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Name: Roanna Cochrane (she/her) Simon Phillips (he/him) and our daughter
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 713 square feet
Type of Home: Converted loft
Years lived in: 5 years old
As two actors, my husband Simon and I work from home a lot so it was important for the space to be both multi-functional and in a style that inspired creativity. When we first viewed this turn-of-the-century loft, it was pretty run down with lime green walls in the kitchen, a horribly shabby curtain dividing the bedroom from the living room, and no light fixtures to speak of. It was all very uninspiring, to say the least. We knew the bones of the building had loads of character with exposed red brick walls, an original hardwood ceiling, and gorgeous beams. But the challenge was figuring out how to make a 700-square-foot open plan into a multifunctional space without putting up drywall and creating separate rooms.
It was all about how we reconfigured the floor plan. When we bought the loft, the bedroom was in the best area of the home — the corner of the unit that gets the most light, privacy, and the best city views. The original kitchen was tucked into a windowless area with a ceiling mounted furnace attached directly above the stove! Not exactly the kind of noise you want humming above your heads as you mix your pre-dinner cocktails. So we hired our friend, Matthew Chong from Greenroom Design Inc., to help us.
The catalyst for our final design choice was when we moved that ceiling mounted monstrosity from the kitchen to the entryway, so you bypass it on entering the unit and never really see it. At that point, Simon turned to me and said, “Hey, why don’t we swap the kitchen and our bedroom around?” It made so much sense now that we’d opened up the space above our heads and could see the room in a completely different light. This also allowed for us to use the corner of the unit with wall-to-wall exposed brick and all that character as our main entertaining space, which also made sense as that’s really where you want to sit with your family and friends to eat and drink and enjoy the city skyline.
When you work from home, like we do, it is important to be able to feel like each room is a different space. Directional lighting and dimmers helped this, rugs defined spaces such as the living room. I truly believe that your home should be an extension of your style, and now with more people working from home than ever before, it needs to also be multifunctional and certainly should be inspiring. You also need to design your home with room to grow. We certainly found that to be the case.
Interestingly, this renovation influenced us in more ways than one. It kickstarted my husband’s passion to pursue a new career in real estate and he is now working with Dream Homes Vancouver Island Group. As for me, I am in the thick of renovating our new mid-century courtyard home in a Palm Springs style. Who knew that buying a tired looking condo would change the trajectory of our lives forever?
My Style: Modern vintage. Clean lines but with a quirk! I like to give a nod to the era that the property was built but make it functional for the modern day.
Inspiration: The true artist’s loft. Living, working and playing in an open planned space that inspires! I found Pinterest to be so helpful for inspiration and helping me to think outside the box.
Favorite Element: One favorite? That’s hard! Hmm, it has to be the abundant red brick walls that cover half of the loft. They are so warm and inviting and tell such a story. It was important to let them take center stage in the design. As a Brit who has moved to Canada, finding a home that had history and character was important to me. This neighborhood, and very building that was once a working factory, was bursting it!
Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge was the layout. The original layout had the bedroom in the focal point of the loft with a hospital style curtain cutting off the space and the kitchen tucked into the corner with a loud, exposed furnace above. Once we relocated the furnace and swapped the bedroom for the new kitchen, everything made sense. Suddenly the new kitchen was in the brightest, most social part of the house with views of the Toronto city skyline. A kitchen is the heart of the home so it needed to be in the prime spot. I had all these ideas to go with retro colored cabinets or a bold backsplash but as we lived in it, we felt it was important to let the natural features speak — the brick and beam. We couldn’t avoid the large industrial air ducts, so we lent into it and made the metallics our feature colors.
Proudest DIY: I took a plain IKEA mirror and made it into a gold leaf, vintage looking mirror. It turns out that the worse you are at applying gold leaf evenly, the better! Who knew?! It looks so authentic and I feel so proud when I see it. We also made curtain rods and hand rails out of industrial pipe and spray painted them matte black to tie in with the sprinkler pipes in our loft.
Biggest Indulgence: I’d say our two biggest spurges were the countertops and the floors. We went for a waterfall edge on an enormous island and it really makes the kitchen feel like a chic bar. We really felt it was worth it in the end as we’d sit at our bar and drink cocktails overlooking the Toronto skyline! It looks so classy and is also easy to clean. When we bought the loft, the floors were made of gypcrete and the sound traveled between the units a lot. We wanted to create some privacy, and so we put soundproofing between the floors. Both sound-wise and visually, it was so worthwhile. And why buy a loft if you can’t entertain in it?
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? As actors, we used our space to self tape from home so we wanted to keep the walls neutral to tape against and the abundant light from our big loft windows was perfect for this. During the pandemic, we also used our closet as a sound studio and even recorded characters from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla from our loft!
What are you favorite products you have bought for you home, and why? My cheapest and most effective item was our enormous frameless gym mirror that opens up the space like nothing else! It makes our loft feel double the size, like a window to another room. It was also a great mirror for home workouts and the occasional group selfie!
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: In a small space, you’ve gotta be creative. For us, we had the ceiling height but not the square footage so we went up!
And finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Look on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for secondhand gems of the exact piece you would have bought full price! It’ll save you money and you’ll also be good to the environment at the same time. win win. Secondly, be bold and be brave with your design choices. You’re the one that gets to live in it! And finally, in my opinion, the sooner you get the reno done, the longer you can enjoy living in the space. So if you’re thinking about doing it this year or next year or maybe the year after, get it done, rip off that plaster and enjoy your home for that much longer!
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.