Don't look now, but there's a full-size tiger guarding the backyard. Okay, look, but know you're bound to lose your sense of time staring at the rainbow prisms it throws against the ground, as its mirrored body gleams in the sunlight.
If you think that's the most interesting thing about the downtown Toronto home Powell & Bonnell's Albert Limshue designed, you're mistaken. There's something delightful—make that down-right mind-blowing—around every corner.
"This couple has five young children, and they wanted this house to be fun and entertaining for them," Limshue explained. "That was our whole approach: Make it fun."
The family wasn't afraid of color, and they had an extensive art collection, so he used that as a jumping-off point. They also loved to travel, so Limshue asked them to photos of their favorite hotels and places to visit. Everything was a riot of color and pattern, with a certain joie de vivre leaping from every image. Limshue made it his mission to capture exactly that, striking a balance between elegance and whimsy.
There's a reading nook under the stairs, so full of bold pattern (the wallpaper looks almost as if a kid sketched on the walls, albeit one with MoMA-worthy artistic skills) that it can easily transport you to Narnia. Or Hogwarts. Or Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
Near the kitchen, you'll find a long bench that seems suspended in mid-air by roughly a dozen red balloons (it's actually a custom-made design by Japanese artist Satoshi Itasaka). Look a little closer, and you'll see Limshue's own magic at play. "It's attached to the ceiling using aircraft cables, so it swings back and forth," he says. The bench framed two large windows perfectly, just opposite the kitchen.
Meanwhile, in the dining room, a chandelier by Yellow Goat Design inspired the room's otherworldly decor. "It was custom made to look like shooting stars were cascading all over the almost-black room," Limshue said. "With the pops of yellow, the navy and cream stitch carpet, and the gold on the chairs, it could look extreme, but everything's tempered by repetition—there's mustard on the chairs and the drapery—so it goes together."
Each room spans the colors of the rainbow, united by a vibrant runner, where every step is a different hue. "We did all of the rooms first, then created the stair runner, pulling a color from this room and one from that one," he said. "It's the tie that binds; you see it from all of the other rooms in the house."
As much as the color and art inspired the design, so did looking at each nook of the room with a sense of childlike wonder. Banquettes replaced standard dining chairs—"it feels like you're someplace special, like a night out at a restaurant," Limshue explained—and made use of every single alcove.
"Alcoves are like treehouses or forts—they're an escape," he said. "It's like when you were little and your parents got a new appliance, and you'd take the box and turn it into a castle. We wanted to create moments like that."
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These little hideaways made the large house feel cozier, where you could go and decompress. And those spots weren't designed solely for children. "We wanted to create experiences," Limshue added.
In the master bedroom, there's a walk-in closet worthy of Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw herself. Limshue's team installed doors to give the room a clean, sleek look, so you weren't bombarded with a wall of clothes. The homeowner's shoes were so stunning they decided to put them on display, under a glass case front and center. On the upper shelves, she shows off her handbag collection, all lit, so you can easily see them at a glance.
As fantastical as everything is, it's also practical. With five young children in the house, Limshue focused on using performance fabrics that could hold up to wear and tear. He turned to Powell & Bonnell's own line, since some have hospital-grade durability (minus the sterile patterns often associated with hospital furniture). "You could spill spaghetti sauce on them and wipe it right off," he said.
Fun design that's functional, too? Now that's inspiring.
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