Dwelling in a three-story Victorian sounds like a dream come true to some homeowners, but for designer Shirley Meisels it was a struggle. The home was amazing but impractical because of her family, so she began hunting for an opportunity to downsize. Meisels found another Victorian tucked off in midtown Toronto. The 1,500-square-foot house had less space but still retained the high ceilings and structural bones of a Victorian. Meisels equipped it with functional storage, space-saving solutions, and classic furniture punctuated with pattern and color.
in a Glance
Who lives here: Shirley Meisels and her household
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Size: 1,500 square feet
That is interesting: A couple of days later Meisels purchased the house, it was on the front page of the real estate section of the newspaper, together with the headline”Ugly Duckling.” “I was really proud of the headline, because I could see the transformation in my mind’s eye,” she says.
Despite its own”ugly duckling” standing, Meisels knew this home had good bones. The home is located in a part of Toronto where some of the last Victorians from town were constructed, so the majority of the homes have high ceilings. “A few blocks north, the houses are newer — maybe 1920s — and the ceilings fall,” Meisels says.
In the formal dining room, a chandelier highlights the room’s high ceiling, and Meisels’ classic vase set adds color to a clean-lined dining room collection.
Vintage furniture dominates the chambers. The excitement of the hunt is partly what attracts Meisels to these bits — as well as the endless customizations. “These items tend to be more whimsical and less expensive, with good-quality basics,” she says. “I think this mix is what makes my house feel warm, inviting and a bit quirky while still maintaining its modernity.”
Meisels fell in love with this home’s Victorian bones and more contemporary layout — every room was more thought out with respect to space, storage and flow. “I actually realize that this home feels bigger than my old one,” she says. “We utilize every square inch , where before I was heating so many unused rooms.”
Chairs: re-covered at Robert Allen Entrelazos; ottomans: Target, re-covered in Missoni fabric; sofa: habit; lamp: vintage
The narrow front hall supplied some spatial challenges. There was no coat cupboard, so Meisels needed to find out a way to incorporate storage without consuming too much space. Sliding at a narrow cabinet allowed for adequate storage and strengthens the wall as a divider between the dining room and hall.
Pendant: classic; wallpaper: Osbourne & Little, Asuka
Meisels transformed one of the home’s first 3 bedrooms into her office. Built-in shelving plus a desk offers plenty of storage, and the space is big enough for a classic chaise and table.
Table lamp: Restoration Hardware with custom shade
Meisels made the master bedroom with performance in mind. She’s not someone who recalls to hang up clothes consistently, and it is partly why she constructed the dividing wall behind the bed. A pass-through cupboard is tucked beneath this wall; she could make a mess there and nobody would know it from a glimpse into the bedroom. “If I had a traditional cupboard, my clothing would be stacked on the ground at front,” she says.
Wallpaper: Elitis, Fleurs Découpées; bedding: Matteo; bed frame: habit; sconce: classic; chandelier: vintage
Most of the house has neutral undertones, and Meisels brought the very same ideas to her daughter’s room. “If there’s a common tone to color, then you don’t actually have to match everything perfectly. My daughter’s room has pink, but it’s not actually a pink room,” she says.
Wallpaper: Anthropologie; bedding: Pottery Barn and Urban Outfitters, Bella Notte; bed frame: habit
Meisels quickly learned to take advantage of as much space as you can — even it’s meant inches instead of feet. “Niches in walls, beneath stairwells and supporting cabinets are key and worth exploring,” she says.
Rug: Elte; chair: classic, re-covered at Robert Allen Cat’s Cradle
A Calacatta marble backsplash and countertops provide the kitchen a contemporary but timeless appearance. Meisels kept the space clean but functional by installing massive pull-outs and pantry space into her cabinetry. “Function is the most important thing,” she says. “Really consider how you live. What are your habits?”
Countertops: Calacatta; backsplash: Calacatta mosaic; bar stools: Umbra; cabinetry: O’Sullivan Millwork
A chalky gray exterior reflects the home’s contemporary interior layout. Synthetic grass makes the little backyard livable and vibrant, and saves money and time in the long run.
When remodeling a house, Meisels proposes designing from the inside out, with a clear layout in mind. “This way, you can prevent errors, like a window where you might have inserted a desk in a bedroom,” she says.
Meisels was torn between using a little master bath plus a small principal tub, or devoting all of the space to a big bathroom. “I finally arrived at the conclusion that if any single space in the home was small and pokey, then the home would feel small,” she says. She left the idea of a master bathroom and instead built a generous family tub that would look at home in a bigger home. “People are always surprised when I tell them just how many square feet I have,” she says.
Tile: Luna Honed stone tile; vanity: O’Sullivan Millwork; wall paint: Revere Pewter, Benjamin Moore
Builder’s Beige Gets a Makeover
Global Architectural Style: Victorian