Chris’ Historic Home in Toronto

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Name: Chris Collie
Location: Cabbagetown; Toronto, Canada
Size: 600 square feet (but feels like 1000!)
Years lived in: 2+ years; Owned

We recently toured Lauren and Dylan’s Historic Split Apartment in Toronto’s east end. Lauren, Dylan, and Dylan’s brother, Chris, share this Victorian home, which they’ve split into two entirely distinct spaces. When planning out the necessary renovations, they decided that dividing the structure along the vertical to create individual multi-level units would make each space feel most like a house rather than like an apartment. The goal was to create two very distinct homes that reflected their respective inhabitants’ taste, lifestyles, and inspirations.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Choosing a more modern design came about in two ways: it’s innately more in line with Chris’ personal taste, and learning from the experience of Lauren and Dylan’s renovations, it turned out to be more cost-effective. The kitchen and bathroom were completely re-done with a minimal design.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

The previous owner had added the rear two-story room in the 1980s which he filled with plants, essentially creating an at-home conservatory. Keeping with this idea, Chris replaced a few of the windows to brighten the space up even more, resulting in a light-filled sunroom. Thanks to the renovations—or, as Chris put it, “never stop working for a year”—his home is warm, modern, and urban, and those 600 square feet feel like 1,000!

(Image credit: Dylan Collie)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: It’s a mix of styles between my brother, his partner, and myself, as we worked together. It landed with a modern urban feel, peppered with bachelor-pad styling, but layered throughout by a warm brightness from the huge windows.

Inspiration: Always been most influenced by a southern California calm, mixed with a northern California focus. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, and it never ceases calling to me. The house inspires to bring a balance of both.

Favorite Element: The sight lines. From the couch in the living room, looking straight north through the kitchen, passing through the sunroom, into the backyard past the large Purple Beech tree, and finally to the back garden and fence. You feel like it’s all one place.

Biggest Challenge: Keeping within budget! Discovering good design is a process and you can get carried away with choices that spiral cost. Take a step back at the right moments and be very particular where to spend and where to compromise.

What Friends Say: Coming into the house from the alley street, first they say, “Where the hell am I?!” But once people are inside, they say usually, “It’s amazing, I need to do this,” to which I respond you absolutely do, just get ready to never stop working for a year!

Biggest Embarrassment: Nothing wild comes to mind, but we did use the phrase “Fog of War” a few times during the renovations. Putting things together like a spiral staircase isn’t always perfectly straightforward when you’re in a rush.

Proudest DIY: The most rewarding DIY was the backyard, hauling in the pea gravel by hand, planting new plant and tree life. The things you won’t do well DIY, hand it to a professional—a full tile washroom, for example.

Biggest Indulgence: The brown distressed leather couch from Restoration Hardware in the living room. It’s like coming home to your biggest supporter everyday. This began my understanding of how a piece of furniture can define an entire room.

Best Advice: If you’re going to renovate a house, in the very little time you have during the open house/tour it can be hard to look past the actual state it’s in—but rough is the best opportunity if you’re ready to make it happen.

Dream Sources: Houzz is an great resource. Pinterest equally as good. I tend to not buy design magazines anymore unless it’s an edition of Côté Sud. There’s not enough anymore in the big, known versions. Just go to Chapters and flip through them all in an hour.


(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Paint: Primetime Paint & Paper
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Lights: HomeSense
  • Mirror: antique shop
  • Wall tables: salvaged from a closing antique store in Leslieville
  • Hooks: The Door Store
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Couch: Restoration Hardware
  • Entertainment unit: built by Chris
  • Stereo equipment: Bay Bloor Radio
  • Doors: The Door Store
  • Chair: vintage via Craigslist
  • Painting: Kate Curtis original
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Poured concrete counters: Concrete Elegance
  • Light Fixture: Restoration Hardware
  • Flag: vintage via Guideboat Co.
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Claw foot tub: Craigslist
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)


  • Bird of Paradise plant: Sheridan Nurseries
  • Chair: Morba
  • Reading light: Restoration Hardware
  • Hanging light fixture: Restoration Hardware
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Front door of the apartment leading into the entrance shared with Chris’ brother, Dylan, and Dylan’s partner, Lauren (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

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Thanks, Chris!