Before & After: This Rental’s Refresh Includes a Plywood Peg Board, Enviable Backyard, and Custom Walk-In Closet
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Name: Robin Daprato
Location: Trinity Bellwoods/Queen West Area, Toronto, Canada
Size: 900 square feet
Type of Home: Duplex/House
Years lived in: 4 years, renting
I have been the sole designer of my home (as a 27-year-old, who is on a budget, this was inevitable) and I think anyone who knows me would tell you that I have poured my heart and soul into this space. This past year, I went through a breakup with the person I was living with, and as part of my healing process, I went through a major redesign frenzy. I really wanted to give my home a new spirit/energy where I could be creative and felt safe as I enter this next chapter of my life.
I am drawn to earthy, soft tones, but also love contrasting that palette with some dramatic pops of color. As an aesthetic person (and an Earth sign), intentional design is critical to me and I wanted my space to not just be functional, but be a reflection of who I am. As I continue to grow, I continue to refine and curate my space with pieces that inspire me.
For the past four years, I have worked as a props person in the film/television industry. However, during this time, I have simultaneously been working on a long-term entrepreneurial venture: opening a forest-therapy based, landscape hotel in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
I think more than anything, however, I identify as what Athena Calderone calls, a “multi-hyphenate.” I never have been, nor will be, somebody that can easily fit into any one box. I love tarot, forest-bathing, and meditation, but I also love boxing and weight-lifting. I love my alone time to read, puzzle, and garden, but I also love to entertain and throw themed parties (pre-COVID). I am a film technician and an entrepreneur. I love trying new things and I created my home as a space that encourages creativity and is also a multi-hyphenate. There are areas for me to retreat, to be creative, to entertain, to workout in, and I really feel that I am able to be all these versions of myself within my space.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I generally would describe my style as earthy, coastal, and relaxed. My house is filled with all the shades of white and brown, but also hints of pale pinks, blues, and yellows that are reminiscent of a desert sunset. I also love adding in some more dramatic, dark colors to contrast those light tones, such as the accent wall in my office. I would definitely say, though, that a soft white and ochre is my all-time favorite color combo. I try to add those very earthy elements into each area of my house, through natural textiles, raw wood, stoneware, and plants. Interiors that I am drawn to always have a mixture of modern pieces, antiques, and found objects, so I really wanted to make sure that eclecticism was integrated within my own space.
More than anything, I was determined to make sure I could look at any corner of my space and immediately feel a sense of calm. If I feel like that isn’t being achieved in a certain place, I am not afraid to mix it up and try something different. I find that because I live such a chaotic life, it is important that my home is a space that is beautiful, relaxing, and easy to be in, so I tried to make sure each room seamlessly transitions into the next.
Inspiration: Kelly Wearstler and Sarah Sherman Samuel never cease to blow me away with the innovative, drool-worthy spaces they create. With that said, however, I would definitely say nature is my biggest inspiration and the heartbeat of my home. As Alice Walker once said, “in nature, nothing is perfect,” and I feel so drawn to that perfectly imperfect quality of it. So, whenever I go (ethically) foraging and find a stick, rock, or leaf that is irregularly shaped or unconventional, I love to bring those elements into my space. I also draw inspiration from artists/creatives who challenge the expectations within their respective fields, such as Wendell Burnette, Georgia O’Keefe, Lars Tunbjörk, and Patti Smith.
Favorite Element: My absolute favorite element of my house is my backyard. Over the past few years, I have become increasingly aware of the mental/physical benefits of forest therapy. With that knowledge, I knew that it was important for me to create a plant-filled, outdoor oasis that could help counteract the impact of living in the heart of downtown. Though my backyard is quite tiny, I made sure every inch was maximized. I built a bench along the garden bed to accommodate for when friends/family visit, I used the side area of my house for a potting station and outdoor gym, all of my entertaining/BBQ equipment is compact, but most importantly, every inch is covered with plant life. I love going out to my backyard to read, work, garden, meditate, and restore clarity when I am stressed. I also made sure that an element of whimsy/fun was brought into the space with the mural, pink deck, and my colorful outdoor bar area.
Biggest Challenge: I have the main floor and basement of my duplex and the biggest challenge definitely has been the basement level. As a film technician, I work nonconventional hours (often all night), so I decided to put my bedroom in the basement to make sure that I would always have darkness and quiet no matter my work schedule. But, because it is such a strange shape, there was half of the room that I just couldn’t figure out what to do with. It has been used as a “music room,” a second living room, and most unfortunately, a giant junk room, but none of these were working. One day, when I was frustratingly staring at this space, a lightbulb went off: a walk-in closet! Right away, I measured the room, virtually designed my dream closet, and the next weekend picked it up and assembled it. Because my basement doesn’t have tall ceilings, I had to get about eight inches of the top cut off so it could fit in the room. My frustrating relationship with this space reminded me that sometimes it takes a long time to figure out what the best way to use a space is and to just be patient!
