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Carly Nemtean and Itay Joshua have been gradually bringing their Richmond Hill, Ont., home into the 21st century, one room at a time.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

If you’ve been in existence for 200 years you’re bound to pick up a few things – and Carly Nemtean’s home in Richmond Hill, Ont., has done just that. The dwelling is an amalgam of architectural styles – a bit arts and crafts, some Tudor and a whole lot of Georgian influence.

In 2017, Nemteam and her husband, Itay Joshua, were driving down a quiet suburban street in the Mill Pond area north of Toronto when they spotted a historical home on a tiny 60-foot-by-80 foot lot. They slowed down to take a closer look and the owner was outside doing yard work. They told him he had a beautiful home and he invited them in.

Nemtean says it was like stepping back into the year 1815, when the house was built.

“It was like walking into [a] pioneer village. The owners really wanted to maintain the historical aspect of the home so it was all brown and very, very dark,” says Nemtean, co-owner of Carriage Lane Design-Build in Mississauga. “Inside, I have to admit, it was pretty bad.”

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Still, they fell in love with its weathered charm and solid bones and for the past two years, they’ve been slowly renovating and bringing it into the 21st century, one room at a time.

“We had to upgrade all the electrical. We did the bathroom upstairs and the exterior and landscaping last summer. It’s a lot of money and we’re doing it all ourselves,” says Nemteam, whose husband is an architect. “It’s also only had four owners over the last 200 years so any updates have been few and far between.”

The next room they will attack is the kitchen, but before doing so they’re taking a break and enjoying their most recently finished space, the living/family room. It took months to renovate: They sanded floors, painted, installed new cabinets (that Joshua built in his workshop in the basement) and completely rebuilt the fireplace and chimney, which, they found out the hard way, spewed smoke.

“It’s our go-to space, where we do work, entertain, sometimes eat a meal in front of the fireplace and relax at the end of a long day,” Nemtean says. “I can’t tell you what a joy it is to walk into this bright, colourful room. It used to feel claustrophobic because of all the brown.”

They infused it with life and warmth by choosing deep vibrant colours, splashy wallpaper with oversized palm leaves and designing the tiered marble and granite fireplace, which was built by Stone Edge Marble & Granite in Mississauga. The mantel and stone surround fireplace was costly but worth every penny, Nemtean says, because they use it almost every day.

“We wanted something comfortable with oversized seating to accommodate lots of people, including our dog Shadow, who effectively runs the house,” she says. “We chose colours that hark back to the Georgian era, such as forest green, golds and a pewter blue. They add a richness to the space, and instantly warm it up.”

While she leans more traditional, Joshua loves modern mid-century design. He chose the black leather and wood chairs, with their clean lines, from Crate & Barrel, as well as the Herman Miller-designed fireplace tool set that he found on a trip to New York at MoMA Design.

“I like to think we have different, but complementary styles,” she says, adding the past couple of years have been hectic since they got married around the same time they purchased their tired little house.

“But we love the work, and we both love to be busy and create something with our own hands,” says Nemtean, who just launched a co-working venture for designers and architects called the Collective Workspace in Toronto’s design district.

“It’s a bit cliché, but this truly is a labour of love. It has to be, or why else would be put ourselves through it?” she adds with a laugh.

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