hello! neighbor - anna & felipe

In the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Anna and Felipe. They live in a beautiful, sprawling Victorian house in South Parkdale. We shot the house for Hello! Neighbor when a local magazine, Toronto Life contacted me about doing another house tour for them. (You might remember I did a previous one for them here.) I showed them the photos of this house and they decided it would be a good fit for the magazine. The story ran in the December issue of the magazine (an online version is available here). Below are the original photos we took along with the interview. Anna and Felipe met in Barcelona, Spain and I think the warmth and colourful nature of that culture can be seen in their home.

Enjoy the tour!


Anna and Felipe




Lawyer/writer and Spanish teacher/writer


Kids, pets?

No, but we do dog sit.


Year Home was Built



How long have you lived in your home?

1 year


What’s your favorite room and why?

Anna: The dining room because I love its spaciousness and the light in the afternoon.  It has the advantage of two views: our backyard, which feels almost like the country, and the street, which is distinctly more urban.


Felipe: I can't pick a single room.  We've put so much work into the house and I've spent so much time in every corner that every room has its value for me.


How did you find your home?

We had been looking for a place in the West end for 8 months.  By the time we found this house, we had lost 2 bidding wars, and had walked away from a third property because of an unscrupulous real estate agent (not ours).


Where do you get your inspiration from?

Anna: I think Felipe and I often inspire and play off of each other.  If I had to describe our dynamic, I'd say he's the artist and I'm the curator/editor.  What I love about that is that we're both intensely interested in our space and how we can make it beautiful, useful and reflective of us. Sometimes our process involves heated arguments over seemingly ridiculous things like whether a tile should be beveled or flat, but we always get to a place we both love.


Felipe: It's really random.  Sometimes I'm just walking or experimenting with something and an idea comes to me.


How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Anna:  When Felipe and I came back to Canada from Spain two years ago, we decided to settle in the West end, which we were both drawn to whenever we visited Toronto.  We found a great apartment in Parkdale and fell in love with the community and how dynamic the neighbourhood was, so we focused our home search here when we started looking.


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

Anna:  Many parts of the home were well taken care of, but dated.  In addition to painting every part of it and plastering over some unattractive wall finish, we gutted both bathrooms, put in a second floor laundry and updated the kitchen.  I think it's brought the house to life.  We're now concentrating on remaking the amazing backyard, which had been overrun by weeds when we moved in, and which we've now partly converted into a very productive vegetable garden.


Felipe:  The house felt like being inside a giant carrot cupcake when we first moved in.  The walls were a browny yellow with a really rough texture.  That was the first thing we changed.


What would your dream house look like?

Anna:  I don't have a single set of criteria for a dream house.  Every home we've had has offered us the opportunity to create a space that is special to us and unique to the house itself. This is my dream house, and I hope that, if there's a next house, it will be my dream house too.  In terms of what dreams we have for this particular house, we've come to the end of our initial renovation phase and now have to finish furnishing it.  Once that's done, we may turn to phase two renos, which include a larger kitchen that opens directly to the backyard, perhaps with floor to ceiling glass along the back wall, but that's a very distant and optimistically prosperous future.


Felipe:  This house is one of my dream houses.  I'm sure that every house we have will be a dream house for us.


What was the last thing you purchased for your home?

A piece of art - Nice Eis by Julie Jenkinson (at InAbstracto).

Thanks for inviting is into your lovely home Anna and Felipe!


Living Room - pink and yellow chairs upholstered by Tina Morgan

Bathroom Vanity - built by Jeremy Kehoe - The Carroll Street Woodworkers


All photos by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.




hello! neighbor - jenny and rob

This month we're back in Toronto and back to my neighbourhood of Parkdale. I first met Jenny when she invited me over to help her choose some paint colours for her home. However it was clear to me when I walked in that she didn't really need my advice! Her home already looked fantastic. I wasn't surprised when I heard that Jenny has an innovative renovation consulting company called Dwell Contracting. They provide unique services such as advising homeowners on whether they should fix up their current home or buy something new. If you're in the market for a home they will also accompany you to viewings and give you their unbiased opinion on the home's possible future issues or more importantly its design potential. It seems to me like they are filling an important gap in the home renovation market that is not serviced by either designers or contractors. Enjoy the tour!


Jenny Macdonald & Rob Harrison


Jenny: Renovation consultant.  Principal and owner of Dwell contracting.

Rob: Director of Marketing at Alliance Films

Kids, pets?

3 boys: Wesley (nearly 5), and twins Emmett & Gillon (both 1-1/2)

Year Home was Built


How long have you lived in your home?

7 years

What’s your favorite room and why?

Jenny:  I'd have to say our kids rooms.  They have so many nice memories attached to them.

Rob: Our new master bedroom because it's nice and airy- great for reading.

How did you find your home?

Jenny: I had been actively looking for a house in this neighbourhood for a few months.  I saw it first during an Open House.  I really liked that it had a slightly different layout than the standard Victorian.  We'd already lost several in bidding wars and I was determined to get this one.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Jenny: I've always loved everything to do with design and architecture, so I'm constantly reading blogs, books, magazines, poking around shops, walking the neighbourhood....I'm drawn to textiles, graphic prints, anything vintage, or hand-made, and, mid-century modern design in general.

 How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Jenny: At the time it was one of the only affordable neighbourhood's in the west-end.  That, and the proximity to High Park and family.  We were looking for somewhere that we could feel at home raising a family.  Now, I can't imagine living anywhere else.  I feel so lucky to live here!

