This Montreal Rowhouse Takes A Minimalist Approach To Holiday Decorating
Sandra Smirle and Ken Dobell’s renovated rowhouse in Montreal’s artsy Mile End sidesteps the usual Christmas trimmings for pared-down and heartfelt decor. Along with fresh wreaths and garlands, a few meaningful mementoes pepper the house, like velvet handmade stockings, and a cherished collection of ornaments.
It’s a simple approach that invites the circa-1910 home to be the main attraction — something Sandra and Ken appreciate after an almost year-long remodel. Working with architect Emilie Bédard and designer Maria Rosa Di Ioia of EM Architecture, they refreshed the 1,650-square-foot duplex and turned it into a single-family home. Click through to see inside the modern space that nods to its history.
A deep shade of green draws the eye to the living space’s traditional wall moldings while a cast-iron wood stove by Norwegian company Jøtul creates a cozy ambience.
Homeowner Sandra decorates with fresh, fuss-free greenery during the holidays. In the living area, round wreaths made of cedar, eucalyptus and olive branches are a graphic counterpoint to the rectangular windowpanes.
Over Christmas, friends and out-of-town family members will gather for dinner. “We’ll have a beautifully set table, but there’s still a relaxed quality,” says Sandra. The map in the dining area was a castoff from Maud’s school that Sandra salvaged and repurposed as artwork. “The rivers aren’t labelled so during dinner parties, we’ll often drift into debates about rivers,” says Ken.
Sandra and Ken picked up the matte gray etched teacups on a trip to Tokyo and the ceramic bowl at a Montreal street market.
A sculptural PH Artichoke light, which Ken and Sandra snagged for just $200 at a going-out-of-business sale, defines the dining area in the open-concept main floor.
Exposing the ceiling beams brought instant character to the kitchen. Ken and Sandra love to get creative here, cooking unexpected Christmas dinners like Moroccan stew or brisket with root vegetable mash.
“The kitchen was designed with lots of drawers to keep things out of sight,” says Ken of the hip yet hardworking space.
Vintage treasures, travel mementoes and original artwork infuse personality throughout the house. By the stairway, an artwork from Paris leans casually on the floor — a reminder of the many years the family spent living in France.
Sandra and Ken’s second-floor bedroom, tucked at the back of the house, is a quiet retreat. A carving from India, set on the nightstand, and one of Sandra’s own pieces, hung above the bed, accent the space.
The principal bathroom has plenty of character, thanks to original brick and herringbone floors. A clawfoot tub is perfect for long soaks and a painting of the Madonna from Peru is an eye-catching touch.
In the guest bedroom, a handsome armoire — a lucky find at a French flea market — offers ample storage space. Sandra found the vintage glass pendant on Etsy; all it needed was hardware.
A black and white scheme unites an ornate mirror and deconstructed vanity. Sandra purchased the sketch from a market on a remote Gulf Island in British Columbia.
Ken’s office is an orderly place to work from home.
Their daughter Maud, 16, takes miniature long-haired dachshund, Bowie, for a stroll in the alleyway behind her family’s historical home.