When designer Jenn Hannotte went looking for an apartment to rent for herself and her two daughters, she lucked out. The first place she saw, a beautiful old house in Toronto’s trendy Roncesvalles neighbourhood, ticked all her boxes. It had all its original trim, hardwood floors and plenty of wide windows. The only catch: since she was renting, Jenn couldn’t do any major renovations. That meant that features she wasn’t so thrilled about – such as the hulking brick fireplace in the living room – would have to stay. As a designer, Jenn wasn’t phased by the challenge. By painting the walls in dramatic hues of purple and decorating the space with a playful mix of vintage treasures and modern pieces, Jenn transformed her rental into a warm, eclectic space fit for her family.
Oh. My. Aubergine.
The dining room is painted in a rich eggplant. Jenn figured that, since the space is awash in light, she had the freedom to opt for a deeper shade. The colour is contrasted by lighter pieces, like the white paper Akari lantern above the dining room table. Jenn was tired of some of the artwork she had, so she flipped the frames around, leaned them against the wall and strung some leftover blue tassels from her daughter’s birthday party overtop. And voila! – new art.
Jenn likes to invest in pieces she’ll keep for years, and these white dining room chairs were one of her very first Craigslist finds in Toronto. The cheeky tasseled curtains were bought from Urban Outfitters. The vintage locker, with its beautifully weathered doors, was found at Smash Salvage in the Junction.
Here’s a closer look at the locker. Jenn uses it to store pretty much anything, from fabric samples and shoes to her kids’ craft supplies.
Little vignettes can be found throughout Jenn’s house. These geodes were a gift from a friend, and a vase from Roncesvalles flower shop Willem and Jools is used to hold a game of pick-up sticks. The objects sit atop a vintage brass plate from Value Village.
Jenn’s two daughters, 8-year-old Beatrix and 13-year-old Willa, share a bedroom. Despite the age disparity, they’ve found a way to make their shared space jive. Willa, a budding musician, has space for her keyboard and guitar, and Beatrix posts her artwork on the walls. The sisters have matching marble-printed bedspreads from IKEA. The stylish bunk bed is from Oeuf.
Room to Play
Willa can often be found strumming away on her acoustic guitar in this vintage blue chair, which sits atop a colourful IKEA rug.
Beatrix treats the top bunk like her own gallery. She’s pinned a drawing of an elephant above her bed and she sleeps beneath a hand-made mobile. Much like her mother, she plays around with creating little vignettes on her shelf.
Jenn’s baba collected Archie comics and passed them down to her sister, who later passed them on to Willa and Beatrix. The family collection continues to grow.
Walking on Sunshine
Here’s a closer look at the graphic design of the IKEA carpet.
Calm and Quiet
Unlike the rest of the house, Jenn’s bedroom is minimal. She admits that the room was the last that she designed, and she prefers a peaceful, sparse space to unwind.
Pocketful of Rocks
Beside the bed, Jenn assembled this vignette, which includes artwork from her friend Shauna Eve and a gold lamp from Target. The little stones are from Jenn’s boyfriend, who often has his pockets filled with rocks from his daughter’s rock collection.
The house is full of pieces that tell stories. Jenn has had this weathered side table for as long as she can remember, and the antique mirror was salvaged from a dumpster. Beside the bed, Jenn keeps a journal from Anthropologie.
Pink and Purple
The kitchen is from the 1960s, and Jenn wasn’t in a position to do anything but paint the space. For the lower cabinets, she opted for the same purple as the living room, while the upper cabinets are a lighter shade of pink called “Pinky Swear” from Benjamin Moore. For the window trim, she went black to highlight the windows and bring out the countertops, which are speckled in black.
Wrapped in Red
The bold red of these Christmas berries is a vibrant contrast to the kitchen’s purple and pink. For the cabinets, Jenn replaced the hardware with crystal knobs from Anthropologie.
Grandma Knows Best
Opting for a pink and purple kitchen might seem like a bold move for some, but Jenn says she’s still been able to include other rich colours – seen here in the green plants and red berries. She aptly described the approach as “more everything.” A rose-printed container from Jenn’s late grandmother holds her kitchen utensils. Beatrix has personalized the kitchen with some of her toy animals, tucked along the windowsill.
This simple white table is the family’s landing strip, and notices from school and artwork are pinned to the board on the wall. When they first moved in, Jenn and the girls made a point to measure their heights on the door frame.
Design by Framing
When Jenn designs a space, she thinks about how it’s seen from the doorway. This way, she can compose a room based on the angle it’s viewed. Here, she’s thought about how her bedroom would be seen from the kitchen, and included a dyed sheepskin on the floor to pull in the purple tones.
Odds and Ends
The mantle on the fireplace is a non-traditional collection of unique pieces that Jenn loves. The animal skull was found on her parents’ Saskatchewan farm by her daughters and the vase on the right is a wacky second-hand find – or, as Jenn put it, “Someone went a little crazy in their ceramic class.” The picture in the centre of two women placing potatoes in a sack was picked up from Queen Antiques, and Jenn was struck by the beautiful gold bamboo frame.
On the opposite end of the living room, Jenn has leaned a mirror to make the space seem even longer. The vintage teak secretary handily folds up to become a set of drawers, and it’s paired with a green Eames office chair. Jenn has her own office, so this corner is usually commandeered by Willa.
The Cadillac of Couches
Jenn wanted the biggest couch possible, and she found this cozy behemoth from CB2. It was designed as a L-couch, but she opted to place them side by side to create an 11-foot long crash pad that’s as deep as a twin bed. Despite its size, the couch is hardly the centre of attention, thanks to the way Jenn combined colours (purple walls, pink curtains, the olive green chair) and textures (the couch’s sheepskin throw, suede pillows from CB2, and metal detailing). To make the fireplace’s brick facade seem more intentional than circumstantial, Jenn included careful touches, such as the bowl on the table, to draw out the colours.
Hoping to avoid warm wood tones in the living room, Jenn settled on a white metal cabinet from IKEA for its modern industrial feel. The chair’s foot stool is a foldable camping piece with a cow hide on top. The black-and-white carpet was also an IKEA find.
Soft to the Touch
Comfort was key for the living room, and Jenn used a cozy mix of sheepskin and suede to create a soft, inviting space. The Anthropologie blanket, with its playful pom-poms and tassels, was an early inspiration for the home’s light-hearted design.
In Jenn’s design, the way disparate shapes reflect off each other is key. Here, she combines the natural lines of a vintage safari chair with the blocky graphics of the carpet.
Mix and Match
Jenn bought the one-of-a-kind rosewood safari chair off Craigslist. She liked the way it grounded the space and contrasted with the couch, while still being light enough to see through.
Where the Magic Happens
Jenn works from home, and her office – tucked in this bright sunroom – captures her design ethos. A money tree drinks up the sunlight, and a framed image of two birds in the window, purchased from Queen Antiques, was made from butterfly wings. Jenn bought the drafting desk off Craigslist and gave it a second life with a slab of marble she plucked off a West Elm coffee table.
From the doorway, you can see how Jenn laid out the room. When there’s a breeze outside, the geometric mobile gently spins above the desk, and another sheepskin offers a cozy perch for drafting.
Personal pieces are placed along the windowsill, including a spiral “love meter” toy filled with mercury that Jenn played with as a kid, and two statuettes of elephants that were a Christmas gift from her father as a reminder of the time their family lived in India.