PHOTOGRAPHY: LESLIE GOODWIN
STYLING: BARBARA MILNER
Barbara Milner knew she had stumbled upon something special as soon as she stepped into the century-old, three-bed-room home in downtown Newmarket. Despite being in what she calls “a state of disarray” from a trail of rental tenants, the house had terrific bones and an endearing town-and-country feel. No doubt it was ripe for a full-blown renovation, but the designer couldn’t imagine doing anything that would intrude on the home’s warmth, character and charm.
“It had been sitting for some time after experiencing quite a bit of wear and tear,” explains Milner, principal at Toronto-based South Hill Interiors and a real estate agent with Forest Hill Yorkville. “But the decision was made that it’s in a fabulous area so let’s invest in a full-gut renovation. It was stripped down to the bare beams – all new layout, new framing. So what you get is a brand new home with the original bones. It’s quite lovely that way. You have all the modern luxuries and finishes and aesthetics but also feel very much that you’re in a historic century home.”
A visual person by nature, Milner could clearly envision the home’s occupants and how they’d move through the space. At under 2,000 square feet and with a picturesque back-yard, it would be the perfect starter home for a young professional couple, perhaps with a small child. The 400-square-foot kitchen would be their preferred hangout, whether for eating, chatting, doing homework or en-tertaining. But being fairly small, the kitchen needed as much bang for the buck as Milner could give it while retaining what she calls the “modern farmhouse” fuss-free flavour.
With such adjectives as “airy,” “inviting” and “functional” swimming in her head, Milner got busy. First up: maximize seating options while infusing a swoosh of style. Rather than outfitting the eating area with an ordinary table with chairs around it, the kitchen’s cozy breakfast nook with its comfy wood bench seating is tucked along the window wall and anchored with a glass table that’s supported by custom-built pillars. Barn-like wood-and-iron chairs can be pulled up alongside the table, with matching stools tucked under the stone island.
Though the $20,000 kitchen possesses all the modern conveniences of today (and at affordable prices, too!), the yesteryear aspects are what make it stand out. From the blue cabinets and the white oak floor, which seems hand-scraped, to the backsplash of subway tiles, the intriguing patina on the feature wall and the rustic lighting fixtures, a sense of calmness prevails throughout the carefully planned space.
Much to Milner’s delight, the kitchen now has the pitter-patter of little feet. New parents bought the home and love the flow of the room where they spend so many of their waking hours.
“I’m so pleased that a tiny human is in there and able to grow up there and have it be their kitchen, their home, where they’ll formulate a lot of memories,” says Milner. “That’s super special! To me it’s very much a practical family kitchen with a lot of heart. It photographs well, too, so their family photos will look great. Their Instagram will be marvellous!” •
South Hill Interiors