Photography by Ema Peter Photography
We chatted with Canada-born designer Gillian Segal on how she maintained the classic character of this century-old home while still achieving a contemporary feel through primary colors and bold shapes.
Our client, a family of four, engaged us to assist with a large-scale renovation and the furnishing of their Toronto home. They came to us with an incredible project team assembled by Brian O'Brian (architect) and The Fifth Wall (general contractor). Despite the long-distance relationship and pandemic interruptions, this project was an incredibly collaborative relationship between our studio, architect, the client and other project consultants.
We were so fortunate to have a client who was daring and trusting, and she came to us with the mandate of wanting to create something unique. At the start of the project, she mailed us poster board with clippings of her favorite inspiration (an OG moodboard!) and it was filled with primary colors and bold shapes and art deco and edgy references. We were all drawn to the warmth of red for this home and looked for ways to incorporate this while still maintaining an intimate and relaxed feel.
The architectural updates were driven by the immensely talented, Brian O'Brian who had a strong vision for the project and was also very open and collaborative to work with. One of my favorite details is the contemporary wainscotting detailing on the main floor. It's a deep rich stain in a flat veneer that follows the curves of the home and created such a warm, dramatic effect. We sprinkled traditional details throughout the rest of the home like checkerboard floors, bullnose edging and trims and skirting on the upholstery, juxtaposed with contemporary art and collectible pieces.
The original color inspiration for the kitchen color actually came from looking at earthy, red-hued zellige tiles - and the client immediately bought into our red kitchen concept. As the design developed and progressed, we fell in love with Farrow & Ball's Picture Gallery Red for the millwork and decided to pair it with a more neutral zellige tile for a restful moment that was still rich with texture.
The unlacquered brass fixtures were also a key element to create warmth and a lived-in, approachable feel with the beautiful patina that develops over time. The home was over 100 years old, so our goal was to achieve a contemporary feel that maintained a sense of history.
With two young children living here, we wanted everything to be equally functional as it is beautiful. Material selection was key in achieving this. With textiles, we opted for high performance fabrics (mohair, stain treated fabrics) and with stone selection we used natural materials that we knew would be more forgiving (like the quartzite in the kitchen which is both extremely hard wearing with the amount of movement in the stone).
In this project, as with most of our work, we mixed and married a large variety of finishes. I don't like things to be overly matching and think there is an art to be able to mix things that "shouldn't go" together but somehow just work. As a homeowner or guest, I think the variety is nice to allow each space to develop its own personality.
We were focused on selecting materials that were natural or handmade, but felt unexpected. We created unconventional marble pairings, like the checkerboard installation in the foyer and marble stripe in the guest bath. When we weren't using stone, we focus on materials that had a more handmade quality - natural materials and handmade things always feel timeless to me.
Love this space? Get the look with the Ann Sacks Checkerboard collection.