April 15, 2024

“Investing in the comforts of home”

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At home, some people let the breadcrumbs fall wherever they may land; others can’t stand it if a painting is off-kilter.

Sacha Grierson falls into the latter group, says Elana Safronsky, a close friend of her detail-oriented client and the brainchild behind the full-service firm Emme Design.

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As someone who sweats the small stuff, Grierson’s decision to enlist Safronsky for a renovation is understandable. When she bought her 1,300-square-foot post-war semi in midtown Toronto in 2009 it was perfectly fine for her and her daughter Lola Flanery, who today is 18 and an actor.

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Grierson had done a light renovation but over time the house, with its basic red brick and brown-shingled exterior, started to grate.

Dressed in cotton and velvet, the banquette’s merlot and wood tones pop in the light-coloured interior. “With white, you need spikes,” says designer Elana Safronsky. Photo by Per Kristiansen photograph

“It’s an ordinary house, but Sacha is not ordinary. She’s particular,” says Safronsky. “Her house was always meticulous. There was nothing wrong with it but it didn’t delight her,” she says, adding, “she’s got a lot of style and a visual appetite but she is a homebody, so she needed a home that gave her that same inspiration that her clothes do.”

Pre-renovation the front door opened to a typical bowling-alley layout, with a living area up front followed by a kitchen with cabinets lining one side of a wall and a central island.

The friends discussed an addition, but the plan and even the drawings were scrapped.

Living room
CB2 daybeds, a marble table and antique sconces punch up the living room. A slim custom closet hides outdoor gear in the adjoining foyer. Photo by Per Kristiansen photograph

“A lot of people believe that when they embark on a large reno and spend money, they have to add square footage to ensure resale value,” says Safronsky. “They are very afraid in just investing in the comforts of the home.”

What if instead, says Safronsky, one were to mull over every detail “to invest in dream finishes to create visual romance,” so every corner is perfect?

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“What ensued,” says Safronsky, “is a true loving renovation.”

Alongside Fabio Quattrociocchi of Lindale Construction, Safronsky made significant changes to the house to improve its liveability. She raised the ceiling in the principal bedroom and added built-ins; popped on a Juliet balcony off Lola’s room to make it special; enlarged and redid the ensuite; created a basement living zone; reconfigured the kitchen to create a square so it felt more intentional and revamped the exterior with stucco and landscaping in the entertainer’s dream of a yard.

White marble and honey onyx flooring, a recovered antique chair and a rattan-fronted vanity are a wild mix in the bathroom. Photo by Per Kristiansen photograph

“The kitchen’s framed cabinetry communicates a time-honoured style,” says Safronsky. Along with the walls, they’re hand-painted in Pure & Original’s chalk paint for a subtle something-something so they don’t feel flat.

Quartzite, a natural stone and one of Safronsky’s go-to materials, was used for the backsplash and countertop. “It has a marble feel but it’s less expensive and it doesn’t stain as easily,” she says noting the stone’s gorgeous linear pattern that resembles travertine.

Since Grierson is a sucker for styling, Safronsky brought in romantic details in the kitchen, as she describes them. The shelving satisfies a stylish person’s propensity to refresh the vignettes. Heirlooms — such as paintings and furniture from Grierson’s South African background — are captivating talking points in the home, loading it with personality. There’s a dresser in a dining room, giant wooden beads on a wall in the foyer.

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By raising the ceiling, Safronsky was able to add an interesting upper display area in the principal bedroom. Photo by Per Kristiansen photograph

An ingenious move is the banquette. Instead of plunking a table in the centre of the dining room, Safronsky used a pane of glass to divide the area. “The glass keeps some of the smells out, creates a membrane between dining and cooking, and adds visual interest,” she says.

Upstairs, the principal bathroom is a study in planning and patience. “We were on a budget and we wanted it to be extraordinary,” says Safronsky, who spent an inordinate amount of time on her phone surfing products. The flooring, for instance, features white marble and honey onyx from China that Safronsky custom-designed. “It was a nightmare but it was a fraction of the cost. I did it for $3,200.”

The front and back exterior, meanwhile, got Safronskied with punchy black mullioned windows that pop against the white stucco. To escape that gaudy stucco look, and instead get a Dutch or French feel, the trick, says the designer, is to make sure the windows are set in and don’t have moulding. “No keystones!” she says.

“This is an exercise in how to make a ubiquitous Toronto post-war semi special,” says Safronsky. “Every decision was made to bring charm to limited confines.”

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