likes when things are just a little off. As an art school grad and card-carrying member of Toronto’s art community, she admires quirky interior design choices that make you stop and think. When Elaine and her partner, Mike, who manages the Canadian band Sloan, went shopping for a rental house to share with Mike’s kids, 14-year-old Ana and 10-year-old Rex, they wanted a space big enough to suit their needs, but they didn’t want to sacrifice square footage for character. They fell for a house at Bloor and Dovercourt that had been a university crash pad for years. Elaine and Mike weren’t crazy about the steely blue walls or the honey oak kitchen cabinets, but they saw the place’s potential. With Elaine’s artful eye and Mike’s handyman skills, they revitalized the space into a warm abode perfect for spinning records and curling up with a good book.
This tribal-printed Lotte lamp is one of Elaine’s favourite things – so much so that, when they moved, she carried it on her lap in the moving truck. A little piece of coral, picked up on vacation, adds an organic touch to the dresser. The cactus is from Urban Gardener, a shop on Dupont.
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The vignette sits atop this stunning vintage wooden dresser, picked up for a cool $500 online.
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This woven chair was another Kijiji find, picked up as a subtle nod to the iconic wicker-studded lanai from “The Golden Girls.” A massive bird-of-paradise plant adds a pop of greenery in the corner, and the embroidered artwork on the wall was picked up in Creemore, Ontario.
Elaine wanted her bedroom to feel feminine, but not fussy. She found the massive photograph of actress Raquel Welch at a vintage shop on Queen Street West. She was drawn to it because it reminded her of the artist Anne Collier. The mushroom-shaped lamp was a HomeSense find, and Elaine wakes up to the CBC on her Tivoli radio every morning.
Here’s a closer look at the bed. The duvet cover and pillows are from Brooklinen, an online bedding company.
The bird-printed textile was picked up during a trip to Puerto Escondido, a sleepy surf town in Mexico’s Oaxaca state. They bought it from a local artisan who’s been making textiles for decades. They loved the community so much, they plan to go back this year.
Elaine admits that the tobacco-leather couch from Article has “made the rounds,” but for good reason – it’s just so comfortable. Ten-year-old Rex has claimed the cozy corner as his own. The leather couch adds to the room’s chilled-out 1970s vibe, further amplified by the sheepskin rug and massive arch lamp. The artwork is by Balint Zsako, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker.
The front window does double duty as a greenhouse, with a smattering of snake plants and other greenery. The Cesca chair was bought off Kijiji for $15.
Mike built these three shelves to store a huge collection of books. To round out the throwback theme, the credenza was picked up from Bungalow in Kensington Market.
A monstera plant, sometimes called a swiss cheese plant, adds an organic pop in the corner of the room. The plant is flanked by two wall hangings: on the right is a Peruvian piece, and to the left is a funky vintage piece by Don Friedman.
For a graphic pop, Elaine added this pillow from CB2. The sheepskin draped across the couch is from HomeSense.
Here’s a better look at what Elaine lovingly refers to as “the plant gang.”
The vintage blue lamp, originally from Denmark, was pillaged for $5 from a vintage shop’s clearance sale. Artist Annie MacDonnell is responsible for the trio of little cement sculptures on the table.
The dining room is also a listening lounge, thanks to Mike’s extensive collection of records he’s been compiling for decades. At this point, he has at least a few thousand. They store them in an IKEA shelf, along with the record player. The space has become the heart of the house.
Mike is the music whiz, and Elaine knows art. The shelves profile both their passions side by side. The reclining woman splattered in paint was picked up from Odd Finds General Store on Bloor, and the album cover is by artist Raymond Pettibon. The terra cotta vase is from CB2.
Mike rescued this bureau from the side of the road, where it was splattered in paint. After some TLC, the piece has become one of the most unique in the home, thanks to the circular motif. The round mirror captures a similar design, and they’ve added a brown vintage beer jug and craggy cyprus knobs for a unique vignette. The little brass orb is from H&M Home, and the macrame plant holder was handmade by Elaine.
The bureau is flanked by a brass floor lamp and another lush bird-of-paradise plant.
Shape and Sounds
This triangular shelf is by The Small and Savage Wild, an American company. Elaine uses the space to store a little crystal and a cute succulent given to her by a friend.
The kitchen was hardly Elaine and Mike’s favourite room in the house, but they made it work. There was no backsplash, and they initially considered installing white subway tile, but eventually figured it would make the honey oak cabinets look even more jarring. Instead, they found this wallpaper at Maple Paints and Wallpaper on St. Clair, which has a trove of wallpapers, from simple to kitschy to fashionable. They opted for this playful woodland menagerie, which blends in with the kitchen’s colour tone while still adding a unique pop. The best part: the wallpaper cost $8.
The toaster, from West Elm, was purchased to match the kitchen cabinets.
Elaine and Mike wanted a no-fuss spot for the kids to eat breakfast, so they picked up this Structube table and chairs from Morba on Queen Street. The letter board, from a company in Prince Edward Island, displays a quote from Agnes Martin: “Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.”
Elaine and Mike are self-proclaimed podcast nerds, and they love to put on their favourite shows on this Marshall bluetooth speaker while they cook. The salt and pepper shakers are by David Shrigley, a British artist, and the pot is from H&M Home.
Do it Yourself
Mike built the kitchen shelves by hand, and they’re used to profile more plants.
Dinner Party Ready
Aside from art and plants, the shelves are used to store more day-to-day items, such as wine glasses and copper cups for Moscow mules. The fish tray, picked up from Casa Cubista on Dundas West, is perfect for serving tapas.
Here’s another look at the colour combination of the sepia-toned wallpaper and the kitchen cabinets.
Four Can Dine
A reproduction Saarinen tulip table is the centrepiece of the dining room, and it’s surrounded by four Danish teak chairs that Elaine spotted on Instagram. As soon as she saw them, they rushed to pick them up. The artwork behind the table is by the Royal Art Lodge, a Canadian art collective based in Winnipeg.
On the dinging room table, Elaine has placed a piece of West German pottery she bought for next to nothing from a vintage shop. The plants are from Poppies, at Queen and Dovercourt.
Artist in Residence
An art lover’s home wouldn’t be complete without a gallery wall. The wall includes pieces by Derek Sullivan, Christy Thompson and Brett Despotovich. The Moroccan rug was picked up from Prince Edward County, and the little bench was a $50 find from Elaine’s former condo’s buy-and-sell group.
Elaine and Mike don’t really drink liquor, but they keep this handsome teak bar cart well stocked in case any guests want a cocktail.
Light and Breezy
A pothos plant adds a bit of drama to the otherwise simple bathroom. The Turkish-style towel was picked up from CB2, and a little blue mug on the sink, found at the Odd Finds General Store, holds a teensy succulent.