Call it the Little Leslieville Kitchen That Could.
Could win big: How's grand-prize winner of a big kitchen appliance manufacturer's contest?
And to think Philippe Beauparlant entered the contest quite by chance. Mr. Beauparlant, 36, an industrial designer who now tackles interiors with his company, Beauparlant Design, had intended simply to source technical information on his new refrigerator when he logged onto the Liebherr Canada website in early 2010. He and wife, Laura, 34, a graphic designer, had just embarked on a major kitchen reno in the century-old Leslieville house they'd purchased four years before; despite a desire to produce the best result possible - when one works from home a sexy kitchen can act as a three-dimensional portfolio - he never dreamt of besting the rest of the continent.
However, he was "definitely the clear winner," of the "Design with Liebherr" contest, confirms Tammilyn Leyser, an executive assistant at the German company's Burlington office. So how does a little Leslieville kitchen snatch $15,000 and a trip to the Interalpen Hotel & Spa in Austria?
"We put all this love and attention to detail because we appreciate it, and we want to live in a beautiful environment," says Mrs. Beauparlant, to which her husband quickly adds: "But it wasn't just an aesthetic renovation."
While it's true the original kitchen was a little smaller, it was a pretty good size for Leslieville and had the advantage of being located in the middle of the house rather than the usual placement at the rear. While it "appeared fine," two appliances couldn't be run without blowing a fuse, storage was poor, and the stove was positioned in such a way that burners were dangerously close to the room's egress to what would become the dining room.
The "big gesture" was to remove a brick chimney no longer in use. While messy, it added valuable square footage while also opening the kitchen to the family room. Next, a small 2-ft.by 2-ft. window over the sink was replaced with an enormous one that looks onto the neighbour's hexagonal roof shingles. "The view's not great but it does bring in a lot of light," quips Mr. Beauparlant. Finally, a shower was removed from the powder room between the kitchen and dining room to gain a few more square feet. More important, the powder room door was disguised by clever hardware-free millwork so the area reads as a hallway and nothing more.
To solve the too-close burner problem, a single, large induction burner replaced them, and new gas burners were safely tucked a few feet away under a sculptural vent hood.
To add storage, cabinets were designed for all sides of the room; on the wall that showcases the Liebherr refrigerator, they span floor-to-ceiling. Here, it's especially clear that the meticulous mind of an industrial designer was at work: to balance the visual, column-like height of the stainless steel fridge, another column was produced for symmetry. To do this, a bottom drawer was faced in stainless steel rather than wood veneer; above that is a stainless steel Miele oven; next, a custom-fabricated, top-hinged panel concealing the microwave was added; and crowning it all is another small piece of stainless steel.
As if that weren't enough, there's another secret door: "Nobody would do this," says Mr. Beauparlant, pulling at something that looks like a long cabinet. "This is how I get into my basement."
The detail doesn't stop there. Like architects who plan millwork for huge commercial spaces, the couple purchased quarter-cut Mozambique at Mississauga's General Woods & Veneers, which was then stitched and pressed onto a core material at a different location. Then it went to a millwork shop where it was cut to size: "So that's why everything lines up," he explains. "We're so fortunate in Toronto to have that resource; not every major city has a place like General Woods." And at "just under $3,000" for the veneer material, it wasn't as expensive as one might think.
The "Design with Liebherr" contest was first announced in April, 2008, but the submission deadline was set to the end of 2009 to give design professionals time to plan and execute projects. Luckily for the Beauparlants, this was extended to the end of 2010; even still, Mr. Beauparlant remembers scrambling to get everything ready during the Christmas season.
Earlier this year, the panel of judges - which included Toronto's Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone, San Francisco "organic architect" Eric Corey Freed and New York-based food stylist Lora Zarubin - selected the Beauparlant design as Best in Show despite it being up against much more expensive projects.
"It speaks to the fact that you can have design and functionality in any home," Liebherr's Ms. Leyser says. "I think we did like the fact that this was a 100-year-old urban home that originally had a small space and they were able to open it up … so really it was their creativity that allowed this to come alive."
It does burst with life, as does the rest of this little renovated Leslieville house, which could, perhaps, win another contest should the couple enter it … but that's another story.