hello!neighbor - sarah and jesse

We first got a taste of designer Sarah Keenelyside's style when I introduced you to the child friendly cafe, Smock, she helped design back in May. You might also remember the DIY Tom Dixon like lamps she made out of a $20 Ikea bowl that I highlighted on the HGTV blog. Sarah and her partner Jesse have an amazing home in the neighborhood that they have lovingly restored and made their own. The home has a charming blend of original details like the stained glass windows and original doors and updated features like a new kitchen and bathroom. Enjoy the tour!


Sarah Keenleyside + Jesse Boyer


Interior Designer + Entrepreneur

Kids, pets?

Soda, our 8 year old Chocolate Lab

Year Home was Built


How long have you lived in your home?

2 1/2 years

 What’s your favorite room and why?

Sarah- I would have to say the Kitchen/Dining Room. We opened up the wall between the two rooms because we knew that we would never use the formal dining room enough. I love that we were able to alter the room functions of the home to suit our lifestyle but still keep the original character. It is the space where friends and family all gather and I get to eat breakfast every morning with my "soulmate" chandelier hanging over head. So fancy!

Jesse- I have always been attracted to third floors and this house has a great one. It was originally 3 rooms but previous owners knocked down walls and made it one with a bathroom and kitchen . We kept the bathroom and updated it with a new floor, toilet and sink. We also used original cedar tongue and groove planks that were used as partition walls in the basement as a wall treatment on one wall. This looks very cool. We got rid of the kitchen entirely. We use the space as a TV watching area, an office and a small exercising area.

How did you find your home? Had you been looking for a long time?

We had been looking for 6 months in a large pocket of the West end. We had offered on a couple of houses but lost out in bidding wars. When we found this listing, referred to as "The Grand Dame of Callender St.", we both loved that the house had roughly 15 coats of paint and wallpaper but had never been altered (except for the third floor). The layout was very unique and we instantly realized that this was why we didn't get those other houses. I (Sarah) am an Interior Designer and love to get my hands dirty and Jesse has renovated several investment properties over the years and really knows his way around these old brick houses. We fought for it and the only condition we put on the offer was, please include all the old doors that are covered in cobwebs in the basement.   (See bathroom door)

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Sarah - The bad answer is everywhere and anything but it's true. I think I can credit a lot of my design aesthetic to my Grandma Keenleyside. Bernice was straight out of Mad Men and my grandparents home was this incredible mix of mid-century modern, West Coast Native artwork (Grandpa was from Vancouver), Indonesian and Chinese carved wood pieces, Persian rugs and travel kitsch. I kind of live by the rule that anything goes if it feels good, has a story and/or makes you smile. I try not to follow trends but fashion is a constant inspiration for fabric mixing and jewellery design is a constant inspiration for lighting.

Jesse - I'm not so specific about where my design ideas come from. Probably from touring renovations and other houses. I have definitely learned what I like through trial and error. Sarah, of course is a big influence.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Sarah - We were looking in the West but I was open to many neighbourhoods. I'm from Ottawa originally so I had been searching for "my neighbourhood" here in Toronto over the past 10 years. The beautiful thing about Toronto is that everyone has one and it just takes time to find the right fit. The right fit for me was Roncesvalles Ave. which reminds me of the Glebe in Ottawa and the grittier artsy side of the Queen West strip at the bottom of our street. Also, the adjacency to my Mecca aka- Queen West Antiques Centre.

Jesse - I was open to anywhere in the west end. I grew up in Kensington Market and around Ossington and College and knew I wanted to be in the west end of town. I had never heard of Callender street but when we walked through the place and saw its amazing potential I looked further into the area to see what it would be like to live there.  Proximity to the highway, lake,High Park, Queen Street and Roncesvalles made the choice very easy so we were quite aggressive with our offer and beat out 7 other bidders.

