What started as a four-week project to replace flooring morphed into a two-year-plus transformation of Lisa and Keith Miller’s entire two-storey infill in Marda Loop. Everything except some porcelain tiles has been ripped out, replaced or redone.
“We had always hated the floors in this house,” says Lisa of the original maple hardwood in the 14-year-old home. “For me, picking the floors was the first step to everything.”
The Millers hired the Reena Sotropa In House Design Group after seeing the company’s work in an issue of Avenue more than 10 years ago.
“I remembered that article,” says Lisa. “I just loved their design.” Now, the flooring on all three levels of the 1,800-square-foot home, including the stairs, is a wide-plank, engineered white oak in a smoky, matte finish. Sotropa designed custom, Art-Deco-styled black metal railing to replace the original builder-grade wood spindles.
Once the flooring was finished it was obvious to Lisa that more changes were going to have to happen. “Everything had to look good with the floor, ultimately,” she says.
For principal designer Reena Sotropa and senior designer Alanna Dunn, that meant a dramatic change for the walls. “One of the things that struck me was that Lisa and Keith were very youthful, hip and charismatic,” says Sotropa, “[but] the house was very moody and shadowy. We wanted to let the light in and bounce it around as much as we could. That was hugely important. I wanted the house to reflect the clients more.”
“It was very cavey in here,” agrees Lisa.
Sotropa used a warm white called Tapestry Beige by Benjamin Moore to repaint all the original dark-chocolate walls. “I didn’t want stark white,” says Lisa of the choice.“I wanted a little bit of warmth, so this is a good go-between.”
For Keith, the updated living room has become his favourite go-to spot for reading, relaxing and watching TV. “Before Reena … it was dated,” says Keith of the room’s original fireplace and bulky cabinet. “Now it’s like, ‘wow, this is amazing!’”
Sotropa’s team used vein-cut limestone to create a stunning floor-to-ceiling focal point that frames the modern fireplace and flat-screen TV. Custom walnut cabinetry flanks the new fireplace and hides all the electronic components.
The Millers also had the bathrooms brought up to similar stylish standards. The original bathroom design featured builder-grade granite countertops with banjos — slimmer extensions of the main counters that run along the wall above the toilets (“which I think is so hideous,” says Lisa). Out went the banjos, in came banjo-less black honed-granite countertops. Playful black-and-white Dalmatian-print wallpaper replaced the red-on-red damask wallpaper in the main-floor powder room. The design team also repainted the maple vanity a vibrant electric blue.
And just when they thought they were finished with remodelling, Lisa realized she didn’t love the kitchen.
So, Sotropa’s design team returned and brightened the compact kitchen by repainting the dark espresso cabinets in soft, warm grey. They replaced the original dark backsplash with white rectangular tiles set in a herringbone pattern. They also replaced the small two-tiered island with a single level waterfall countertop sheathed in a spectacular white Macaubus quartzite. They used matte brass handles in the kitchen and installed a Jonathan Adler chandelier in the same finish in the dining nook to add an elegant sheen to the heart of the home.
“I love everything, but the kitchen revolutionized my life,” says Lisa. “There’s just so much more [counter space] with the new island. I love the lines and how much more open it feels.”
Although Lisa embraced the lighter and more spacious feel throughout most of the house, she opted to keep one room in the dark. She devoted one upstairs bedroom to what she calls her “den.” A dark, Kelly Wearstler wallpaper printed in metallic-gold organic shapes gives the room a dose of drama. Lisa’s favourite books and keepsakes fill the custom floor-to-ceiling oak bookshelves, and a new Jonathan Adler chair sits beside an elegant bar cart equipped with an espresso machine ready to serve a shot of morning caffeine.
Despite the fact that the Millers and their four small dogs were essentially living in a construction zone for the past two years, the couple agrees every room was worth it. “It makes us so happy,” says Keith. “Lisa and I are homebodies. We like being home with our dogs. We use all the spaces.”
Designer Reena Sotropa’s Tips for Making a Small Space Feel Larger
1. Lighten Up “Lighter colours can open up a space and let the light bounce off and enter those previously dark corners.”
2. Swap Two Levels for One “Anytime you can create homogeneity in a space, it will result in a more open feel — this extends to things like countertops being all one level, and consistent wall colours and flooring materials.”
3. See it Through “Any time your eye is able to pass through an object into an adjacent space — such as open railings, stair risers, frameless glass in a shower — it will result in the perception that the spaces are visually joined, and thus larger.”
4. Go Low “The furniture pieces in the Miller’s living room/dining nook area were chosen specifically to maintain open sightlines through the space. The backs of the living room furniture are low, the dining nook furniture is airy and light.”
5. Open Up “We employed the use of open shelves strategically, and even went so far as to leave some of the niches empty. This not only results in a gallery-like feel, but it allows the eye to perceive the full depth of the room.”