Decorating & Design
September 27, 2021
Tour A Global Jet-Setter’s Charming Toronto Home
Home, they say, is where the heart is. But for Yolind James, a chic, spark plug–sized woman and self-described “bohemian,” home is simply wherever she is at the moment. Yolind enjoys a peripatetic life, spending spring in Singapore where she was born and grew up, the winter months in Palm Beach, Florida, (until Covid curtailed her travels) and summers in her Toronto condo. But there comes a time when even the most ardent traveller tires of the world of jet lag and connecting flights.
Two years ago, more than a few eyebrows flew up in disbelief when Yolind, a retired health-food pioneer, decided to swap her luxurious condo (with a private elevator!) for a slightly larger 2,150-square-foot, four-bedroom, century-old brick house on a tree-lined, midtown Toronto street. Two of her daughters have houses nearby (another lives in Singapore), and those who know this doting grandmother assumed the move was to provide more space, a pool and a backyard for her five grandchildren, not to mention her two beloved dogs, English bulldog Ruby Tuesday and Kirby, a pug–basset hound mix. But, as it turns out, the real draw was the price — and the home’s location on a quiet, dead-end street just steps away from a beautiful park and network of ravines. “I prefer to have land beneath my feet,” says Yolind, as Ruby Tuesday happily lumbers through the grass, chasing butterflies. “How could I not buy it? It was ideal!”
Or so she thought. The features that had lured her in were tempting: high ceilings, generously proportioned rooms suitable for entertaining, lots of natural light and a basement that could be transformed into a living space for her year-round housekeeper. But the previous owners had done a patchy interior renovation, and the dated, awkwardly designed kitchen was cut off from the rest of the house. “I originally thought I would just have the wall between the kitchen and dining room removed and move in,” says Yolind. “I don’t love formal dining or sitting rooms — they seem redundant to me!” Her contractor recommended Olivia Botrie of Toronto firm Dart Studio. “I knew Olivia would be perfect,” says Yolind. “She was creative, flexible and understood my vision. She brought my ideas to life, something I couldn’t do on my own.”
In fact, Yolind was in Singapore during the entire six-month reno that included a down-to-the-studs reconfiguration of the kitchen, refinishing all the wood floors and adding custom millwork designed to resonate with her cosmopolitan tastes. Then, four months were spent decorating. Yolind’s heart, soul and personal history are still here in this house: souvenirs from her travels, family heirlooms, including treasured paintings and pieces of blue and white china from her grandmother in England, jade from her father’s collection, 40-year-old Chinese dictionaries and encyclopedias from her days as a student at the University of Cambridge and, of course, family photographs. “I wanted a home where my family could feel comfortable, not a modern museum — a place to relax, have friends visit and celebrate festive occasions,” says Yolind. “I live in my homes. Sometimes, when you have a home designed, there’s nothing there of you.”
Scroll down to tour this charming home!