In the natural order of things, clients hire designers to help them envision their dream space. But for Mariam Aboutaam, the creative director and lead designer for developer
Kylemore, it’s the opposite: she envisions the clients first, then designs their dream space. She recently finished this 1,700-square-foot, three-storey model townhouse for a cool urban couple — ideal buyers who didn’t yet exist.
From the outset, Mariam imagined this model home as belonging to young city professionals with busy lives who love to entertain. While the space needed to feel refined, it was important to keep it approachable and attainable — luxury on a smaller scale.
Scroll down to step into this sleek and sophisticated townhouse!
Designer Mariam Aboutaam wanted to create an interesting architectural composition that didn’t feel predictable. “Developers can get a bad rap,” says Mariam. “- ‘It’s too stark’ or ‘it’s builder-beige’ is the nomenclature often attached to new-builds, so I wanted to depart from that.” The envelope takes its cues from traditional architecture (10-foot-high ceilings, expansive windows, ceiling moldings), while the decorating leans contemporary.
A hexagon mosaic tile “mat” adds pattern and texture in the front entry. The floor plan is unusual, with a lower-level covered porch, foyer, den and garage, and the kitchen, living, dining and powder rooms on the second floor (there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs). This provided both a challenge and an inspiration for the design of the house, which is just 15 feet wide.
Juxtapositions continue in the living room, where contemporary furniture mingles with traditional architectural elements such as the waffle ceiling, cornice moldings and a refined porcelain fireplace surround. To keep the budget in check, the designer opted for a porcelain fireplace surround, “the kind you’d find in a European flat,” she says.
“Space was at a premium so everything had to be intentional,” says Mariam. The classic moldings, while decorative, will help the house retain its value. “The bones will always be beautiful,” says Mariam, adding that high style doesn’t have to mean big budget. Sheer window coverings are more affordable, and they have the benefit of ensuring constant filtered light from the expansive windows.
“Throughout the house, there are little nuances that breathe soul, life and character into this new-build,” says Mariam. To wit, a stack of books sits askew next to flowers that are ever so slightly wilted. “It has to feel lived in, so when you walk in, it feels like home.”
“In the kitchen, I built in dramatic moments without blowing the budget,” says Mariam. “It needed to set the stage for the entire house.” The bright, European-inspired space showcases a high-contrast play between light and dark, all in finishes that can evolve with the eventual owner. “It was important for me to create the kitchen as a chic social hub, but have it be practical and functional, too,” says Mariam.
A black hex tile floor, black island cabinet and custom vent hood dramatically anchor the white Shaker-style cabinets, quartz counters and pearl-hued glossy backsplash. The custom vent hood sits above a 30-inch range and is flanked by floating shelves. “It feels like an extension of living space rather than a service area,” says Mariam.
The pearl-hued backsplash in a glossy finish feels handcrafted and breaks up the black and white in the kitchen. Even the white roman shade over the kitchen sink gets a flourish with black velvet trim.
A 24-inch built-in pantry with a convenient coffee niche makes use of what would have otherwise been empty wall space.
The designer purchased an extra Wishbone-style chair to create a vignette between the pantry and sliding door.
“Having the kitchen on the second floor is unconventional and flips the script,” says Mariam. The adjacent banquette area creates a moody, cozy corner. A marble-look table is classic, and when paired with affordable Wishbone-style chairs, a perfect high-low harmony is achieved.
Fluted wood clads the banquette, which doubles as an extra workstation. “It’s also a modular piece of furniture, which allows the homeowners to remove it easily or use it as an extra corner sofa,” says Mariam. “It’s my favorite spot!”
Opposite the banquette is a fireplace area with an integrated TV.
The second-floor powder room is decorated in dark tones and graphic abstract art.
A cathedral ceiling and arched picture window lend European flair in the guest bedroom.
The principal bedroom features a dark and dramatic feature wall.
The principal ensuite’s quartz counter is black to keep things chic, while the walnut vanity softens the look.
Black and white are complemented by wood, pattern and texture. “I wanted to create a timeless aesthetic with a modern, minimalist approach,” says Mariam.
In the lower-level den, sheer drapes edged in velvet allow natural light to flood the space while still maintaining privacy. Just days after hitting the market, the home sold to a young professional couple from the city who felt exactly the same way. “They even bought it fully furnished,” says Mariam. “It’s the most amazing outcome.” Amazing, but not surprising — she’d been designing it for them all along.
Author: Amanda Ross
Gillian Jackson and Lauren Miller
House & Home October 2022
Mariam Aboutaam; Architecture: RN Design