like to layer art over wallpaper and make groupings from design elements.” These elements include a flurry of nine circular mirrors with gear-inspired frames grouped on a wall in the principal bedroom; two enormous gold lips placed above the ensuite’s soaker tub; three-dimensional silver birds captured in flight scattered across a staircase wall; four three dimensional silver parrots hanging high in the powder room; and two five-foot-tall white sculptures of naked women standing at the foot of the dining room table. Art isn’t just decor and accoutrement in this space — it injects the home with visual interest, a ton of personality and, well, it just arouses exuberance.


“This is a subdivision home with a seriously hip vibe,” says McMullen. “My client needed something to inspire her to fall in love with her space and she definitely has that now. She is finally home.”