hello! neighbor - alexandra&daniel

Hats off to my wonderful photographer, Kristin Sjaarda! When I started my job at Chatelaine I wasn't sure if I would be able to continue this series. It takes time and energy to find these homes and I was afraid I wouldn't have the resources. Well, I was right but Kristin gamely picked up the ball and has been searching out homes and photographing them on her own ever since. I think you'll agree that her latest find is particularly fabulous. Thanks Kristin. Enjoy the tour!

Names/Occupations: Daniel Leibu, CTO & Alexandra Flynn, lawyer

Kids: Jonah (8) & Simon (5)

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Year Home was built: 1880s (guesstimation!)

How long have you lived in your home? Since July 2012

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What’s your favorite room and why?

I love the dining area. It serves as the core of our daily life – where we have hurried morning breakfasts and long, lingering dinners with friends, impromptu card games, and where the boys protest over their homework. It also defines our style – an open and airy space; a traditional table and chairs with a splash of fun and colour; and a painting that reminds us of a rainy, blissful day on the Amalfi Coast where we bought it.

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How did you find your home? 

We had been looking for a few months, but weren't in a hurry to buy. We loved the winding street our house is on, but were initially daunted by the work we needed to do. But, circumstances led to a really great price and we jumped on it!

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Were you looking for anything in particular?

Top-of-the-list criteria were: good bones and not yet renovated. We'd renovated in the past and (despite the chaos) saw it as an ideal way to make a space fully our own. The potential for an open living and kitchen space was fundamental. We also wanted a good place for the boys to run around, outside and in. We were coming from a two bedroom/1 bath flat, so at least two bathrooms and a great guest space was high on the list!

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

More than anything else, my inspiration comes from spending time in Berlin and Paris, where style seems effortless. I also find that understanding our own design values helps a lot (this time, ours were 'simple', 'minimalist', 'playful' and 'functional', and underscored all design decisions, from room placement to furniture to art). That said, I have wasted many, many hours on Oh Happy Day, AB Chao, marion house book and apartment therapy, and perusing Commute Home's addictive website. And, in the throes of active home decoration, I relentlessly texted my friend (and design goddess), Dana, and my very practical husband, Dan, before any critical decision was made.

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How did you end up living in your neighbourhood?

The zones of our kids' school meant living within certain geographical boundaries, which guaranteed a mixed neighbourhood with at least a few decent coffee places nearby, and that was in biking/walking distance to work and school. I also wanted a street and neighbourhood where our children could play with other kids and without fear that speeding cars would run them off the sidewalk. Other than that, we were relatively open. But, now, I can't imagine living anywhere else in Toronto! The Ossington and Dundas strips are fantastic, with interesting, fun places opening all of the time. We have fantastic neighbours, tons of kids nearby, and the best trick-or-treating for miles (fighting words!). Also: Enoteca Sociale and Luna café within crawling distance. What more could you ask for?

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What did your home look like when you first saw it? What work have you done on it to make it your own?

Like many semis in Toronto, there were several small-ish rooms on the main floor and some curious additions over the years. We completely gutted the main floor to make it open, moving the kitchen from the rear to the middle to make it the heartbeat of the house. We also added doors at the back that could completely open to the garden to integrate outside and in. We kept as much of the gorgeous, historical details, like the pretty mouldings and stained glass as we could. We finished the basement to create a playspace for the kids and a comfortable guest area, and added new floors, lighting and storage space throughout.

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What would your dream house look like?

We are reasonably nomadic people, so I doubt this is the last house we'll be in. Depending on our next steps, our dream house could be a flat somewhere in Europe or a plot of land on Saturna Island or a house boat in Laos – the only essential that we are all there together. Right now, with our kids and friends and family and selves, this house is pretty perfect.

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What was the last thing your purchased for your home?

We had the tree fort and outside bench designed and constructed by our incredibly talented neighbour!

Thanks Alex and Dan for inviting us into your home.

All photos by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.