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The fireplace in the lobby at the Kimpton Saint George Hotel is framed in a massive wooden archway, and is both a hangout zone and a source of gentle heat. A bench of blue marble stretches along the front of it, providing recessed seating on both ends so guests can tuck themselves into pillow-stuffed nooks with their cocktails.
One Toronto couple — professionals in the building industry, with four kids under the age of 10 — liked the fireplace so much they tracked down the designers at Mason Studio.
The homeowners wanted to carry the contemporary aesthetic, and the hotel’s vibe in general, into their 7,000-square-foot house in the Casa Loma area. An architect had done the layout during a gut renovation but integral elements, from a lighting plan to the finishes and decor, were still needed to complete the design-forward project.
“They loved the idea of pulling that hotel feature directly into their home,” says Stanley Sun, designer and co-founder with Ashley Rumsey of Mason Studio. “This house was very much about creating a space for family but at the same time not compromising their love of design.”
For the renovation, Sun adopted “a human-centered approach,” a collaborative and practical philosophy, he says, that considers how people really live. Rarely used formal family rooms are eschewed, making way for cohesive and sensible spaces.
“It’s a busy house, with kids running around. They’re a big part of the activity,” says Sun. “So we integrated an office — or homework space — into the kitchen. From day to day, the kids feel connected.”
They can eat snacks sitting on stools by the island, then scoot into the office tucked behind a pocket door in the kitchen, where they can work on a book report or surf the internet in peace.
The kitchen’s other pocket door — also designed for function — leads to a dramatic second kitchen, laden in wavy marble. Meant for a mess, the couple can close off the second kitchen, which is connected to the dining room, to hide a disorderly countertop during a party or for less-chaotic sightlines on the day to day.
“We programmed it so there are public and private areas within the home,” explains Sun. “The homeowners have business meetings at home, so we wanted to make sure there was a space that felt [contained].”
Sun points out that the heavily windowed home is on a large lot but still well in view of neighbours. For that reason, the design team established smart sightlines. “The [homeowners] had to feel as though they’re not on display.
“The living room and dining area are in the front of the house, and more public, like a hotel lobby might be, and the kitchen/ family room is separated,” says Sun. “It’s unlike open-concept design trends of the past few decades where everything was on view,” he says.
Sun’s human-centered approach extends to the laundry room. It isn’t stuck in a dreary basement, but on the second floor with the bedrooms. “It’s joyful, with natural light and nice finishes,” says Sun of the spacious room that has radiant heating. “We wanted to make a utility space more than just utility.”
Likewise the lighting plan was designed to be useful yet alluring. Stippling a ceiling with spotlights is the typical move but is often glaring, and uniform, if that’s the only source of light in the room. Here, layered lighting makes for dynamic living quarters: in the main bedroom, kitchen and elsewhere, gentle cove lighting washes over surfaces and “glows like the moon. It’s ambient and not harsh,” says Sun. Subdued overhead lighting installed in the media unit — which has white oak slats that can be drawn to hide the television from view — doesn’t overwhelm the room during the daytime but makes it feel warm at night. (There’s uplighting and spotlights, too.)
“We considered how to use the house day and night to create variability and ambience,” Sun notes.
Pattern and texture are used to similar effect and arise from unlikely sources: the finishes themselves rather than fabric or artwork. Herringbone floors recall those found in Parisian Haussmann-style apartments. The marble, especially, is a knockout. In the main bathroom a monolithic marble double-sink vanity is a showpiece.
And that hotel fireplace the couple liked so much? “The finishes are slightly different,” says Sun of the riff on the Kimpton’s version. Its residential counterpart is fresher and lighter, designed in white Calacatta marble and a more generous amount of pale oak.
And they never have to think about checkout.