When your designer tells you she’d like to add wood panelling to the walls of your new home, it might give pause for thought. It might even start images of 1970s basements dancing in your head. But when you’re the client of Toronto-based
Katherine Newman Design, you just smile and nod. Because, despite owning a firm that has myriad projects throughout North America, Katherine and her partner, architect Peter Cebulak, retain no junior designers, which means that every detail — right down to door hinges and those wall panels — is handled by them personally.
For Jennifer and Stuart Graham, the owners of a 1920s-era Georgian-style home on a leafy street in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, that attention to detail was exactly what was required. “When we met with Katherine, we knew that she and Peter could manage everything, from the architectural drawings down to the throw pillows,” says Jennifer. “We wanted a designer who could translate our vague ideas into a concrete concept.”
Though the look is always subdued and restrained, there are dramatic moments throughout, thanks to the consistent interplay of light and dark, as well as rich texture and pieces that serve as both furniture and art. Scroll down to see this incredible 6,000 square foot family home!
The full-scale renovation spanned just 18 months. “The house had gone through a series of undisciplined renovations with little regard to context,” says designer Katherine Newman (
This was an opportunity to express an interesting hybrid aesthetic: she and Peter could create a contemporary interior envelope that would be a complete departure from the traditional architectural vernacular. Certain hallmarks of Georgian architecture — discipline, rigour — would be respected but, says the designer, “We were looking to capture prewar elegance and postwar modernity.”
With the clients ready to edge out of their design comfort zone, it opened the doors — and walls — to a complete reimagining. The main floor has a metal and glass sliding wall partition that defines the opening between the dining room–lounge and family room. The latter has a curved sofa and window jambs painted deep Etruscan red. “Red can be warm and very impactful in small doses, and it’s not pretty,” says Katherine, always respecting the owners’ request to keep ornamentation at bay.
Homeowners Stuart and Jennifer Graham (
pictured) wanted a home that would reflect their current lifestyle and where every room would get used, as opposed to a series of decorated but empty spaces. With two boys fresh out of university, it was key to have separate but connected areas for everyone. On the owners’ wish list? The creation of a home that would reflect their current lifestyle and where every room would get used, as opposed to a series of decorated but empty spaces.
“The fun part was watching the concept unfold — seeing the early drawings develop into the area where you ultimately would watch TV, celebrate Christmas and have your morning coffee,” says Stuart. “In the end, we got everything we dreamed of.”
Katherine immediately understood from the clients’ inspiration pictures that they were not looking for “pretty” or “classical,” but rather “handsome aesthetics” in a neutral palette with a focus on contrast. The lounge’s floor-to-ceiling fireplace has book-matched marble on the upper portion and metal marquetry below.
Katherine envisioned full-height wall panelling in American walnut and cerused oak, now one of the home’s most distinguishing features. The project also prioritized geometry and the combination of materials, “which were woven throughout in a limited variation to render the classical contemporary,” she says.
Mahogany Sergio Rodrigues-inspired dining chairs flank an asymmetrical ebonized oak and bronze dining table.
The kitchen has shades of grey and ebony with Carrara marble-wrapped drawers. A stone table at island height gives family and friends a place to gather for casual meals.
Jennifer and Stuart wanted an inviting, open-concept main floor with a wine cellar as a central feature (instead of having it relegated to the basement). Adjacent to the wine cellar is a sleek, unadorned kitchen. The island is fabricated in marble, quartz and oak, giving it heft and presence.
This closed balustrade is clad in panelling and topped with a bronze noir patina handrail.
A sculptural console is striking against the closed balustrade.
Geometric shapes on the upper stair hall landing suggest an Art Deco vibe.
A floating vanity, mosaic tile and sleek lighting create a sophisticated guest ensuite bathroom.
The contemporary art and ceiling fixture add graphic punch to the second-floor guest bedroom.
A satin copper bench offers a place for quiet contemplation in the principal ensuite bedroom.
The two Hiroshi Sugimoto seascapes reflect peace and calm in the principal bedroom.
The principal bathroom is modern, luxe and spa-like. Katherine skipped baseboards or casings in all the wet spaces because they “do not fare well over time,” she says.
The second floor is a sweeping principal bedroom suite with two seating areas in hues of smoke, grey and grey mauve for peaceful respite. A backlit wall panel behind the bed is clad with parchment set within a bronze noir patina frame. The nightstands nod to the work of Paul Evans.
Author: Amanda Ross
House & Home October 2021