Junk in her trunk

The Prince George Citizen - The Citizen - Real Estate Weekly - - Real Estate -

Frilling up a room with re­pur­posed items isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a home fash­ion faux pas. For some, like in­te­rior de­signer Michelle Mawby, the di­vid­ing line separat­ing a rar­ity from or­di­nary rub­bish can be blurry.

“But it has to work for the space and the home­owner’s tastes,” in­sists the prin­ci­pal de­signer and founder of Lu­cid In­te­rior De­sign in Toronto. “I like to make sure the per­son­al­ity of my client comes out in their home-and have a bit of fun with it, too. I don’t be­lieve in stuffy homes that aren’t liv­able.”

That zeal for liv­abil­ity looms large in Lu­cid’s home makeovers from Rosedale to For­est Hill, from Led­bury Park to Yorkville. Now the term “free-cycling” (pass­ing on, for free, an un­wanted item to some­one who needs that item) has also en­tered her lex­i­con.

When asked to join a team of garbage scroungers, builders and de­sign pro­fes­sion­als in the task of mor­ph­ing an old 1,600-square­foot in­dus­trial build­ing with 17foot ceil­ings into a ritzy and func­tional loft, us­ing ma­te­ri­als sourced only from the trash, for Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s Junk Raiders, Ms. Mawby agreed without hes­i­ta­tion. It’s the very chal­lenge she thrives on.

“I con­sider my­self the orig­i­nal junk raider,” she smiles, eas­ing grace­fully on to her favourite plush che­nille sofa in her liv­ing room. “In the world of de­sign­ing, it’s com­mon to rip out and dis­card per­fectly good in­te­ri­ors to make way for new in­te­ri­ors. The idea of cre­at­ing an amaz­ing liv­ing space out of good stuff that’s been junked in­trigued me.”

Though the green ex­per­i­ment was lim­ited to a bud­get of $5,000 (quoted at $300,000 if done con­ven­tion­ally), the prospect of shap­ing such a spe­cial space ig­nited Ms. Mawby’s in­ge­nu­ity. She turned re­claimed ma­te­ri­als into fur­ni­ture, con­verted church pews into a din­ing room ta­ble, a baby grand pi­ano cover into a cof­fee ta­ble and a car grill into a kitchen is­land.

By find­ing hid­den gems, trans- form­ing fur­ni­ture and ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage, Ms. Mawby’s work de­liv­ers a touch of glam with unique pieces that can­not be repli­cated, giv­ing her high-end clients the ex­clu­siv­ity they de­sire.

This flair for freecy­cling and pen­chant for push­ing the de­sign en­ve­lope also trade­marks her own home, lo­cated in an up­scale mid­town neigh­bour­hood.

The three-storey, 3,400-sq. ft. cen­tury house where she lives with her hus­band, Scott Wam­bolt, a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­ec­u­tive, and Holly, their 14-year-old tabby, is also the head­quar­ters for Lu­cid In­te­rior De­sign.

Cho­sen for its cen­tral lo­ca­tion, nine-foot ceil­ings and po­ten­tial, Ms. Mawby says that a ma­jor reno was a must from the mo­ment the deed was signed. On the out­side, the ex­te­rior looked stark, with red brick and plain white trim, and as it was taller and fur­ther for­ward than the sur­round­ing struc­tures, the house ap­peared to “bulge” to­ward the street. To soften that jut, a rounded ve­randa was added and asym­met­ric flag­stones for front pad car park­ing. New cedar shakes were ap­plied to the roof, and the win­dows’ wood frames were painted dark grey for a sense of rus­tic el­e­gance.

On the main floor in­side, boxy Vic­to­rian rooms re­quired de­mo­li­tion. “We tore down walls for an open kitchen con­nected to the fam­ily/liv­ing room and for­mal din­ing room,” Ms. Mawby says.

Some ex­quis­ite 100-year-old leaded win­dows had to be taken out, but one of them now hangs above the desk in the kitchen. Nearby, an ar­chaic iron book press, re­sem­bling a metal­lic sculp­ture, oc­cu­pies a nook. Ms. Mawby de­lights in im­pro­vis­ing art­work from whim­si­cal bric-a-brac and ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails.

A mess of doors lead­ing from the front hall were purged and an ob­tru­sive stair­case re­lo­cated away from the foyer to free up the en­trance­way for a more wel­com­ing feel. A ma­hogany ar­moire for hats and coats -from Hol­land where Ms. Mawby lived for a year - stands tall in the vestibule. At its sides, are dec­o­ra­tive teak chairs sculpted by a Shang­hai de­signer.

Mid­way down the land­ing to the base­ment, Ms. Mawby has de­signed a win­some pow­der room fit for a celebrity, com­plete with leather wall­pa­per, an 8x4-foot mir­ror set in a gold-leaf frame, chocolate-and­cream mar­ble floors and a chan­de­lier trimmed with strands of red crys­tals. “I love the way they re­flect in the mir­ror,” Ms. Mawby says.

Her favourite room? The liv­ing/fam­ily room han­gout, she an­swers, be­cause of its oak floors stained to a bur­nished ebony, and its in­trigu­ing mix of tex­tures and fur­ni­ture: leather, che­nille, silk, cash­mere; there’s a con­tem­po­rary plush sofa loaded with pil­lows, mid-cen­tury mod­ern chairs and glass ta­bles and one-off finds. “It’s grand and comfortable with full­wall French doors looking out to the gar­den,” she says. “They let a beau­ti­ful qual­ity of light in.”

Her home de­sign is in­spired, she ex­plains, pri­mar­ily by an en­chant­ing his­toric flat with tow­er­ing French doors, high ceil­ings and big rooms in Lon­don, Eng­land, where she lived for two years. The con- cept of mix­ing old and new in an open-con­cept floor plan sprang from her Am­s­ter­dam dwelling - a re­fur­bished 1635 ware­house.

Born and raised in Rich­mond, Ms. Mawby at­tended Fresno Pa­cific Uni­ver­sity in Cal­i­for­nia, ma­jor­ing in English and the­atre arts. It was here that she be­came hooked on set de­sign. She later came to Toronto, at­tend­ing the In­ter­na­tional Academy of De­sign and even­tu­ally winning an ARIDO stu­dent award in 1999.

When she ap­proaches a ren­o­va­tion or re­mod­elling project now, Ms. Mawby ad­heres to two triedand-true prin­ci­ples: the de­fin­i­tive “form fol­lows func­tion” de­sign doc­trine; and the idea that “one man’s junk is an­other man’s trea­sure.”

But con­di­tion is im­por­tant when se­lect­ing reused pieces, she ad­vises. Aes­thet­ics, colour, size and ma­te­ri­als also mat­ter. “When scour­ing junk you can do won­ders from stuff found in dump­sters and at trans­fer sta­tions,” she says. “Fig­ur­ing out how to in­cor­po­rate found items pro­duces a sat­is­fy­ing ‘Eureka!’ ex­pe­ri­ence.”

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