When one designer’s best-laid reno plans met a roadblock, she just went with the flow.
Designer Jennifer Garnett’s statement-making Toronto home rose from the ashes – literally. While sections of the house were being demolished (the place was bought specifically for its reno potential), someone set it ablaze in the night and it had to be torn down. Unlike the flamboyant phoenix, however, Jennifer’s new 3,000-square-foot house – shared with husband Joe Strolz and teenage daughter Zara – has the more demure good looks of a graceful swan.
The fire sent Jennifer and the project’s architect, Jennifer Scholes, back to the drawing board. “Sometimes, you need to pivot!” the designer recalls. The rejigged design focused on creating an integrated network of contemporary spaces flooded with natural light and linked to the outdoors via huge windows. Space for a fourth bedroom was sacrificed to make room for clutter-busting built-ins and a two-storey light shaft with skylight.
The aesthetic is calm and clean-lined. “Using similar materials throughout, but in different ways, creates a cohesive flow,” Jennifer says. “Each room still has its own wow moment, but as a whole, the home reads as one.” Natural materials like white oak and marble add warmth to the architecture. But what really makes this home enchanting is Jennifer’s skill at layering decorative elements and colours to curate a cutting-edge mix that’s both fresh and friendly.
A fair bit of that charm comes by way of treasures she’s thrifted and collected over the years. “Layering vintage art, antique rugs, plants and personal objects gives it that extra bit of personality,” Jennifer says. Her recipe? It’s instinct, she admits. “But, generally, if I’m using multiple colours in one room, I like to see each colour in at least two to three places. It can be obvious or very subtle, but there should be a way for your eye to connect it.” There’s also the matter of knowing when to scale the palette up or back. “Because our public rooms are open-concept, I used neutral colours to keep the eye moving throughout the space,” she says. Upstairs, the bedrooms are splashed in favourite hues.
Feedback from friends has reiterated that Jennifer truly got the mix right. “Back when we could have people over, the most common thing guests would say was, ‘It’s modern, but so warm.’ That’s the biggest compliment to me. It means we’ve created a space that’s not just pretty, but feels like home.” This swan, it seems, has a bit of fire in it, after all.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | ARCHITECTURE, Jennifer Scholes Architect. BUILDER, Arthur Ross. GREY SECTIONAL, Article. Gus*Modern CLEAR TABLE, Stylegarage. FRINGED STOOL, Spruce. Flat-weave RUG, IKEA. BLACK SCONCE, HomeSense. PORTRAIT PAINTING, Guff. BLACKBIRD ART, Christine Flynn Art. WHITE VASE, West Elm. WOOD CANDLESTICKS, Bettencourt Manor.
While the architecture is undeniably modern, designer Jennifer Garnett’s poetic mix of tones and textures in art and accessories is a feast for the eyes. The living room’s spacious grey sectional and ethereal acrylic side table with wood-grain detailing are mod contrasts to the chunky live-edge tree-stump coffee table. A silky hide rug balances the two-toned flat- weave it sits on. Jennifer’s tips for curating eclectic pieces? “When pairing different styles, it’s important to get the scale right, and that the materials and palette are complementary,” she says.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | CHAIRS, West Elm. STOOL, Inabstracto. MIRROR, Anthropologie. CEILING FIXTURE, Shelter. Vintage CRANES, Casa Alma. WALL PAINT, Simply White OC-117, Benjamin Moore.
In a twist on convention, the living room was located at the back of the house to capitalize on views of the newly landscaped backyard and create a breathtaking sightline from the front door right back to this wood-burning Stûv fireplace. A streamlined arrangement of mid-century modern lounge chairs and a light-as-air ottoman balances the exuberant gallery wall opposite. The sliding door on the right accesses the backyard. White oak flooring installed throughout the house was finished on site with Rubio oil.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | THROW PILLOWS, CB2 and West Elm. Houndstooth-style THROW, Cabane. GOLD SIDE TABLE, West Elm. CROSS ART, Christine Flynn Art.
A diverse collection of art makes a statement in the bright white living room. “At first, we had a single large art piece here. It was quite minimal and it never felt balanced to me. So we brought this art wall from our place in Prince Edward County, and now I love it,” Jennifer says. “Art plays a big role in this house. Depending on the scale of the art and the room, it has the ability to pull a space in and make it more intimate, or open it up. In open-concept spaces like these, I use it to create rooms within a room.”