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

Sarah - Jesse and I combined have touched every single inch of this home. Jesse worked on the house full time for 8 months straight! Nothing had been updated so we had to replace all the electrical and plumbing in the home.One of the biggest things we did was to knock off the back mud room extension which allowed more light into the dining and kitchen areas and really enhanced the view of the backyard. We fully renovated the kitchen (Ikea) and opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room. The second floor bathroom was a tiny toilet only room with a tub and vanity in the room beside. We combined the two rooms to create a more functional washroom and reused the original back door of the house as the washroom door. All new windows which felt like a crime but they were not efficient and converted the unfinished basement into a cool 1 bedroom rental unit. We did a polished concrete floor down there and I know that Jesse is jealous that our tenants get to enjoy it and we don't.

What would your dream house look like?

Sarah - A lot like this! Maybe with a finished exterior though...we haven't really had time to get around to that yet. Sorry neighbours.

Jesse - I agree with Sarah but maybe a little more modern. As much as I like the original plaster walls they arent very efficient. So my dream house would be better insulated (not very sexy I know) and maybe with in floor heating and hot water on demand.

What was the last thing your purchased for your home?

Sarah - This great brass candelabra set from the 60's. (In the dining room) I found them on Craigslist through the most amazing tumblr site- (The Listings List, "A curatorial peek at Toronto's online classifieds.") A friend introduced me to this site and I can not thank her enough. All of a sudden there are more hours in my day because I am not cruising Craigslist and Kijiji.

Jesse - Cedar decking boards for the front porch, which we are finally starting to work on.

Thanks Sarah & Jesse for inviting us into your home!

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.

hello!neighbor - ana & christian

As your scrolling through the images of this month's Hello! Neighbor tour take some time to stop at look at the photos of the kitchen. One of the things that drew Ana and Christian to this house was the original 1950s cabinetry yet every contractor they spoke to insisted they tear it out and start again. Instead this couple chose to add in a black and white checked floor, a farmhouse style sink and butcher block countertops essentially making it their own. One of my favourite things about doing these house tours is stories like these where homeowners stick to their guns to fulfill their own vision of what home is. Enjoy the tour!

Names: Christian Friis + Ana Yuristy

Occupations: Biologist with Canadian Wildlife Service and Director of Hotel Operations for the Drake Hotel

Do you have any kids or pets? Our daughter Sabine (5 months old) + our dog Toby (an English Setter)  Year Home was Built: 1901

How long have you lived in your home?

Since November 2008 (4 years)

What’s your favorite room?

The kitchen--it gets lots of light, has plenty of space, and its where all the action is whenever we have a gathering of friends and family.

How did you find your home?

We spent a long time looking for a place in the East end (our old apartment was at Danforth + Broadview). We finally expanded our search West and with the help of our good friend and real estate agent extraordinaire Avryll McNair we landed a great deal on our place just before the economic meltdown of 2008.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I would describe our aesthetic as preference for the worn, loved, and  vintage. Especially when it comes to fabric and furniture--if the design looks 'new' we don't tend to dig it.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

We absolutely lucked into an incredibly family friendly neigbourhood and street. Close to work (for Ana) and close to the subway (for Christian). Plus with High Park (for Toby) and the shops on Roncesvalles only a short walk away it is an ideal location for us in every way.

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

The layout of the house was pretty typical but we fell in love with the size and layout of the kitchen in particular right away. When we first moved in we had a tough time finding a contractor who was willing to work with the existing 1950s kitchen cabinetry which we loved. At first, everyone we met insisted we rip it out and start fresh with brand new cabinets and granite countertops which is not really our style. Our vision was to match + extend the existing cabinetry along the South wall, and tie it all together with a butcher block counter, simple checkerboard floor tiles, and a farmhouse sink. We think it turned out great! We also designed a bench which doubles as a shelf for shoes and a storage box for outdoor gear since we would need to tear down the mudroom in order to have space for the bi-level cedar deck built in our backyard. Our backyard is pretty shady so we finally learned our lesson that tomatoes and herbs won't work, but our next big project is to landscape with a rock garden and lots of ferns. We also had our bathroom professionally redone after an initial try at doing the re-tiling ourselves. In the living room we built an entire wall of shelving to accommodate a gorgeous old cast iron fireplace front we found on Craigslist.

What would your dream house look like?

Flooded with sunlight on a sugar maple farm in the country.

What was the last thing your purchased for your home?

Fresh flowers--our home's favourite accessory, especially in the middle of the grey winter months.

Thanks Ana and Christian for inviting us into your home.

