Amy & Keith’s Candy-Coated Dollhouse
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Welcome to Amy and Keith’s downtown Toronto live/work space. From the moment you enter their vibrant front hall, it’s clear that this is no conventional home. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think you have stumbled onto a John Waters set!
Amy’s love of all things sweet yet sassy is evident throughout the house, from the business space occupying most of the first floor to her and Keith’s living area upstairs. Rounding out the charming home are cats Biggie and Kitty, who managed to worm their way into quite a few photographs in the tour. From the sugary pink hues of the Smitten Kitten design studio to the horse-themed bedroom, this tour is certain to leave a smile on your face.
Amy moved into this house shortly after finishing art school. Back then, it was already home to two other roommates, so Amy was relegated to the smallest bedroom. (Today it’s her own walk-in closet.) A few years later, when Amy and her boyfriend Keith decided to move in together, the landlord offered to lower the rent just to keep Amy as a tenant.
Over the years, the place has been transformed to reflect Amy’s distinctive, at times hilarious, sense of style. It has also evolved to function perfectly as a live/work space. The area occupied by Smitten Kitten, Amy’s paper goods and gifts line, can be completely divided off from the rest of the house via a hanging curtain fashioned out of a vintage floral quilt. The mint green front room houses her office, while the middle pink room holds all her materials, tools and supplies. After the work day, the couple uses the large work table for dinner parties and socializing, where guests have had differing opinions about the dozens of saucer-eyed dolls surrounding them.
Behind the curtain is the kitchen, where kitschy functional decor (poodle tea sets, retro dinner plates, Hello Kitty toaster and coffee maker) is found. Upstairs there is more private space, including the fresh and cozy living room, Amy’s very own Kawaii/Barbarella-themed boudoir, the Jesus bathroom, and in a tribute to Keith’s love of all things equestrian, their horse-themed bedroom. All in all, this fun and whimsical home is a pattern-happy, tongue-in-cheek celebration of all things Amy and Keith.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Super-fantastic candy-coated dollhouse. Viva la Maximalism!
Inspiration: Things that are cheery, charming and ridiculously happy. So-cute-they’re-creepy accoutrements such as 60’s Japanese ceramics, Kawaii, toys, and kitsch. Spaces with a palette of punchy colors and dizzying mix of patterns. Quirky things (and people) that aren’t perfect but have a sense of humour. I think we can find inspiration in almost anything really (except for the color beige).
Favorite Element: Amy – My closet! It used to be my tiny bedroom when I first moved in. Now we’ve converted it into my walk-in closet (lucky girl, I know). It’s super girly personified plus there’s a “No boys allowed” rule in my closet.
Keith – Easy! The horse racing inspired bedroom! It wasn’t even my idea. Two years ago on my birthday, I woke up, as per usual, in our Pepto-Bismol pink bedroom only to return later that night to find blue walls, my vintage horse racing photos hung on the wall and collection of Kentucky Derby glasses on display. Amy put the whole thing together without me knowing!
Biggie – My favorite part of the house is the living room couch, which I take great care in fuzzing up.
Kitty – The super comfy king-sized bed. No Biggies allowed!
Biggest Challenge: When you essentially live and work in the same place, it’s hard to know when the work day ends and home time begins. That said, I’m never late for work
What Friends Say: The two things we hear the most from our friends are:
1. “Oh, I never noticed that before,” even though they’ve been here a million times, and
2. “You should charge admission to come in here.”
Our friend, J.P, once sat in our studio and counted 72 pairs of eyes staring back at him from the lovable little friends loitering on our shelves. I told J.P that I like working under supervision.
Biggest Embarrassment: We don’t take as much care as we should with our back yard since I’m terrified of creatures with more than four legs and Keith isn’t the planty type…but I do have a 3ft tall plastic mushroom hidden away in the shed who has been begging me to put him out in the garden. I guess it’s time to put on a beekeeping suit and get landscaping.
Proudest DIY: Mmm… When I moved in here I was living with two artists who used this house as a gallery. It wasn’t unusual to find a naked man in a canoe hanging from the ceiling or a TV in the bathtub as art installations, but outside of the shows the walls were empty and white with maybe a wood chair or two to sit on. Since they moved out we’ve totally transformed this space into a home. We’ve painted and wallpapered walls, stripped and reupholstered furniture, put up shelves, installed closets, hung curtains… so I guess the whole house is our proudest DIY project. There isn’t a square inch of this space we haven’t personalized.
Biggest Indulgence: Our dreamy king size pillow top bed. Bought 5 years ago and still love every day.
Best Advice: Vivienne Westwood was quoted as saying “If in doubt overdress. If you look over-the-top you can make the most boring occasion have some interest”. It’s kinda of the same motto I have for decorating. Go nuts, overdress your house and have fun! What’s the worst that could happen? Your house isn’t going to get mad and eat you.
Dream Sources: Bottom shelves of forgotten general stores, dusty back rooms of antique shops, cheesy Chinatown gift shops in any city and little ol’ lady estate sales. If we won the lottery tomorrow, we’d probably spend the money traveling around the world and hit up flea markets rather than waltzing into vintage furniture designer stores and dropping a bundle. It’s so much more gratifying!
Resources of Note:
I have been compulsively curating our home since forever. Growing up I moved around a lot so some of the pieces came from places like Hong Kong, England and various US and Canadian cities. There’s a few hand-me-downs (like the vintage typewriter, sewing machine table, vanity table) from when my family moved to Toronto. My mum made the stain glass lamp you see in our bedroom, she’s a pretty crafty lady. We travel to the US quite often these days (because of Smitten Kitten’s trade show schedule), so some of the stuff came from various markets and shops in cities like Chicago and New York.
Thanks, Amy and Keith!
Images: Abby Cook
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