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

Jenny: It looked very staged and not entirely lived-in, but it was still warm, and had something special about it.  The previous owner had done a lot of work himself and was a complete perfectionist.  Being in the renovation industry myself, this definitely appealed to me!  We've done work in every room of the house, but the big things were finishing the basement, putting in a 2nd bathroom, and re-working the upstairs.  It had 4 small bedrooms- 2 of which were really too small to be very useful, so we made one big master bedroom and extended the bathroom a little bit.  A linen closet was a welcome addition too.

What would your dream house look like?

Jenny:  Modern, open concept, floor to ceiling windows, south facing so it would be flooded with light, extensive use of natural materials.  On a huge tree filled lot within walking distance of Roncesvalles.  I know- keep dreaming!

Rob:  I love ranch style bungalows.  70's look with a modern feel.  Big yard, big trees.

What was the last thing your purchased for your home?

Jenny: The mirror in the front hallway from Mrs. Huizenga's on Roncesvalles.

Thanks Jenny and Rob for inviting us into your home. Please feel free to ask Jenny any questions you might have about the work they did on their place!

All photos by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.

flowers for you

Last week I introduced you to three creative women in our neighbourhood and today I'm happy to tell you about another phenomenal woman hard at work in the community of Parkdale. Sarah Nixon has been getting her hands dirty in backyards and front yards throughout our neighbourhood for about three years now (prior to her move to this side of the city she toiled in the gardens of Leslieville). Her organic flower farm business known as My Luscious Backyard uses local gardens to produce the most beautiful and rare flowers Toronto has to offer and has been written up in The Globe and Mail, Treehugger and The Toronto Star.

About  ten years ago Sarah had the idea to turn her own backyard into an organic flower farm and sell the flowers for profit. As the demand for locally grown, organic flowers grew so did her need for more backyards. Sarah decided to approach her neighbours and eventually strangers and offered up a free, well tended garden in exchange for a place to harvest her flowers all pesticide and chemically free.

This summer Sarah will be cultivating seven different gardens in Parkdale. She will need that many gardens to fulfill all of the opportunities that have arisen. This year Sarah's flowers will be available in the following locations:

  • you can order a weekly or bi-weekly bouquet directly from My Luscious Backyard to your home or work. In the spring, you will get flowers like peonies, scented garden roses and foxgloves and come summer you will receive many rare or uncommon varieties of flowers that you would be hard pressed to find at a conventional florist. Weekly deliveries start at $40 a week.
  • Starting in July you will be able to buy ready-made bouquets of Sarah's flowers at select Rowe Farm locations.
  • You will also see some of Sarah's flowers popping up at Alison Westlake's store Coriander Girl in Parkdale.
  • Finally, if you have a wedding or event planned for the fall you can contact My Luscious Backyard directly and set up an appointment to speak to Sarah.

I'm hoping that one day in the not too far future that I can convince Sarah to share a few of her gardening and flower arranging tips with us on this blog. She is so passionate about what she does - I know we could learn a lot from her!


Image credits:
1- Aaron Harris
2-5 - Sarah Nixon



smock cafe and wonder workshop

What happens when you throw three creative forces behind a new business? You get Smock Cafe and Wonder Workshop! A whimsical, new cafe and arts and crafts oasis for parents and their children situated in our lovely neighbourhood of Roncesvalles. I have an exclusive, first look at this enchanting new place.

Sara Wood, the owner and creative power behind Smock Cafe, started looking for a multifunctional space where parents and their children could unwind and connect with others after she found herself sitting on the floor of one too many gymnasiums with her own daughter. Together with graphic designer Courtney Wotherspoon and interior designer Sarah Keenleyside she set about to devise a space that would provide a meeting spot for parents, nutritious and seasonal food, crafts and activities for a wide age range of children and a place for regularly scheduled classes and camps.

Owner of Smock Cafe, Sara Wood.

Entrance to Smock Cafe (with beautiful encaustic tiles from Granada Tiles that Sara installed herself!)

Marble run wall and stowaway reading nook just for kids.

There is definitely a Do-It-Yourself aesthetic behind everything at Smock Cafe. Sara, Courtney, and Sarah threw themselves completely behind this project and did most of the work themselves from installing all the tile work (Sara), to making the Tom Dixon like black lights from Ikea bowls (Sarah), to creating craft boxes that you can do in the cafe or take home and try (Courtney). In addition, Sara's father-in-law, put in 12 hour days  from the moment they  took possession to opening night.

Courtney Wotherspoon, Sarah Keenelyside and Sara Wood.

Matryoshka Doll craft box created by Courtney.

Vintage sink for washing up after crafts in the Wonder Workshop.

DIY craft boxes and tubes available for purchase.

Smock will be serving up delicious, homemade food that is seasonal, organic and local whenever possible. All of the baked goods will be made fresh daily and on the premises. The Wonder Workshop at the back of the space has a magical artist's apothecary where children can purchase small items like feathers, pom poms, bark, ribbon, and buttons to make crafts on the spot. A facilitator will always be there to lend guidance and encouragement. In the lower room of the cafe, is a space for ongoing classes and summer camps as well as for special events and even children's birthday parties.

The apothecary in the Wonder Workshop.

Fresh baked goods in the cafe.

Lower level room for classes and events.

This whimsical new cafe couldn't have opened at a better time for me! Don't be surprised if you find me there on a daily basis in the coming months. Congratulations to Sara, Courtney and Sarah and everyone behind Smock Cafe on their new venture. It's clearly a labour of love!

For more information on Smock Cafe and Wonder Workshop and to register for classes head to their website or if you live in the neighbourhood drop in! They are officially open starting today.

287 Roncesvalles Avenue - info@smockcafe.com - 416-530-0888

{By the way, if you like those DIY Tom Dixon like pendant lights that Sarah invented come back in the next couple of weeks and I'll fill you in on how she made them!}

All photographs by Sian Richards for The Marion House Book.