How a fusty Neocolonial house got its groove back, thanks to some celebrity-endorsed wallpaper

By Iris Benaroia| Photography by Greg Pacek

When a house’s outside doesn’t match its inside, it can feel a bit off. That’s why EMME Design’s Elana Safronsky and Mia Rodak didn’t go slick with this Rosedale house’s reno. Instead, they honoured its heritage, without being too serious about it. Prior to the designers’ intervention, the 4,000-square-foot house had last been renovated in the ‘80s. Today, the targeted makeover to the kitchen, foyer, powder room and master bathroom is both charming and classic.

Here’s what the kitchen looked like before. It wasn’t horrible, but it was out of sync with the homeowners, who are in their mid-30s. Lit glass shelves made it feel like a gift shop, the colour scheme was dull and dated, and in general the kitchen had no mojo:

dated trad kitchen before

The main-floor power room, on the other hand, was horrible. Orange wallpaper, gathered balloon shades and galactic floor tiles were a bomb:

before powder

In the foyer, chandeliers and a Rococo mirror/console combo were too overwrought. It gave the impression a butler might pop out of the woodwork at any second:

foyer before

In the old master bathroom, pearlescent wallpaper, builder-basic tiles and a drab vanity fell flat. Ditto the Jacuzzi (not shown) to the left of the shower:

master before

The new kitchen (by California Kitchens) is inspired by a classic French bistro. Two-tone cabinetry, brass hardware from Lee Valley and Schoolhouse lighting gives it a timeless, vintage appeal. Eschewing upper cabinets keeps the focus on the subway tiles and gives the kitchen breathing room. The paint-dipped stools are by AllModern and the printed porcelain countertops that mimic marble are by Stone Tile.


The navy and gold rattan café chairs by Ballard Designs keep with the bistro theme. The designers added a handy pantry, making sure it was full height so it doesn’t have that awkward space at the top of the cabinet. The concealed fridge to the right fits right in.


A surplus of subway tile skirting right over the old ductwork and the unframed window gives the kitchen the look of an old-timey scullery. The apron sink and gooseneck faucet are also period appropriate:


Ooh la loo! That’s a pretty powder room. Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper, which the client saw on Pinterest, recalls still life paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. It’s gotten Gwyneth Paltrow’s seal of approval, too: last year, she put it up in her Goop pop-up shop in Chicago. The pattern plays nicely with the old-school Restoration Hardware sconce, the Deco sink and the diamond-patterned marble floors that flow out into the hallway:


The new foyer sports a simple Lucite table and octagonal mirror. All of the old-fashioned wallpaper was removed and the space was freshened with a new coat of paint:


Hits of ruby against white cut a fine figure in the updated master bathroom. Safronsky snagged the 1950s cameo oil painting from Captain’s Treasures. The pineapple pendant, also vintage, had a cord that the designers shortened so it didn’t compete with the painting. The floor is herringbone marble.


This glamourpuss of a vanity was designed by Safronsky to laud the 1950s. Modelled after dressers of the era it’s painted mint green, “a nostalgic colour that makes a statement.” Surrounding panelling conceals medicine cabinets on both sides, which are on a push mechanism. The brass and Lucite candle sconces are dazzlers:



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