Born and raised in the small town of Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, Denise Zidel delights in filling her 3,100-square-foot, seven-storey Toronto “condo house” with the artifacts of her former homeland. “I feel a surge of energy when I walk through the door,” says Denise of the house she shares with her physician husband, Brian (a Montreal native), and their daughter, Billie, 22, a medical student. Set against the home’s white walls, the dynamic art collection and vividly colored ephemera have the effect of a modern art gallery.
lt’s an aesthetic that’s replicated in
Snob, Denise’s shop in Toronto’s Castlefield Design District (she moved it from the city’s east end last year year). The store stocks an evolving selection of mostly 3D artwork, framed Kuba textiles, pottery by Martine Jackson, wall baskets, juju hats, one-of-a-kind mirrors and silk-velvet ikat pillows. Denise says a trip home to South Africa to visit family 18 years ago rekindled her love of the color and the contrast in the country, which she’d started to take for granted. That trip eventually led not only to a career change and the founding of Snob in 2006, but also to a personal decorating style that’s as eclectic and energizing as it is sophisticated and timeless.
Scroll down to tour this joyful home!
Artist Frank van Reenen’s fibreglass piece, Rain Taster, hangs in the foyer. “There was a lot of shock when I put it up, but everybody loves it now,” says Denise. “Long walls always need a three-dimensional piece of art for a break effect.” The painting to the left is by Denise. “I just paint for fun,” she says.
The living room’s curved, 12-foot-high fireplace is clad in luminous tile. “I’m all about the drama!” laughs Denise (pictured). The wall hanging is made of colorful discarded plastic bottles.
“I go through phases and move things around,” says Denise of her ever-changing living room setup. She worked with designer
Stephanie Lees to design the sofa and rug. A dynamic painting by Canadian modernist William Perehudoff contrasts the quieter elements. Denise crafted the light fixture from stained glass and painted a piece of African wood to make the black stool.
In the family room, graphic upholstery on vintage loungers by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is a foil for a purple ostrich skin–covered side table, artwork by Alex Katz and a quirky balloon table found at a Montreal art gallery. An elevator running alongside the stairs accesses the home’s seven floors.
An artwork by Blessing Ngobeni encapsulates the vibrant palette in the family room, and Denise’s favorite shade, orange, takes a star turn on the wall-mounted display shelf. Its bright hue gives the unique pieces Denise has collected on her travels added presence.
“I always love a bright color and something whimsical or unexpected to knock it out of the park,” says Denise. “Some people want a home to be calm and peaceful like a hotel room, but I want to be in a happy place, and color makes me happy.”
Items artfully arranged on the family room coffee table show Denise’s penchant for quirk and color. The plate painted with a woman in a yoga pose and the bright bowl are from a museum shop in Montreal, and the wooden piece is a neck rest used by cattle farmers in Sudan.
The contemporary fireplace and integrated bench blend into the architecture, allowing the third-floor family room’s bold accents to shine. The adjoining balcony seems perched in the trees.
Bubbly cast-resin chandeliers from Oly Studio make a whimsical statement in the kitchen. “And I love the color of the backsplash tile — it’s the perfect gold,” says Denise. “I needed that extra shine in the kitchen.”
The brass pot on the counter was used by Denise’s Russian grandmother to make jam.
To keep the dining room airy, the top and bottom of the room divider are open except for blocks of bronze. “I custom designed the wall divider based on a side table I saw with a little circle in it,” says Denise.
Billie’s bedroom needed drama, so Denise papered the walls in black grasscloth from Schumacher. Ugandan baskets create an eye-catching 3D display.
Denise bought the painting by Toronto’s Simon Schneiderman, a lawyer who paints images from the legal realm, when Denise’s son Max became a lawyer. She designed the cabinet, which incorporates her bold go-to orange.
Denise reflected Max’s artsy leanings in his old bedroom (he’s now a lawyer living in New York). A beaded chair found in Cameroon has a beautiful sheen. Denise made the pink marble bedside table from a slice of her in-laws’ old dining table. The kilim has been a family heirloom for 50 years.
In the principal bathroom, Denise arranged the striking marble-look porcelain floor tile in a random pattern to add visual interest.
In the principal bedroom, Denise upholstered her bed in yellow velvet, then paired it with ostrich skin–covered side tables she designed herself. She bought the two-headed camel bench with her first paycheque as an X-ray technician at the age of
18 and still treasures it.
Denise clad an Ikea cupboard in metal, then bronzed it by hand with gold mica and wax. The vase dates back to 800 B.C. “I love the idea that I made an old piece modern by setting it on a lime green plinth,” she says.
Learn more about this global-inspired home on H&H TV.
Author: Iris Benaroia
House & Home February 2019
Denise Zidel & Stephanie Lees