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | TABLE, IKEA. CHAIRS, Craft Home Decor. BUILT-IN and BANQUETTE CONSTRUCTION, Ma Belle Kitchens. ART, Bradley Wood. CHANDELIER, Lambert & Fils. Vintage CANDELABRA, Casa Alma.
Tucking the dining table and ample banquette seating into a corner is a space-efficient move that also gives the dining area an innate coziness. “We wanted a casual dining area that we’d actually use on a regular basis, and an inviting space that encourages use outside of dining, too,” Jennifer explains. The leggy, open base of the banquette keeps the look light and airy, making the room feel larger.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Kitchen Design: Jennifer Garnett and Jennifer Scholes | CABINET and ISLAND CONSTRUCTION, Ma Belle Kitchens. MARBLE, Diamante Granite & Marble. Black PENDANT, Lambert & Fils. STOOLS, Blu Dot. BOWL on island, West Elm. OVENS, Thermador. CUTTING BOARD, HomeSense. BASKET with oranges, Ferm Living.
Acknowledging that the kitchen is the hub of family life, Jennifer situated it in the middle of the main floor, then designed it to feel warm, integrated and “not super kitcheny – more like furniture.” To that end, all appliances except the wall ovens are panelled, the toaster and coffee maker are tucked into an appliance garage, and a downdraft fan drops into the island when not in use. Even the counter stools slide under the island to improve flow.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Kitchen Design: Jennifer Garnett and Jennifer Scholes | COUNTERTOPS, BACKSPLASH, Diamante Granite & Marble. FAUCET, Blanco.
Generous swaths of white oak give the quiet architecture warmth. The interplay of white and wood cabinets was carefully considered. “I wanted to use wood to keep it from feeling sterile, but because we used it extensively in other places on the main floor, it needed to be restrained,” Jennifer says. “Combining it with white cabinets also kept the budget in check.” The island is topped with the Calacatta marble used for the backsplash, but the counter around the sink is Caesarstone for durability.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | WALL PAINT, Essex Green HC-188, Benjamin Moore. BED, BEDSIDE TABLE, West Elm. BEDDING, CB2 and IKEA. THROW with tassels, Rug & Weave. FLORAL PILLOW, HomeSense. SCONCE, RH. WINDOWSEAT, Ma Belle Kitchens.
The verdant feature wall was a late addition in the primary bedroom. Jennifer started with the walls painted a pale silvery green, but the room felt “void,” she says. “It needed more drama, so I tried the darker shade and that gave it a cozier feel, provided a contrasting backdrop for the headboard and made the sconces come to life. I have an affinity for green. It feels the same as when you bring a plant into a room. It has that same calming nature.”
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | CHAIR, Guff. SHEEPSKIN, Article. RUG, ORANGE PILLOW, West Elm. SIDE TABLE, HomeSense. RUG, PLANTER, West Elm. PLANT, Greenwood Nurseries. ART, Christine Flynn Art. WICKER LAMP, CREDENZA, Bettencourt Manor.
Throughout the house, Jennifer brought in darker wood furniture to contrast the white oak floors and millwork. “I love the uncluttered shapes of mid-century design and the deep wood tones of many of the furniture pieces of that era,” she says. Jennifer is also a fan of Moroccan rugs in a bedroom. “They’re so soft. I wanted this bedroom to be both uncluttered and cozy.”
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | Horse ART, HomeSense. VANITY, Roman Bath. FLOOR TILE, Ceragres. WALL TILE, Daltile. MIRROR, Ginger’s. SCONCE, Amazon.
In Zara’s bathroom, black-toned hardware and lighting are kid-friendly alternatives to the brass in mom and dad’s space. “I don’t usually buy art from HomeSense, but this one caught my eye,” Jennifer says of the art in the hallway. “Zara is really into horses, and I wanted her to have something she loved. Plus, the scale is perfect for the space.” Glass railings on the stairs allow light to flow more easily down to the first floor from the skylight.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | TUB, Victoria & Albert. TAPS, FAUCET, Aquabrass. VANITY, Modern Bath. KNOBS on vanity, Amazon. WALL TILE, Daltile. FLOOR TILE, Ceragres. SHOWER FLOOR TILE, Antica Tile & Stone. SHOWER GLASS, Vast Interiors Custom Glass and Mirror. STOOL, Love the Design. TOWEL on stool, Tonic Living. VASE on stool, Gifted. LIGHT FIXTURE, West Elm. PLANT, PLANTER, Moss. TOWEL TABLE, CB2. HAND TOWEL, Tonic Living.
