Great Spaces: DIY domestic bliss

Great Spaces: DIY domestic bliss

For one artistically inclined couple, a late-night foray into on-line dating led to DIY domestic bliss

In November 2007, Chris Roberts, a painter, came home from a night at the bar “not crazy drunk, but drunk enough,” he says, and started browsing Lavalife. He quickly spotted the profile of a graphic designer named Shanan Kurtz. Feeling bold, he signed up and messaged her. Kurtz responded to Roberts’ message and, a few weeks later, invited him over on a date. She had recently purchased a home near the Gladstone Hotel. When he walked in the door, he realized he’d been there before. The property previously belonged to close friends of his, who had borrowed several of his paintings to stage it. Kurtz and Roberts soon discovered more common territory: a mutual affection for restoring second-hand furniture and collecting old glass jars. After six months of dating, he moved in.

Their home is now a colourful space full of creative projects and whimsical touches. Kurtz painstakingly hand-painted the hallway to look like wallpaper, and Roberts brought his own artwork and handyman skills, building the dining room table and a backyard studio. They have an offbeat collection of animal-themed art, including what Kurtz calls their “sad, cute donkey figurines” in the bedroom. “We think of ideas together and figure out cheap ways to do them,” Roberts says. Their most expensive piece of furniture is a $1,600 couch from Pavilion.

In 2009, they took a trip to Iceland, a country Kurtz had always dreamed of visiting, and Roberts proposed mid-hike on a mountain outside Reykjavik. They married last year, and after a second trip to Iceland, they’re expecting a baby in March.

The couple bought two spindle lamps from Urban Outfitters ($30 each) and painted them brown.

Roberts hand-routered this piece, titled Contemplation, into Baltic birchwood. It’s a replica of a how-to diagram for building a go-kart, which he found in a set of old home improvement encyclopedias.

Kurtz bought this Moorish tile-style rug from Pottery Barn, originally $800, for half-price.

The couch, their only big splurge, was $1,600 at Pavilion on Queen West.

They purchased this Hampton Bay iron and crystal chandelier at Home Depot for $150, and then painted it white.

Kurtz’s mother, who recently taught herself how to refurbish furniture, upholstered this antique chair. Kurtz picked out the fabric at MacFab on Queen East.

The ottoman was also reupholstered by Kurtz’s mom.

Roberts built these shelves with maple wood from the old garage they tore down at the back of the property.

The Tibetan prayer bowl was a wedding gift from friends, who found it at Tibet Arts and Crafts on Queen West.

The sheepskin throw is a souvenir from their first trip to Iceland.

The settee belonged to Kurtz’s late grandparents. “It had been in their apartment ever since I was little,” says Kurtz. “I hung onto it for years until I finally got up the gumption to paint and reupholster it.”

Kurtz found this portrait of an owl by Oregon-based illustrator Ryan Berkley on

This accent wall was inspired by a design Kurtz found on wallpaper The pattern she wanted was $70 per roll, so she decided to paint the walls, freehand, instead. It took her nearly four months to complete.

For the couple’s wedding, Kurtz and a friend crafted homemade decorations, including paper flower balls, one of which now hangs in the dining room.

Roberts built their dining room table using wood salvaged from a barn outside Creemore.

Kurtz is a fan of turquoise. “I find it soothing, yet lively,” she says. “I don’t like beige on my walls.” Here they used Clear Aqua by Para Paints. “We did the upstairs guest room in a bright tomato red,” she says, “so in comparison, the turquoise is pretty tame.”

The end chairs are from Of Things Past on Bridgeland Avenue; they’re upholstered in a water lotus–patterned fabric by Amy Butler, from MacFab.

The dining room wall displays a mix of personal photographs, a butter­fly specimen from eBay, prints by Marcel Dzama, and photos by Kotama Bouabane and Todd R. Forsgren purchased from the on‑line gallery 20×

Roberts built himself a studio that has heated floors and skylights.

(Images: Michael Graydon)