How two Vancouver expats turned their Summerhill Victorian into a shrine for Canadian art

How two Vancouver expats turned their Summerhill Victorian into a shrine for Canadian art

Until 2010, Michael Simmonds and his partner, Steve Wilson, lived in a gleaming glass Vancouver condo. When Steve had to relocate to Toronto for work (he’s a partner at an accounting firm, and Michael is a vice-president at a private school), the couple sought out the opposite: a red-brick Summerhill semi built in 1890. Part of the appeal was having more walls to display their Canadian art collection, which they started building in earnest 14 years ago, around the time they met.

The ground floor has a formal front foyer and separate living and dining rooms—both adorned with swirling plaster ceilings—as well as a marble-lined kitchen:

The second level has a master bedroom, a family room and a library:

And there’s a guest bedroom and a den on the floor above. That’s a lot of rooms for two people, but Steve and Michael entertain often and delight their guests by turning every nook, including the bathroom, into an intimate gallery space:

Although the architecture is classic, the feel of the home is contemporary because of the modern photographs, paintings and sculptures, which often depict heady themes like the environment, gender norms and cultural appropriation. “One of the reasons I like collecting art so much is that it’s open,” Steve says. “The business world tends to be very hierarchical, whereas art tends to bring people together.”

The couple prefer their art to be 55 inches off the ground, optimal eye height for most. The sculpture on the Noguchi table is by Clint Neufeld, a Prairie artist who casts farm equipment in porcelain:

The table in the family room is a Mies van der Rohe design. The two large paintings by Vancouver artist Ron Terada recreate pages from the biography of the artist Jack Goldstein:

The dining room table is a repurposed Nienkamper piece, salvaged from a Bay Street office and spray-painted black:

In the guest bedroom, there’s a portrait of a man by Toronto artist Kris Knight. “He looks sad, as though he knows his beauty will fade,” Steve says. Michael jokes that the guy is probably just texting.

The white resin balloon in the kitchen is by Toronto-based artist Roula Partheniou. “I love that it has so many contradictions,” Steve says. “It’s a balloon, yet it’s solid and heavy and permanent.”