How one de­signer used sel­f­re­flec­tion and sim­plic­ity to do up her down­town Vic­to­rian

“There are thou­sands of in­spir­ing ideas out there,” says de­signer Me­lanie Hay, re­fer­ring to the well­spring of on­line home decor images, blogs and shops. “You can lit­er­ally re­search for months. But in the end, the best de­sign is born of self-dis­cov­ery. The more you un­der­stand who you are and how you live, the bet­ter the odds that the rooms you cre­ate will be rooms that you love.”

Me­lanie should know. When she and her hus­band, An­drew, an en­tre­pre­neur, pur­chased a tall, nar­row Vic­to­rian in Toronto’s An­nex neigh­bour­hood about four years ago, they were two peo­ple with­out a plan – but with about 3,000 square feet of empty space. Need­less to say, to a de­signer like Me­lanie, this blank can­vas meant in­stant in­spi­ra­tion over­load. “My mind was swim­ming with decorating schemes,” she re­calls. “Deep down, though, I knew An­drew and I are nesters, and when we walked in the door, we would want to come home to a space that echoes our life sto­ries.” This is where her ap­proach to decorating the house started.

But it was not as easy as it sounds. “From the be­gin­ning, I had to ac­knowl­edge that An­drew and I don’t share the same taste,” she says. Me­lanie loves white; An­drew prefers dark wood. Some­thing had to give. The house al­ready had the tow­er­ing black doors and high-gloss black ban­is­ter they both liked, so the cou­ple let these de­tails in­spire the look. “Plus, we al­ready owned a black and white rug, a round ta­ble with a dark top and a black leather Eames chair, so why not use them?” adds Me­lanie. Red- and peach-painted walls were re­done in shades of light and shadow. Such was the start of what is now the home’s sig­na­ture black and white colour scheme.

And a lit­tle self-re­flec­tion went a long way when it came to de­cid­ing what to hang on the walls. “Although we ap­pre­ci­ate fine art, per­sonal me­men­toes that con­nect us to our fam­i­lies mat­ter more,” says Me­lanie. This re­al­iza­tion be­came the in­spi­ra­tion for the din­ing room gallery wall. Gath­er­ing a few favourite prints,

Nest maker, know thy­self. Here’s how one de­signer used self-re­flec­tion and sim­plic­ity to do up her Toronto Vic­to­rian.

posters and paint­ings, the de­signer cre­ated a dy­namic vis­ual mash-up. The re­sult is a so­phis­ti­cated yet per­sonal de­sign el­e­ment. One added bonus? It was to­tally bud­get­friendly. “I paired gold-framed heir­loom pieces with newer prints in in­ex­pen­sive white frames to unite the ran­dom col­lec­tion,” ex­plains Me­lanie. And since not many are for­ever pieces, she adds or sub­tracts on a whim. “There are a lot of nail holes in that wall!” she says with a laugh.

In many ways, this ever-evolv­ing ap­proach is a re­flec­tion of Me­lanie’s cre­ativ­ity. “Un­like the homes I de­sign for clients, which are done in one sweep, my house changes con­stantly. I’ve be­come in­cred­i­bly good at mov­ing fur­ni­ture, which must drive An­drew crazy. This house will never be truly fin­ished,” she says. “And if it ever is, I’ll prob­a­bly just start over!”

ABOVE “It’s been a bed­side ta­ble, an end ta­ble and a catchall,” says Me­lanie of the bar cart she pur­chased years ago. “Fi­nally, it’s a bar!” The cart is low, how­ever, and the home’s ceil­ings are very high. To draw the eye up­ward, she added a paint­ing...

LOW Re­duce, re­use, re­cy­cle: These sec­ond­hand-score din­ing chairs have been re­uphol­stered more than once! LOW Gallery walls don’t have to break the bank. Here, travel sou­venirs, framed con­cert photos and vin­tage finds form a strik­ing dis­play.

NEST­ING CONSOLES, Elte; straw BAS­KETS (on con­sole), IKEA. ABOVE & LEFT, TOP “Rooms should re­flect the peo­ple who live in them,” says Me­lanie (pic­tured), who dec­o­rated the mas­ter bed­room with mean­ing­ful keep­sakes. Al­ready owned – and loved – art­work...

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