In the primary ensuite, herringbone-patterned wall tiles bring texture to the monochromatic palette. “To add a little more drama, we tiled all the walls in this bathroom,” Jennifer says. The room boasts a spacious glassed-in shower, freestanding soaker tub and a pair of vanities. “Two vanities is a nice way for us to keep our mess to ourselves!” Jennifer says. For consistency and flow, she repeated some design elements – subway-style wall tile, hexagonal floor tile and dark-wood vanities – in all bathrooms except the powder room.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | BUILT-INS, Ma Belle Kitchens. STOOL, HomeSense. ARTWORK, Christine Flynn Art, Casa Alma, and Old Faithful.
Built-ins are an important key to Jennifer’s deft styling. “They maximize a feeling of calm,” she explains. “Tons of storage on all three floors keeps the space clutter-free and means that only the things we want to be on display are on display.” In the basement family room, those include the family’s guitar, dried greenery and figurative artworks. A sliding glass door leading to the backyard fills the basement with natural light. A projection screen descends from the ceiling here for movie viewing.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | SECTIONAL, Stylegarage. WALLPAPER MURAL, Anthropologie. OTTOMANS, DEER ARTWORK, HomeSense. RUG, Keep. BLACK CHAIR, Love the Design. THROW PILLOWS, CB2 and H&M Home.
A romantic etched landscape mural establishes a traditional mood in the family room, which Jennifer quickly dispelled with a Moroccan-style rug splashed in toasty reds and oranges. “The area needed some colour, so we went big on the rug!” she says. The modular sofa seats everyone comfortably on movie nights — and was also a durable base for Zara’s forts and games when she was younger. “Zara and her friends could rough around down here without concern of anything breaking. Now, the whole family uses this space, and I’ve brought in more styling elements.”
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | DAYBED, BASKET, IKEA. RUG, TABLE, HomeSense. PLANT, Moss. PENDANT LIGHT, Morba. THROW, Gifted. ART, Christine Flynn Art, Vintage Fine Objects, Make Moves Vintage, and MacCool’s Re-Use.
The family’s third bedroom acts as guest room and home office, as well as a blank canvas for another gallery wall. “Art – a mix of modern and vintage – plays a major part in my styling phase,” Jennifer says, explaining her design process. “I gather pieces that I think will work well together, making sure there’s a balance of wood, metal and painted finishes for the frames, as well as both vertical and horizontal pieces. I rearrange them on the floor until I find a layout I like, take a photograph for reference, and then recreate it on the wall.”
Photography: Patrick Biller | Design: Jennifer Garnett Design | VANITY, Ma Belle Kitchens. Caesarstone COUNTERTOP, Diamante Granite & Marble. BACKSPLASH TILE, Ciot. MIRROR, Anthropologie. TAPS, FAUCETS, Kohler. SINK, Victoria & Albert. PENDANT LIGHT, Lambert & Fils. VASE, West Elm.
The eye-catching full-height backsplash in the main-floor powder room was a win-win: the lookalike material has the luxe feel of marble, but the price tag of ceramic tile. A dark-stained vanity anchors the airy space, and brass hardware and lighting – plus a sunny photo of Palm Springs – inject of-the-moment style.
Photography: Patrick Biller | Kitchen Design: Jennifer Garnett and Jennifer Scholes | CABINET CONSTRUCTION, Ma Belle Kitchens. FLOORING, Elite Flooring. RUG, The Door Store. Green CHAIR, Guff.
Bringing in lots of natural light was a central design goal. Huge windows were a start. “We also added open-to-below areas to create a central light shaft that spans the height of two floors and is topped with an oversized skylight,” says Jennifer. In the kitchen, the staircase wraps around cabinetry that houses fridge and freezer columns, and the pantry. “The cabinetry serves to bridge both floors and create a visually pleasing monolithic volume,” she adds. Two green armchairs beside the stairs invite friends to chat with the chefs and “make the whole area more conversational.”