Style at Home
Designer Emily Griffin knocks the blah off a new-build condo with fun winks of colour and playful patterns.
Designer Emily Griffin knocks the blah off a new-build with playful patterns and fun winks of colour.
many empty nesters, Vicki Rusen and her husband downsized to a condo, actually two units they joined together to create a 1,700-square-foot abode in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood. And like many new owners, they called a designer for help. “Vicki liked how we use colour,” says Emily. “Her previous home was traditional so she wanted this space to feel young, fun and colourful.” Emily’s floor plan tweaks – converting one of the three bedrooms into a den and adding a powder room – netted a smart layout and inspired the designer’s vision. “I wanted the condo to feel like a well lived-in house with warmth and soul.” The results yield just that, as well as plenty of design ideas.
The kitchen’s gorgeous mottled backsplash lends an artisanal vibe to the practical space. “The tiles were such a great find – Vicki and I both fell in love with them,” says Emily. “They’re very large [40 by 40 inches] and porcelain, so not too expensive. They feel almost like a work of art, and the blue shades helped inform colour choices throughout the condo.”
DESIGN, Emily Griffin, Emily Griffin Design. CABINETRY, ISLAND, Aya Kitchens. Custom RANGE HOOD, Grown Design. Island STOOLS, RUNNER, Snob. Cabinetry HARDWARE, Upper Canada Hardware. COUNTERTOPS, Eternal Calacatta Gold Polished, Silestone. White subway tile BACKSPLASH, Creekside Tile. Thomas O’Brien PENDANT LIGHTS, Island BOWL, Elte.
Keep It Simple
“The condo’s building process offered a restricted choice of cabinet profiles so I went with the simplest one: a flat white panel front,” says Emily. “I then let the tiles, hardware and lighting, things that I could control, bring the kitchen to life.” She designed the range hood to reflect the cabinetry’s silhouette and chose wood stools to further the warm tonal palette of the oak floors. She also added the transom window to let light into the otherwise window-less bedroom behind.
“The dining room has a modern Saarinen-style table paired with elegant Gubi chairs, an eclectic light fixture and a gilded mirror. Overall, they feel good together and look ‘collected’ rather than bought,” says Emily. The chairs’ teal velvet alludes to the kitchen’s blue hues, and the playful Italian-glass chandelier is a reminder to source resourcefully: it had been in storage for years in the garage of Vicki’s hair stylist.
“Because this is an open space, I didn’t want the kitchen to look too ‘kitcheny.’ It had to feel special.”
“There are so many ways to approach design. I don’t tend to decorate with any set rules.”
Go Beyond Neutral
Emily and Vicki both wanted neutral sofas for the living room but decided to push the envelope a bit. “Cream, beige and grey felt too safe and not interesting enough,” says Emily, “so we landed on blush which I think is a beautiful neutral. We then pulled in colours and patterns in an array of pinks, blues and wheats. It’s very soothing without being boring.” The painting is from renowned Winnipeg artist Michael J. Kuczer.
Make a Statement
The fireplace facade, surprisingly, remained plain old white for a long time. “We debated a lot about what to do with it, as it was screaming for something unexpected,” says the designer. “We landed on this gorgeous Martha Sturdy sculpture and painted the bump-out dark teal green to let the piece really pop.” The owners’ vintage Martha Sturdy lamps (on console table, rear wall) flesh out the artistic effect.
FIREPLACE PAINT, Salamander 2050-10, Benjamin Moore. ART by Michael J. Kuczer, Snob. SOFAS, Lee Industries. SOFA FABRIC, Lillian August Collection from Hickory White, Elte. CUSHIONS, Memo Showroom. Custom COFFEE TABLE, Emily Griffin Design. Coffee table FABRICATOR, Apa Furniture. RUG, Elte Mrkt. Sophie Cook VASES (on console table), Hollace Cluny. CANDLESTICKS, Mary Ratcliffe Studio. Drapery FABRIC, Threadcount.
“I love transitional spaces, and design them as carefully as I design principal rooms.”
Be Open to Change
Sometimes the best vignettes, like this one outside the primary bedroom, happen unexpectedly. “These were Vicki’s old stools – think pedestrian beige with nail-head details – that I painted and re-upholstered for use as extra seating around the condo. But when we hung the art here, the stools just looked so good beneath it that we ended up keeping them there.”
STOOL LEG PAINT, Gentleman’s Gray 2062-20, Benjamin Moore. Stool FABRIC, Memo Showroom. Stool UPHOLSTERING, EuroCraft Restoration. Michael J. Kuczer ARTWORK, Snob. ANTIQUE DOOR, The Door Store.
Break the Mould
“The den is a slight departure from the rest of the condo’s palette. I went moodier with rust accents and copper-toned grasscloth so it feels cozy and warm – almost like a winter room,” says Emily. The sofa converts to a pull-out for overnight guests and the sconces act as reading lights. To amp up the natural light in this windowless room, Emily expanded the entryway and added antique doors that close for privacy. “An ottoman, versus a coffee table, lets you put your feet up comfortably, and there are lots of pillows for cocooning and small drinks tables that can be moved easily.”
Provincial Shangrila GRASSCLOTH, Primetime Paint & Paper. SOFA BED, Montauk Sofa. CUSHIONS, Memo Fabrics. Dark wood SIDE TABLE, PENDANT LIGHT, Snob. Custom OTTOMAN, Emily Griffin Design. OTTOMAN UPHOLSTERY, John and Chris Interiors. ED Ellen Degeneres SCONCES, Shades of Light. PHOTOGRAPH, by Jesse Louttit, through artist. Photograph FRAMING, Dimensions Gallery. Vintage DOORS, The Door Store.
Go for It!
“When I first showed Vicki the combination of the bedroom wallpaper with the headboard fabric, she wondered how in heaven the two would work together, but she trusted me. Once we committed to that pattern play, we couldn’t wimp out on the rest of the choices.” The lamps pop against the grasscloth, and the duvet cover at the end of the bed continues the boldness. “It pushes the room that little bit more forward and makes it sing.”
Seema Krish Juhu Indigo grasscloth WALLPAPER, Y & Co. BEDSIDE TABLE, Barbara Barry. TABLE LAMP, Decorum Decorative Finds. HEADBOARD FABRIC, Christoper Farr, Kravet. Wave print BEDDING, Imli Lifestyle. RUG, Elte.
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“I found the wallpaper and then the headboard fabric, and thought, this will be really cool.”