Inside a dreamy cottagecore one-bedroom in Cabbagetown
In Lauren Park’s enchanting apartment, English country cottage charm meets Victorian salon sophistication
In the 2013 romantic comedy The F Word, set in Toronto, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan jaunt through Riverdale Park, brunch at George Street Diner and meander through the streets of Cabbagetown against a backdrop of stately Victorian homes. Lauren Park, now a 27-year-old editorial assistant at Penguin Random House, first saw the movie as a high schooler in Thornhill. She was immediately drawn to the historic charm of the neighbourhood and dreamed of living there as an adult.
Park got her wish in 2021, when she and her partner, 29-year-old engineer Kevin Eriksen, were planning a move for when the lease on their Lawrence Park one-bedroom was up. Park found a listing for a $2,400-a-month Cabbagetown walk-up in a Victorian home on Facebook Marketplace. Within hours of it being posted, she got in touch to arrange a viewing.
“I knew we were going to fall in love when I saw it online, but I figured getting it would be a long shot,” she says. “I was trying not to get attached.” When they saw the fabric-covered wainscoting in the hallway and original mouldings from 1883 on the staircase in person, Park couldn’t contain her excitement. Then they lucked out: “We signed the lease on the spot,” she says.
The 700-square-foot one-bedroom, spread across two floors, is the perfect setting for Park’s dreamy cottagecore aesthetic. As a child, she would spend hours in the make-believe world of fairy tales; now she uses decor to create a fairy tale of her own. The main floor, which includes the living room and kitchen, is filled with antique furniture, gold-trimmed mirrors and plants. Cozy touches abound, such as a shelf brimming with tea paraphernalia and candles on every surface. “I like filling my space with things that feel eclectic and whimsical and bring me joy,” she says.
The pièce de résistance is an antique 1940s button-tufted couch, sourced for $30 on Facebook Marketplace. It wouldn’t fit into the apartment through the narrow staircase, so Park enlisted several friends to hoist it into the unit through the second-floor balcony. Two people lifted from the ground while two others used rope to pull it upward. “I can’t believe it actually worked,” she says.
There are nods to the couple’s beloved pair of black cats, Brutus and Mal, all over the room. The gallery wall above the couch features a 1960s needlepoint of a Fragonard painting, a letterpress print from a Victorian print shop in the UK and several nods to Park’s favourite artist, Vanessa Stockard, whose recurring cat characters—Kevin and Satan—resemble the couple’s own pets. They also have a planter shaped like a Tudor cottage that was painted by Park’s sister, who took special care to render a tiny Brutus and Mal in the window.
A massive bookshelf arranged by colour completes the picture-perfect romantic literary dreamscape. Some of Park’s favourite novels set in the 19th century include Heather O’Neill’s When We Lost Our Heads, Sara Collins’s The Confessions of Frannie Langton and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.
The enchanted fairy cottage theme continues in the kitchen. The space is rife with precious antiques, such as cast-iron trivets from the Aberfoyle Antique Market and a nearly complete Lenox Spice Village set, an antique hunter’s holy grail item that often sells for upward of $800. Park sourced hers several years ago on the cheap from Facebook Marketplace. “We got it for $50,” she says. “I don’t think the person who sold it to us had any idea how valuable it is.”
Park picked up many of her favourite possessions, like a massive Hieronymus Bosch–esque painting of Perseus saving Andromeda, on the curb outside their house. “This is the best neighbourhood for finding art and furniture,” she says. Park has also purchased many teacups and candlesticks at the Cabbagetown Festival, a giant garage sale.
The upper floor houses the couple’s attic bedroom as well as Park’s favourite room in the house: the bathroom. The entire room, including the ceiling, is covered in stone tile, giving it a medieval castle feel. The jacuzzi tub is encased in a bed of stone and resembles a wishing well. “I feel like I’m in a magical cottage in the woods when I’m taking a bath in here,” she says.
The apartment also has not one but three balconies. Next to Eriksen’s makeshift stairwell office, which Park lovingly refers to as the “Mojo Dojo Casa corner,” is a large balcony where they keep a portable bonfire for roasting marshmallows and a projector screen for outdoor movie nights. A smaller balcony off the living room looks out onto the street, and the small Juliet balcony off the kitchen is the perfect place for growing herbs.
Despite the apartment’s many charms, there is one major downside: its narrow, vertiginously steep stairs. “At our parties, at least one person always falls and nearly breaks their neck,” she says. “There haven’t been any serious injuries yet, but we do go down the stairs sideways.”
Eriksen says the period decor elements create a homey atmosphere. “I’m a minimalist. If it weren’t for Lauren, I would be living in a white room with a table on the floor. We have some give and take to make it all happen, but she really brings the space together and makes it a warm, happy place to be.”
“I love to romanticize life at every opportunity,” Park says. Luckily, living in an apartment that resembles the love child of an English country cottage and a Victorian salon makes it easy. “We’re never moving,” she says.