Downsizing is special kind of move
Beautiful reno ends quest for bigger house
WHEN JESSICA COTTON POLZL first stepped through the front door of her Waterloo home, she knew it was the one.
Cotton Polzl, an interior designer, and her husband, Mike Polzl, a commercial real estate broker, had been searching for the perfect family home for about a year. Because Jessica was originally from Toronto and Mike from Waterloo, the search was not easy.
“It was like city mouse versus country mouse,” Jessica explains.
But when it came down to it, the couple shared the same overall vision for their home — one that was original, had personality and that would suit a growing family.
It was during a leisurely drive one summer afternoon in 2010 that they spotted it – a gorgeous brick Georgian home in the Westmount area. Built in 1951, the charming home instantly took Cotton Polzl back to her childhood and the older north Toronto neighbourhood where she grew up.
“It felt like no other house I had seen,” she says.
Not only was the house beautiful, but it was also located in a great area and had the “architectural potential” she had >>
>> been searching for. And – lucky for her – there just happened to be a For Sale sign stuck in the front lawn. “I said, “Oh God, this is the house! I knew it as soon as I walked in. We fell in love with it.” As an interior designer, Cotton Polzl (who owns Jessica Cotton Design and is known to many from her stints on HGTV shows Design Inc. and Restaurant Makeover) was able to look past the moss green carpet, dated wallpaper and choppy layout. She could tell the previous owners had taken great care of the home and knew once she put her own stamp on it, it would be the home she and her husband had dreamed of.
“It had all the old bones we were looking for,” she says.
The couple quickly put their Bauer Lofts condo on the market and bought the 1,900square-foot house. Because their loft was decorated with “funky” furniture, they chose to sell it furnished, knowing such modern items would never suit their new home.
They were literally starting from scratch — a dream for Cotton Polzl, who as a young girl used to surprise her mother by rearranging their house on a regular basis.
The couple took possession of the home in August of 2010 – on their one-yearwedding anniversary – with a plan of doing a simple “lipstick makeover” – remove wallpaper, paint and install hardwood.
But with a nine-month-old daughter and another baby on the way, the couple soon realized “the smarter thing to do would >>
>> be to do it in one quick shot,” she says. So they began gutting the home “right down to the studs,” while making sure to keep “the bones of the home” intact, she says.
That included knocking out walls that once housed an enclosed library. They turned the room into a sitting area and playroom that flows into the living room on one side and the dining room on the other. A pony wall was added on the dining room side to allow some privacy to the eating area while letting them still feel connected to the children while they are playing.
“The wall is high enough that you don’t see the toys while eating,” she says.
A door in the play area opens up into the couple’s spacious backyard and the Westmount Golf Course, which the family takes full advantage of. In the summer, after the golfers finish their game, the children use it to run around. In the winter, the family uses it to go snowshoeing and tobogganing.
A large window in the couple’s living room also offers a beautiful view onto the golf course. This room is one of Cotton
Polzl’s favourites. “It’s where we all hang out,” she says. On cool nights, the family sits together listening to the crackle of the wood fireplace, which Cotton Polzl had raised by more than a foot during renovations. She replaced the mantel and refaced it with light marble tile, giving it the “fresh and airy” look that she is known for. You can see more of her signature touches throughout the room – from the Dupioni silk lined drapes that match the bluish grey accent wall, to the zebra print ottoman and chrome credenza that her husband picked out. The room feels cosy, yet modern. When renovating, Cotton Polzl made sure her husband was involved. The two came to agreement on everything – design decisions, furniture purchases and decorating. And to her husband’s surprise, Cotton Polzl pulled out some of his game-hunting trophies and hung them throughout the house.
As a designer, Cotton Polzl has seen people pay a fortune for such trophies and says, if done right, they can add a lot to a room.
The most prominent trophy – Boo the Caribou – hangs over the stairwell, allowing her kids to pet him on the nose each night before they go to bed.
“I’m a real girly girl,” she says. “I love pink, I love bright, I love fun, but I like to have a balance of masculinity.”
Her bright and fun touches continue throughout the upstairs of the home.
Her children’s rooms are designed with custom-made drapes and fun accents, such as the giraffe wall decal and framed Farrow & Ball paint samples. She custom-made her son’s beach-striped fabric headboard. Fresh-cut hydrangeas from her garden sit on top of her daughter’s dresser.
She decorates with a light touch, saying “I feel your home has to be your sanctuary.”
The upstairs of the home had two bathrooms already so Cotton Polzl converted one into the children’s bathroom, equipped with a shower and custom-made two-toned cabinet that complements the light tile in the shower and the marble floor. And, like every bathroom she renovates, Cotton Polzl rearranged the toilet to sit at the back of the room.
“I’m big on walking into a bathroom and not having the first sight being a toilet,” she says.
The second bathroom was gutted and custom-made cabinets installed for maximum storage.
Attention to detail can be seen everywhere in the home, from accent walls that >>
“widen out a space and create visual interest” to the oil-rubbed bronze egg door knobs.
The entranceway, which Cotton Polzl says should be clean and inviting since it is a visitor’s “first impression,” features a light travertine-tile floor. A zebra-printed ottoman sits in the corner for a splash of fun.
Outside, her flair for detail continues as Cotton Polzl sets her focus on maintaining the home’s historical charm. New solid wood shutters were added, along with a nautical awning at the back door. Oversized light sconces were chosen to accent the custom-made mahogany front door. Interlocking brick and armour stones were used for the patio in the backyard, which makes hosting barbecues a treat for the couple.
“We like a house that feels warm and welcoming to everyone,” she says. “One that has an air of sophistication to it and feels generally light and happy.”
Such a dramatic renovation may seem easy for someone with a background in design, but Cotton Polzl admits it was sometimes challenging. The timing, in particular, was difficult considering she was a working mother to an almost one-year-old baby and was 7 ½ months pregnant with her second.
And so, just over four months into the renovations, Cotton Polzl felt it was time to have a chat with the contractors.
“I said, ‘I love you, but you have one week,’”she recalls with a laugh. It worked. The contractors finished one week later. The following week, Cotton Polzl gave birth to her son.
There is still work that needs to be done in the home. An addition is being planned for sometime in the future to install a larger kitchen. But for now, the couple, along with their children, Chloe and Blake, are enjoying every minute in their perfect family home. “We love it,” Cotton Polzl says. “I feel very blessed that we were able to create a space that I could put my stamp on.”
Jessica Cotton Polzl decorates with a light touch, but she is big on detail, including the children’s rooms with their custom drapes, custom-made headboard and fun accents.
Jessica Cotton Polzl describes her personal design choices as “girly,” but she surprised her husband by also giving some of his game-hunting trophies prominent spots in the house.
At first they thought a “lipstick” reno would do, but with a second child on the way, it just made sense to complete all of their renovation plans at once. The walls to a former library were knocked out to create a playroom and sitting room that flows...
Interior designer Jessica Cotton Polzl and her husband Mike Polzl, a commerical real estate broker, fell in love with their Westmount-area home in 2010.