I’m just going to come out and say this…I LOVE this house. I knew the moment, Abi welcomed us into her home that we had stumbled upon something exquisite. This tall, renovated Victorian has the best of both worlds: beautifully preserved original period details combined with modern luxuries like the floor to ceiling glass window in the open kitchen. This house reminds me of the eclectic, bohemian homes you often see in the British Magazine Living Etc., maybe this is partly due to the fact that Abi grew up in England. From the exposed brick wall in the bathroom, to the original tiles around the fireplace, to the small, cast iron tub in the kitchen there is so much in this home that inspires. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Now, on with the tour!
Abigail Pugh and John Noyes
Freelance copywriter and Professor of German Literature
How long have you lived in your home?
Any kids or pets?
Abi – A daughter, Bathsheba – 23 months; Pippin, dog, Glory, cat.
John – Three older kids from a previous marriage, two boys and a girl, Sascha, Anjou and Indra, all living by themselves. Sascha is in England, Anjou and Indra in Toronto. My daughter Bathsheba is almost 2 and brings the whole house to life with her wit, imagination, and sunny disposition.
Which room do you spend the most time in?
Abi – We spend 90% of the waking hours that we are together in the house, in the kitchen and the play area adjacent.
Is there anything you would change about your house? Future Plans?
Abi – If I could change (impossibly) one element of the house, it would be to widen our hallway – and add a cloak-room! I’d also switch it around so it’s south, not north, facing (can this be arranged?).
Future plans include perhaps renovating our chimney so that we can have open fires in the grate on winter nights. My dream third floor would have steel skylights, like you see in Victorian factories.
John – Future plans, to get the third floor livable & workable. But we are renovation-weary.
How did you end up living in Parkdale?
Abi – I’ve lived in Parkdale since 1998 when that ‘wrong side of the tracks’ feeling isolated it from the rest of Queen West in an almost comically literal way. Affordability was a factor; but the grand, generous-scaled housing stock (a remnant from when Parkdale was the Rosedale of the West, and a genteel little dormitory suburb!) drew me here too. And the proud sense of community, great transit links and proximity to the lake. I love Parkdale’s gloomy, serious charms; it doesn’t feel like a neighbourhood that wears its identity lightly.
John – Abi lived here first & introduced me to this fascinating neighbourhood.
What if your favorite moment/object in your home?
Abi – Since our renovation, I have a few surprise favourite niches and moments here in this house. One is the sun pouring in through the etched glass bathroom door in the mornings before breakfast, inviting you in for a quiet morning soak.
Another, is waking up in our square, not-huge bedroom with its pretty proportions: two big windows, and a huge bed. With its pale painted floors and wooden, small but clean and open quality, it feels like waking up on a houseboat. The blockbuster family favourite moment/space is settling down to a meal at our kitchen island. It has that belly-up-to-the-bar, intimate-in-public feel that you get in your favourite watering hole, and yet also manages to feel like a scrubbed, workaday sideboard or harvest table. I like fiddling with the lighting, dimming and tweaking until it feels just right.
John – Favourite moment is coming home on my bike, looking through the kitchen window & seeing Abi & Sheba there waving at me. Favourite object is my Musical Paradise amplifier.
What influences you? Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Abi – My stepmother Diana, who brought a bohemian, beaux arts sensibility into our tall London house during my childhood. With her carefree way with art, mirrors, pottery, rugs, and books, there was nothing humdrum about our domestic space. She never turned down a beautiful or fascinating object that came her way – and whether she could carry it home or there was space for it when it got there, were all considered entirely irrelevant concerns!
Because of her…like so many interiors-lovers now, I enjoy mixing kitsch, real craftsmanship, antiques (sometimes totally falling apart), modern, folksy and urban-glossy. It’s fun to juxtapose these contrasting feels and histories and enjoy seeing them highlight and contrast each other. I like that, with enough eclecticism, a room won’t date – it’ll keep its relevance and interest through fashions and trends. This, to me, is what rescues home-making and decorating from being mere ‘must have now’ consumption or irresponsibly ephemeral. Of course, fashion has its role (and this is intriguing and keeps things fresh; one can’t claim to be ‘above’ fashion) but so do comfort, nostalgia, sheer utility…objects or arrangements that simply make living in a house or room easier and more pleasant. My great grandfather’s Stool of Ashanti looks abstract and totally modern because it butts up against a smooth, plain cream kitchen cabinet. Same fun with the modern cream-coloured rug and a roughed-up old door in our bedroom. One might look too beigy-boring on its own, the other too decrepid and scarred. But together, they rescue one another and make a little tableau to enjoy every day.
John – My inspiration comes from those I admire, both near and far, and those who trust & love me.
What is your favourite place to visit?
Abi – Favourite place to visit: the beach at Wards Island; kids’ playgrounds in Berlin; a noisy table at the Rhino Bar and Grill, with my daughter and our friends.
John - Faraway, I love to visit Cape Town, where I lived for many years. Nearby, the Bruce Trail. Even closer, Ward’s Island, and the little pebble beach at Humber Point.
If you had to choose one object that best describes you what would it be?
Abi – Impossible to pin down, but one thing that comes to mind is a lovely 19th century painted glass beer jug that my Dad bought for me at an antique store in former East Berlin. It’s functional, yet so delicate and whimsical: like something from a childrens’ book with fairytale bird and forest images painted on it.
What are you reading right now?
Abi – Angela’s Ashes. I somehow missed it when it came out in the mid-90′s. It’s a difficult, harrowing read but a page-turner too. Makes me feel so lucky to have the home comforts that are easy to take for granted! (The author caught typhoid through having one toilet for his entire street. Puts one’s renovation hassles into perspective rather.)
John – Freedom (Franzen)
Links or acknowledgements:
Abi - my partner John for weathering two renovations in 2 years with me and still being willing to discuss a paint colour or where a cushion should go. And my daughter for sitting so happily in her kitchen-tub night after night, making the space feel like a spa for babies! And also our friends, and Sheba’s big sister Indra, who during summer evenings give meaning to the whole idea of the ‘outdoor living room’. Of course, Josh Cohen who designed the main floor remodel and Dan Nostbaaken who built our kitchen. Doug from Post and Beam is a lovely guy and sells beautiful architectural salvage things.
John – Abi for her devotion to our house and our family.
Thanks Abigail and John for inviting us into your home. It’s been a pleasure!
All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House Book.