Last August, Britt Barkwell came across a classic Edwardian home in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood. The house, which she purchased with her husband Aaron, a lawyer, was filled with natural light. It definitely had good bones but a previous renovation left the space without the clean lines that Barkwell craved for her family.
Barkwell’s sense of style, honed over more than a decade of working in fashion retail, favours subtlety and nuance. Over the past year, she oversaw a renovation that carries the minimalist aesthetic of her wardrobe through the house. The process afforded her a crash course in interior design and a thorough understanding of the power of staying true to your look.
Winnipeg-born Barkwell started her career in New York at Club Monaco where she was part of the team that translated the brand’s clean-lined cool to the Internet through a platform called Culture Club. In 2011, an opportunity to work her digital magic for Holt Renfrew brought her to Toronto. These experiences allowed her to travel the world’s fashion capitals and learn how storytelling helps us connect through fashion.
It was this love of storytelling that led Barkwell to break out on her own and launch her online shopping platform, Trouvaille, in 2018. “There was a palpable shift in the way people were consuming fashion and fashion content,” she says. Trouvaille, which is French for “lucky find,” would cover “everything from seasonal staples to the best minimalist skincare routines to travel guides to the world’s great cities,” she says. Over the past three years, it’s become a resource for those who appreciate a bit of help navigating the overwhelming abundance of style online.
In many ways, Trouvaille was Barkwell’s first crack at understanding how her preferences for clothing can translate beyond her closet. “My approach to dressing has definitely shaped Trouvaille,” Barkwell says. The website features themed lifestyle departments of products that click through to other online retailers. “Our goal is to help women simplify their wardrobes by making fashion choices that are timeless and built on a foundation of high-quality staples.” Barkwell is often seen in the chic combination of a pair of vintage blue jeans and a smart white shirt. “I’ve always taken a less-is-more approach to dressing” she says.
At home, it’s clear an appreciation for classics and craftsmanship is the guiding principle. There are many examples of the link between personal style and personal space. The herringbone floors by Northwood Hardwood Inc. in the formal living room go with everything, just like Barkwell’s beloved denim. A handmade bench in the entry, which took 25 hours for furniture designer Mary Ratcliffe to craft, is built to last like the timeless quilted Chanel bags Barkwell favours. The Waterworks faucet in warm unvarnished brass that’s perched on the kitchen’s Arabascato marble counters echo her taste in jewellery. “Our home absolutely drew from my fashion sense” she says. “But interior design is all about push and pull and it was important to find that balance.”
To achieve the interior equilibrium, she called on the help of friend and interior designer Maayan Kessler of Maayan Kessler Design. Barkwell says Kessler pushed her to mix and match and play with finishes and textures. “More than anything, she encouraged me to follow my instincts,” Barkwell says. Another friend, Jon Gerwitz, served as the contractor for the project.
Aside from a whimsical Gucci wallpaper depicting herons and dragonflies in the bedroom of her four-year-old daughter, Barkwell says she never felt the urge to go bold on the walls. If anything, she wanted to simplify further. Farrow and Ball’s Card Room Green paint was originally slated for the first-floor powder room, but the muddy green kept her up at night. In the end, the small space is swathed in a quiet variant of white.
The renovation process left Barkwell with the zeal to create more spaces. As much as she loves this house, she knows that it isn’t her family’s forever home. As her children grow and the family’s needs change, new surroundings are inevitable. Barkwell is looking forward to this next creative challenge. Fashion people are always looking ahead, after all.