Coastal-style furnishings and several coats of white paint soften a storied home’s industrial bones
If you found a place that inspired you every time you walked in the door, chances are you’d want to hold on to it and ensure it passes into good hands. Such was the case with a loft in the Dovercourt Park neighbourhood, though to call it a mere loft undersells its many assets – 204 square metres on three levels, four-metre-high original beam ceilings, banks of skylights, a private garden, even a classic projector screen for film nights.
“The light is just spectacular and there’s such a wow factor every time you walk up the stairs,” says the owner, filmmaker and creative director Lisa Mann, who bought the home two years ago from a friend. One of 10 units converted in a former felt factory in 1981 – the first legal loft conversion in Toronto – it’s true California-style, meaning the sleeping quarters are on the main level and the living spaces are upstairs. Throughout, there are great volumes of space: the master suite is luxuriously large; the open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting area is tailor-made for parties; and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the narrow studio on the third floor make it feel almost like an observatory.
Mann had loved this space for years and had asked her friend to let her know if ever she was thinking of selling. When that moment came, Mann wasn’t yet ready to leave her own home in Brockton Village (she’s still mid-reno), but couldn’t let the opportunity pass and decided to find renters. Not just any tenants, however. Mann wanted people who’d cherish it as much as she did and appreciate its design history, such as the two-tone wooden bookcases created by designer Arriz Hassam in the late ’90s. As soon as she met Elizabeth Dyer and Peter Smith, two creative entrepreneurs, she knew they were a perfect fit.
Dyer, an artist and the owner of the Summerhill boutique Advice from a Caterpillar, immediately set about crafting a relaxed west coast feel. “I wanted it to be light and airy,” she says. “Basically, we painted everything.”
The dramatic brick-red and black accent walls in the entryway, living room and bedroom disappeared under coats of Cloud White, and diaphanous sheers replaced the heavy black curtains in the bedroom. For the dining area, Smith, who runs Daneson, a small-batch toothpick company, constructed an elegantly slim table out of pickled plywood that picks up the yellow tones of Hassam’s bookcase. The comfy couch, camp-style chairs and ottomans – several of them sourced from Dyer’s shop – are similarly pale and unfussy. To lighten things even further, Dyer covered the wood-fronted fireplace in the living room with buff-coloured Tufbak, an adhesive-backed paper she often uses in window displays.
Up in the third floor studio, the chalkboard wall was also painted white, along with the ceiling, window mouldings and floor, and Smith built a narrow desk, finished with the same pickling technique. The effect is incredible; even on rainy days, the uncluttered space is suffused with light – the perfect spot for Dyer’s art studio. It’s a space that never fails to inspire.
Originally published in Issue 1, 2017 as Lofty Ideas.