Name: Sam and Ben
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 1160 square feet
Years lived in: 5.5
Over the past five years, this airy loft in a century old, converted candy factory, has been more than a home for Sam Irvine: it's been an ongoing project. Now that the family's grown to include a boyfriend (Ben) and a rambunctious Rottweiler mix (Amos), Sam's selling the condo and moving into a house. She was kind enough to invite us over for a tour before the packing - and selling - begins.
Sam likes to describe her style as Bauhaus meets farmhouse, but she manages to tie together a great number of styles in the large open space. In a sense, she decorated the place in reverse, finding pieces that she loves and then figuring out how to make them work best.
The main room is divided into four zones, marked by subdued, earth-toned area rugs, and in the kitchen, a large granite-topped island. The kitchen, Sam says, is the centre of the action. When she and Ben entertain, which they frequently do, guests gather around the island as Ben plays bartender.
The warm Douglas fir posts - a relic from the original factory - set the tone for the condo, but Sam has found that so long as she sticks to natural materials, with a hearty dose of steel and marble thrown into the mix, she can get away with a lot.
The couple has purchased a new home together in the neighborhood, and Sam is excited for a new project. But leaving is bittersweet: The open space couldn't be better for parties, and Sam says their friends, too, are disappointed to see the place go. But saddest of all, she says, is that after nearly six years, "I finally feel like I've finished decorating."
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My/Our style: Mid-century modern meets parental cast-offs from the 80s, with some industrial flair inspired by the loft itself. I hate to say "eclectic" because it's not too descriptive, but we really don't have anything that matches, so the term kind of fits. Almost everything is vintage, recycled or inherited.
Inspiration: Changes day-to-day but always comes back to the space - the Douglas fir beams and ceilings tend to keep me grounded in natural materials. There is as much Bauhaus as there is farmhouse (call it Florence Knoll meets Johnny Appleseed). Not sure how that happened, or frankly, whether it works at all. I just know what I like when I see it (and I might have ADD).
Favorite Element: The pleasure of entertaining in an open room.
Biggest Challenge: Bedtime. I go to sleep early, and Ben likes to futz around late into the night sometimes. Shortly after he moved in, he decided to caramelize onions for a grilled cheese sandwich at 1 a.m. I was not happy about that one, but we've adapted - and defined some reasonable boundaries - since.
What Friends Say: Everyone comments on the welder's table, which is way more Johnny Appleseed than Florence Knoll. Paul Mercer, who owns a store in Toronto called SMASH, found it at a farm somewhere and brought it home.
Biggest Embarrassment: Every morning when I walk downstairs naked before realizing the blinds aren't closed. Those big windows are good for light and terrible for privacy.
Proudest DIY: Ben's triumph over our bed frame, which he recently rebuilt despite having very little experience with DIY and, well, tools.
Biggest Indulgence: The (Florence) Knoll-inspired credenza that sits behind our couch. I fell in love when I found it at Queen West Antiques, but was reluctant to buy it because of the price. I eventually decided to go back - I couldn't stop thinking about it - but it had already sold. I am a regular at the store, so I asked about it the next time I stopped by. As it turned out, the buyer had fallen through and they were sending it to their other store. We called and re-routed the truck, and it was in our living room that afternoon.
Best advice: Go slow. If you rush into purchases you will regret them, and if you furnish your whole space in one or two shopping trips it will lack character. Your home can be a great way to express your creativity, so take the time to make it reflect who you are. Don't just go out and buy stuff because it matches.
Dream source: The Mies Van Der Rohe Pavillion, stocked with teak and glass, with a huge barn out back full of old saddle leather and hay bales.
Resources: SMASH, Queen West Antiques, Antiques at the Barn (Fowler's Corners, Ontario), Addison's, The Door Store, watercolour barn paintings by my grandmother, Gwen Sheppard
Thanks, Sam and Ben!
(Images: Abby Cook)