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The dining room of MJ DeCoteau, executive director of Rethink Breast Cancer. (Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail)
The dining room of MJ DeCoteau, executive director of Rethink Breast Cancer. (Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail)

There’s a lot of her mom in MJ DeCoteau’s dining room Add to ...

Rethink Breast Cancer founder and executive director MJ DeCoteau has lived in an Edwardian house near Toronto’s Chinatown since 2005, sharing it with husband Glenn Vogelsang and their daughter, Annie. The dwelling was in rough shape, still bearing the wounds of a 1970s reno that had resulted in such curiosities as a triangular bathroom on the second floor.

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DeCoteau quickly set about transforming the place into a family home, which included adding mementos of her late mother, Anne, to the open-concept dining room. “It’s my favourite room because there’s a lot of my mom – who died of breast cancer over 20 years ago – there,” says DeCoteau, who will be overseeing two editions of Boobyball, her charity’s principal fundraising initiative, this month: in Toronto on Oct. 18 and Calgary on Oct. 24.

“This room is the hub of activity in our household, but it feels like a time warp for me, taking me back to a very happy childhood, where my mom was such a lovely anchor of all things good.”

The bar stools

“I got these Philippe Starck Ghost bar stools many years ago through one of the first Rethink Breast Cancer online auctions. I loved the colour and thought they were cool. But I made a rookie mistake in not realizing that I needed counter-height not bar-stool height. I’ve meant to replace them, but I like them.”

The dining table

“My parents bought this in 1972, when they moved from Ontario to Saskatoon. Growing up, the table was for special occasions. I have lots of memories of helping my mom set the table for Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays. It has a nifty sliding leaf that extends the table quite dramatically. My family gathers at it to eat dinner three or four times a week. My daughter also does her homework and sewing on it.”

The chairs

“I got these in Toronto at Design Republic, a store that supports my charity. There was much debate around what colour we should go with and my husband’s choice – white – ultimately won out. They are fairly comfy and I love that they are shaped like the Eiffel Tower because I have loved Paris ever since I read my first Madeline book.”

The sideboard

“I call it a hutch because it used to have a top part with sliding glass doors where my mom displayed her good dishes. Unfortunately, both pieces were stored in our unfinished basement while we renovated the main floor of the house. A pipe burst and water was in the basement for about a month without us knowing. We managed to salvage the table, but the chairs were too damaged and the top part of the sideboard was lost. I use it now for storage.”

The art above the sideboard

“My brother and sister-in-law, who is an artist, introduced me to Tamara Bond’s drawings. She’s from B.C. and studied at Emily Carr, but she also spent some time in Saskatchewan, where my family got to know her, eventually buying several of her pieces. I love how her work is dark yet whimsical.”

The green striped painting

“This work by William Perehudoff is near and dear to my heart. My mom bought the painting in the early seventies at an art auction while my dad was out of town at a hockey tournament. My mom was extremely practical and fiscally responsible (and basically kept my dad in check). It was very unlike her to just go and buy a piece of art on her own. But this was the piece that kicked off my parents’ collection of fantastic Canadian art, mostly from Saskatchewan. I just love seeing it in our dining room. It reminds me of home; it reminds me of my mom.”

Follow on Twitter: @Deirdre_Kelly

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