Five Ways to Take Your Basement from Grotto to Glorious

Timothy Mitanidis and Claudia Bader's basement. Andrew Snow Photography

Timothy Mitanidis and Claudia Bader’s basement. Andrew Snow Photography

There’s something undeniably odious about the word basement. It unfailingly conjures up a spine-shivering image of something drafty, claustrophobic and dark. But subterranean living spaces offer an important opportunity to accommodate Canada’s shifting housing needs. They work well as in-law suites for downsizers, income rentals for empty nesters or extra sleeping quarters for families who’ve outgrown their current house but can’t afford a larger one in the country’s ever inflating real estate market. And, with the right eye for aesthetics, a basement apartment can be bright, airy and beautiful. It just takes the right lighting, wall finishes and window wells. Here, five tips from top design professionals on how to turn an underground grotto into something glorious. Continue reading

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Great Spaces: A Yonge and Eglinton Home That’s Designed to Age Gracefully

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Photo by Derek Shapton

Farzad and Connie started thinking about building a house five years ago when they were living in Cambridge, England. Farzad was finishing his doctorate in management and Connie was working for a Dutch bank. Their two kids were young, and the couple wanted to settle in Toronto, where Farzad grew up (Connie is from Hong Kong). They imagined a house that was minimalist but kid-friendly, environmentally conscious but not visibly so, and most importantly, adaptable. They hired the architect Paul Raff, and the resulting space, on a leafy street near Yonge and Eglinton, feels like a swanky yoga studio minus the mirrored walls. The kitchen is flanked by two identically sized spaces, which can be used interchangeably, as the living room or dining room—Farzad and Connie sometimes swap the two by season, eating next to the big backyard window in summer and cozying up by the same window to read in winter. The basement is kitted out with a kitchen in case their kids boom­erang in their 20s and want their own space. And although the main level of the house is, right now, perfectly suited to family life, it was designed to be converted into a one-level retirement suite in the future, with Farzad’s office becoming a master bedroom and the entryway powder room becoming an ensuite.

For the rest of this story, please see the May 2013 issue of Toronto Life magazine.

DIY Ikea? Design Mavens Are Personalizing Flat-Pack Furniture in Clever Ways

Designer Scott Barker's Ikea-Hacked Wall Screen

Designer Scott Barker’s Ikea-Hacked Wall Screen

Ikea hacking. It sounds violent, like what you might do with a wood chipper and an impossible-to-assemble Pax wardrobe or an Expedit entertainment unit (after you’ve pulled out all your hair). But while Ikea hacking often involves saws and X-Acto knives – even blowtorches – it’s less about destruction than it is about creativity and personalizing flat-pack furniture in clever, playful or straight-up crazy ways.

It’s a trend that has been growing for years – fuelled by two things: our collective desire to pay as little as possible for our furniture; and our equally strong desire not to have the exact same living or dining room set as the neighbours (which is hard to avoid, considering that Canada’s 11 Ikea stores attract about 25 million customers a year).

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