Shanan & Chris’s Rustic Glam Rowhouse

published Sep 20, 2010
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Name: Shanan and Chris
Location: West Queen West — Toronto, Canada
Size: 2000 square feet + 400 square foot studio (building behind the house)
Years lived in: 3 — owned

Take one newly renovated, 3 bedroom semi-detached home up for sale in Toronto’s West Queen West neighborhood. Add Shanan, a graphic designer who recently returned to Toronto in search of a home and workspace for her company, Linseed Projects. Wait a few months. Now add Chris Roberts, an artist returning to the city after some years living in the Canadian countryside. Mix in some great vintage pieces, plenty of lively and colorful artwork, some carpentry skills, and a Border Collie named Pally. The result is a well- functioning, cozy home that makes its inhabitants happy, and leaves us with lots to look at and admire.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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Entryway (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Shortly after Shanan first viewed the house that would become her home, the vendors mentioned to their friend Chris that they’d just met an interesting girl. Chris thanked them, but said that he wasn’t looking. Little did he know that a short while later he and Shanan would be making a home together in his friends’ old house. The addition of Chris to the household necessitated a little renovating, since he would need some workspace. An underused and aging detached garage in the backyard was converted (by Chris) into an all-weather art studio. The old wood from the garage was salvaged and transformed into a coat rack and shelf for the entryway and that gorgeous unit in the dining room.

Chris’s handiwork can be seen elsewhere around the house, alongside his beautiful art work. Shanan is no slouch herself. She painted the intricate pattern on the kitchen wall, and made the striking dining room chandelier. Since they both work from home and spend so much time there, the two aren’t afraid of a little elbow grease if it means achieving a look that will make things more interesting. They’ve brought new life to some tired or otherwise boring pieces with a fresh coat of paint, new hardware, or some reupholstering.

In their own unique mix of fabrics, furnishings, and art, Shanan and Chris have gracefully juxtaposed natural wood textures with glossy and lustrous finishes. The look is a sort of urbanely rustic, relaxed yet sophisticated farmhouse – right downtown!

All in all, it’s a recipe for a warm and welcoming home.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Relaxed, elegant, whimsical

Inspiration: Art books, antique stores, magazines… probably the same things many people are inspired by.

Favorite Element: Not sure about a favorite element, but favorite room is probably the dining room. It’s cozy and fun, displays a lot of our little collections (artwork, antique glass bottles, books), and is great for entertaining. We do have a lot of dinner parties. We like to hang different things from the ceiling over the table to change the mood of the room… For Shanan’s birthday party a couple years ago Chris put up about 30 multi-coloured Chinese lanterns and we had an Asian-inspired feast.

Biggest Challenge: Last year Shanan decided to paint a wallpaper pattern directly onto the long kitchen wall, since the actual wallpaper she liked would have been pretty pricey to buy. That ended up being a very long, long… long, drawn out process… although now that it’s all done it feels like it was worth the effort!

What Friends Say: That our place is warm, inviting, and that “there’s so much to look at.” People often come to us for decorating tips and ideas, which is flattering.

Biggest Embarrassment: We’re not too crazy about the checkerboard linoleum floor in the kitchen, which was there when we moved in. Eventually it will probably get painted over or replaced with hardwood.

Also, our front yard is constantly strewn with garbage that blows in from the school-ground across the street. Must construct a fence!

Proudest DIY: Chris tore down the old garage out back and built a fully-functional art studio, complete with skylights and a radiant floor. Aside from the electrical and heat hook-up, he built it entirely himself. He also managed to salvage all the beautiful old barn-board from the original garage and used that to construct built-in shelves in the dining room, a coat rack, hallway storage, and planter boxes for the garden.

Biggest Indulgence: Sounds weird, but that would probably be our water filtration system. It hooks up to the kitchen sink and purifies and ionizes our drinking water. We love it. I’m pretty sure it actually cost more up-front than any other individual furniture or décor element in the house.

Best Advice: I think you just have to have an open mind and an active imagination and you can always find a solution to interior design challenges. You obviously have to work with what you’ve got, but there are so many possibilities for refurbishing old junky stuff (see about 75% of the furniture we own), adding architectural details if the space is boring (we put the chair-rail and mouldings in along the stairs and hallway to define the space better), and arranging things in new ways that may, at first, seem weird but are actually more functional (we switched up the master bedroom space into a home-office, and have the traditional living and dining room areas reversed).

Dream Sources: When I lived in NYC, I used to love wandering around ABC Carpet & Home. (Shanan)

These days we like Lee Valley for yard and garden stuff.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    •Black wall color in entry way: “Toucan Black” by Benjamin Moore
    •Bedroom: “Seapearl” by Benjamin Moore
    •Living Room: “Pacific Panorama” by Para Paints


    •Wallpaper – the pattern is called Labame, purchased from (German wallpaper company)
    •Shelf and coat rack – built by Chris


    • Couch: Pavilion (739 Queen St West)
    •Rug: Pottery Barn
    •Loveseat, armchair, ottoman – all vintage stuff re-painted and re-upholstered
    •Credenza/TV unit – IKEA (this might be the only thing I’ve ever bought from there that I truly, truly love)
    •Coffee table – built by Chris
    •Lamps – Urban Outfitters (we painted the bases)
    •Chandelier – Home Depot (we painted it white)
    •Artwork – all the artwork in the living room was done by Chris


    •Dining table & shelving – built by Chris
    •Dining chairs – all vintage
    •Paper chandelier – made by Shanan


    •Imitation Saarinen table – CB2
    •Chairs and free-standing counter unit – IKEA
    •Painted ‘wallpaper’ – the pattern was inspired by Ostara, available also from


    •Bedframe – IKEA
    •Chest of drawers – vintage from Ebay, we painted it, and the knobs are from Anthropologie
    •Textured pillows and duvet – West Elm
    •Horseshoe pillowcases – very old Urban Outfitters
    •Side-tables – built by Chris
    •Side-table lamps – HomeSense
    •Dresser lamp – Crate & Barrel
    •Artwork: beautiful stuff from some of our talented friends – photograph by Cydney Puro, watercolour by Faten Kanaan, text painting done by Shanan.


    • Shelving unit and green storage boxes – IKEA
    • The long desk is a vintage machine shop work bench
    • Artwork: the quasi-ubiquitous “for like ever” poster from , photograph by etsy seller ‘ lemonpepper‘, women engraving illustrations are vintage from St. Lawrence Antiques market

    Thanks, Shanan and Chris!

    Images: Abby Cook

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