Proudest DIY: Admittedly, I didn’t actually do-it-myself, but I did get some super talented carpenter friends to help me fulfill my vision. When my ex moved out, my office had this big empty corner that I wasn’t sure what to do with and I think I saw a plywood pegboard on a Pinterest page or something and I thought that would fit perfectly in this space. What they came back with was so beautiful and FAR exceeded my expectations. I am so in love with how it turned out and it is such a beautiful way for me to showcase some of my favorite objects. I really like how the objects I display can constantly be rotating depending on what is inspiring me at the moment. Also, as a tarot reader, I wanted to have a beautiful backdrop for when I am giving clients virtual readings, so I use the pegboard to display my crystals, tarot cards, incense, and candles.
Biggest Indulgence: Hmmm, this is a tough one, but I would have to say my walk-in closet unit. It probably wasn’t the most expensive purchase, BUT it was a purchase I knew that when I bought it, I would have to leave it behind because it would be impossible to get it out of the basement. Despite that, this purchase was 100% worth it. I absolutely love thrifting and fashion, but I used to find the storage and organizational aspect of my wardrobe to be such a headache. I can’t believe I am saying this, but this new wardrobe has actually made organizing my closet a fun experience.
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? During quarantine, I have found a deep appreciation for my home and I definitely have become aware of what products I absolutely couldn’t live without. I think the most important realization I have come to is how important it is to make sure all the senses are nourished.
Smell: Definitely, my “Incienso De Santa Fe” hickory incense. My mom has been buying this incense for as long as I can remember and it’s hilarious because over the years I have had so many friends start to buy this incense.
Sound: Hands down, my Marshall Speaker. I really hate chunky technology and am irrationally averse to messy cords, so when I discovered Marshall made these vintage-looking Bluetooth speakers, that also have great sound quality, I had to buy it.
Sight: Candles. I think candles can be one of the most cost effective ways to elevate any space. Candles have this magical ability to make a room feel calmer, peaceful, and so much more beautiful.
Touch: MY BEDSHEETS. Unfortunately, I actually don’t know where they are from because my mom got them for me as a birthday present, but, in my opinion, they are the comfiest sheets on the planet and must be what sleeping on a cloud feels like.
Taste: Merula olive oil. A good olive oil is definitely the most essential ingredient in my kitchen. One of my favorite things to do is to pick tomatoes and basil from the garden and drizzle some Merula on top. It is so simple, but so delicious.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Maximize your space vertically. It’s so easy to dismiss above the door, or on top of shelves as being dead space, but these are prime decorative locations. Vertical spaces are great because they do not only add more storage, but also can be such a great way to showcase your books, plants, or artwork. One of my favorite areas of my house is actually on top of my kitchen cupboards where I use this space to showcase some of my prettier dishware, jars, art pieces, and accessories.
This next tip took me a super long time to realize. Just because your space is small, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to still do the things that you love. Think outside the box. Since I was a kid, I loved puzzling, but when I moved into my house I felt I had nowhere to do my puzzles because anywhere would be in the way of me actually living my life. One day, I asked a friend if they thought they could build something for me to do my puzzles on and he built me this awesome puzzle board that basically lives on my bed. Now I have an area dedicated to puzzling that is super easy to move when I am not using it. I have definitely been incredibly grateful for this during quarantine!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? I have to say, my biggest piece of advice is that there is ALWAYS a way to combine aesthetic with practicality. For a long time I felt I couldn’t do things because it wouldn’t go with the vibe I was trying to create, but that was wrong. If you love something, you will be able to find a way to make it work within your space. If you use your space to showcase the things that make you YOU there is no way you won’t love the space you are living in. I also think that it is so important to never be afraid to let stuff go that is no longer working for you!
PAINT & COLORS
- Living Room/Kitchen/Office/Bedroom — Benjamin Moore “Simply White”
- Stairs — Para Ultra “1141 Black”
- Office accent wall — Sherwin-Williams “Dark Night Paint”
- Outdoor Staircase — Para Paint “333c Radiance”
- Hulmsund Sofa Bed (Light Grey/White) — IKEA
- Embroidered Throw Pillow — The Wanderly
- Map Print — Raven Maps
- Plugin Wall Sconce — Urban Outfitters
- Salmon Chair — Kijiji
- Bench — Custom
- Mirror — IKEA
- Blanket ladder — Vintage
- Blankets — West Elm
- Bar Cart Accessories — The Cocktail Emporium
- Bar Cart Glassware — The Drake General Store
- Art Prints: Average — Paper Collective
- Art Print — Grandpa Store
- Chair — CB2 Woven Malawi Chair
- Moroccan Pouf — BabaSouk
- Projector — LG Minibeam
- Sheepskin Throw — IKEA
- Art Print — Etsy
- Vanity Stool — Phil’z The Junction
- Map Print — Cornerstone Home Interiors, Vintage
- Cowskull — Etsy
- Mirror — Wayfair
- Walk in Closet — IKEA Pax
- Table light — Amazon
- Marshall Speaker — Marshall