What's your favourite feature of their home?

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.


hello!neighbor - hayley and greg

When I first started this feature on my blog I had no idea how many houses I would be able to run. I had a small list in my head of friends and friends of friends that I knew I could approach and hoped that maybe I would get 10-12 houses. Luckily for me (and you!) I now get people contacting me about featuring their home. That's what happened this month with Hayley and Greg. One of their friends who works for the Canada-wide online magazine Vitamin Daily emailed me about this great home she knew in the Parkdale neighbourhood. After seeing a few photos, I knew it was a house I had to feature. I love how airy and bright it is. Of course, the benefit to me, beyond having another great house to feature, is that I get to know more and more people in my neighbourhood. I should also mention that since we shot this story Hayley and Greg have welcomed son Cy to the world. Congratulations!

Enjoy the tour!

Names: Hayley and Greg

Occupation: Journalists

How long have you lived in your home?

Two and a half years.

Any kids or pets?

Our first baby will be joining us any day now. {Note: Cy Thomas was born on May 6th!}

Which room do you spend the most time in? Why?

Hayley: Right now it’s the kids’ room. It’s a pretty sweet spot for sewing and imagining good times to come.

Greg: The kitchen. Hayley takes care of making the house feel homey. My main contributions are dishes and dinner.

Is there anything you would change about your house? Future plans?

Hayley: Our house hadn’t been touched since the former owners bought it 35 years go, and it had the orange carpet and Astro Turf to prove it. We tackled a bunch of projects in the first couple years, and there’s a lot more we’ll focus on eventually, but I’m so weary of reno-dirt at the moment that I can’t really think about any of it.

Greg: I can’t believe she wrote that. Trust me – she’s concocting all sorts of plans that we can’t afford.

How did you end up living in Parkdale?

Hayley: If you live in Toronto it seems like your allegiance is either on the west or east side of the Don Valley Parkway, and since our first apartment was in the Annex, our western bias is pretty well set. Our best friends are also Parkdalians so that’s where we targeted our house search. More pals have moved into the neighbourhood since we bought our house, and I love that we can wander over for a porch-visit or to watch a basketball game and be home in less than five minutes.

Greg: Our best friends live around the corner from us so we just naturally gravitated toward the neighbourhood. I was skeptical at first, but really love it now. If we’re going out to grab something to eat, I love having the dual options of Roncesvalles and Queen West. I can run and/or bike to work.

What is your favorite moment/object in your home?

Hayley: It’s a tie between mornings and early evenings, especially in the spring when winter finally takes off. The natural light we get in here just makes you feel good.

Greg: In the summer, on the porch with coffee and the paper. Hayley also had the foresight to push for a functional, but also comfortable, office. I’m surprised how much time I spend in there, but it’s a great place to get lost in a book, or in deep thought.

What influences you? Where do you get your inspiration from?

Hayley: My mom has filled my parents’ home with old photos and objects that embody our family’s history and the people she loves. My style is a more streamlined, pared down version of her eclectic mix, but it’s in the same spirit.

Where is your favorite place to visit?

Hayley: Cherry Bomb on Roncesvalles for coffee and people watching, then a slow cruise home through the antique shops on Queen West.

Greg: Inter Steer, Loons, Mother India, Sorauren Park for a game of Frisbee in the summer or shinny in the winter.

What are you reading at the moment?

Hayley: Anything that might help me and my little buddy-to-be to survive the first three months of motherhood. After that, Perez Hilton.

Greg: I just finished Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer and moved on to the Mayo Clinic’s guide to the first-year of parenthood.

Any links, acknowledgements?

Hayley: Hmm… a big shout-out to the army of friends and relatives we bribed with beer and pizza to help us demolish walls and spruce up this big ol’ semi after we moved in. Every single room needed fresh paint. The vinyl wallpaper in the stairwells designed to look like (fake) fake-wood paneling was especially amazing. We owe them big time.

Greg: I’m really impressed with the level of volunteerism – especially the people behind the Wabash Building Society. It’s really heartening to see so many people care so much about their neighbours.

Thanks Hayley and Greg.

I'll be back here later on today with the winner of the Abstract Expressionist tickets to The Art Gallery of Ontario.

All photos by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book