As the owner of a newly minted decorating and staging business, Romina Tina Fontana knows a thing or two about making a space look great. It’s no surprise that she applied her impressive design skills to her own home, a two-floor apartment in a Victorian house in Toronto that strikes the perfect balance between elegant and cozy, colourful and clean.
When Romina Tina Fontana was looking to downsize after years in a large home, she knew she’d found the right space when she came across “an apartment that felt like a house” in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. “I was first attracted by the very large windows and the high ceilings,” said Fontana. “It reminded me of other places I have lived in Montreal and Paris.” The living room and kitchen are located on the top floor, while the bedroom and bathroom make up the bottom floor.
“I would like to imagine that my decor style feels elegant, fresh and approachable,” says Fontana. “I wanted to highlight the Victorian character of the home while infusing some colour, and feature objets d’art with a story behind them,” she adds. The linen curtains are from Pottery Barn and the round white mirror is from Boo Boo & Lefty, one of Fontana’s favourite decor stores.
In Living Colour
“My living room is made up of such an odd mix of pieces but I think it really works,” says Fontana. The coffee table was a housewarming gift from her brother (“who has a great eye for just about everything,” she says), while the couch and rug – actually an outdoor rug – are both IKEA finds. The throw pillows are another Boo Boo & Lefty score.
Fontana’s bookshelves are chock-full of design inspiration – and the sleek tomes just happen to double as stylish decorating props, too.
The living room’s linen curtains are held in place with colourful pom-pom tie-backs from Mexico. “My undergraduate degree was in Latin American studies, and I have lived and travelled through much of Mexico, Central and South America,” says Fontana. “I picked up one set of ties from Valladolid, a wonderful colonial town about an hour’s drive west of Tulum. The other set was a gift from my friend Lisa, who is a designer and an artist. She spends the winters in Oaxaca, a city and region I adore, and she kindly brings me local crafts and art every spring upon her return,” she says.
All in the Family
“The paintings are by my grandfather and my father,” says Fontana. “I’m very proud to have such talented artists in the family. My grandfather became a widower early in life; in his spare time, and while travelling, he painted hundreds of works which are all still in the family,” she adds. “My dad has continued this tradition. The scenes range from the Adriatic coast of Italy to northern Quebec.”
Stairway to Heaven
Though she’s a big fan of painted stairs, it took Fontana a few tries before she discovered the perfect colour. “All-white stairs felt a bit too beachy and were not easy to maintain with the scuffs and crumbs of everyday life,” she says. Next, Fontana tried – and quickly rejected – a green shade that “did not translate well” before falling in love with this teal hue from Benjamin Moore. “It added the right pop of colour below the gallery wall,” she says.
“I love white, but I love colour,” says Fontana. “I like to feature family treasures and unique finds – I want my friends and family to feel at home in an elegant, albeit inviting, space,” she says.
Come Dine With Me
“The dining table is an original Saarinen tulip table which I found at Studio Pazo,” says Fontana. “In fact, I was short on time before moving in and so I simply called, paid, then had it delivered without even seeing it,” she says. The Gubi chairs (“some of my very favourite pieces ever,” says Fontana) were sourced from Hollace Cluny.
Though it doesn’t work, the fireplace, with its original bricks and inlay, serves as the centrepiece of the main floor. Fontana added the mantel with gold brackets herself, and the mirror is from Jacaranda Tree & Co. in Toronto. “Above the gift shop, there is a wonderful collection of antiques, mirrors and more,” says Fontana. “Not to be missed!”
The kitchen is open to the rest of the floor, which makes dinner parties a breeze, according to Fontana. “I can prep and entertain at the same time,” she says. “The yellow stools are a vintage find from a tiny shop on Queen West. The shop owner told me that they were from a Toronto diner. I think they add character to the kitchen and, as you can see, I love yellow,” she says.
The apartment had been “lightly renovated” just before Fontana moved in: “Fresh paint, new mouldings in the bedroom. The basics,” she says. “I did a lot of work on it during the first few months, like painting the stairs, adding the kitchen cabinets and changing the hardware. I added lots of storage and shelving, too.” Fontana found the brushed gold hardware at Upper Canada Specialty Hardware.
Fontana incorporated extra kitchen storage to keep her larger pots and tools “hidden from view but still accessible,” she says. “The kitchen appliances are less than ideal, but I like to think good cooks can make do with anything,” says Fontana, adding that she misses cooking on a gas range.
When it comes to bedding, Fontana prioritizes quality above all else. “This duvet cover is my all-time favourite,” she says. “It’s from my friends at Auggie Home. The Burgess sisters design the prints themselves and everything is of the highest quality.” The made-in-Italy, cotton-linen blend pillowcases are from Au Lit Fine Linens.
One Night Stand
“The nightstands were handed down from my older brother; they are mid-century modern from a friperie [second-hand shop] on the Plateau in Montreal,” says Fontana. “I kept the original hardware but had them sprayed white. I like that they’re dissimilar in shape and height,” she says. The lamps are made in Poland with heavy glass tops, and the rugs are made from recycled fabric.
Fontana credits the inspiration behind her decorating and staging business to a quote from William Morris, who wrote, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Words to live by, says Fontana.