Down­siz­ing is spe­cial kind of move

Beau­ti­ful reno ends quest for big­ger house

Grand Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - At home with de­signer Jessica Cot­ton Polzl

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.

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