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Home & Design Favourite room: How a raccoon-infested garage became an artful home office

Patrick Banister is photographed in his backyard studio on Dec. 4, 2018.

The Globe and Mail

Patrick Banister didn’t need a background in architectural history to appreciate the concept behind the design of his work space, but it helped. In converting the former garage – in which a family of raccoons had taken up residence, “as happens in Toronto,” says Banister – architect Anya Moryoussef was inspired by the 15th-century notion of a studiolo; a space set aside for study and the pursuit of higher knowledge. “So not a full studio, but a smaller space to work in,” explains Banister, who attended architecture school, worked for years in set design and is now a film producer. “So that’s what I do.”

“It’s a really nice space to bang my head against the wall as an independent producer trying to get projects off the ground in Canada,” he says, laughing. “But there are always one or two moments of calm respite, sitting beneath those skylights.”

Banister and his wife, Susan, have completed renovations in the past, but a complex web of city bylaws, short time frame and general busy-ness had the couple seeking out professional assistance. “Could I have designed something and gotten it built? Yes. Would it have been great? I don’t know, I’d probably be happy with it. But there are things [Moryoussef] brought to the project that I’d never really thought of, and there’s great joy in that,” Banister says.

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Favourite room: It’s a jungle in this Toronto living room

His brief called for good light (the couple spent time in south Texas and gained an appreciation for the quality of light there) and a minimalist environment. Moryoussef delivered a whitewashed Baltic birch ply space with angled and operable skylights through which Banister tracks the passage of time and enjoys the white noise of falling rain. “It’s pretty wonderful,” he says. A large window on one side looks out to the house and “what I’m glamorously calling a courtyard, or our tiny backyard,” Banister says. “It’s a really nice, private, inward-looking space,” one that’s visually connected to the home, but a distinct entity, “to separate church and state,” he says.

The cantilevered shelf with open drawer fronts is perfect for “shoving scripts into, or my tracing paper, if I’m designing stuff,” he says. “I didn’t want to have too many pieces of freestanding furniture in here. Everything’s kind of built in.” Many of the artworks, borrowed from family members and acquired over the years, lean against the walls. That way they can rotate easily, and “it was kind of nice not to put too much stuff up,” Banister says.

Other added elements are functional and sentimental. Artemide-brand Teti lamps illuminate the light wells, while a Haiku Big Ass Fan aids air circulation. Banister’s great-grandfather, who served in the Royal Navy, contributed a ship model, built by French prisoners of war in the 18th century. It’s perched landlocked on a steel shelf from Blu Dot. A chair by George Nakashima, from Design Within Reach, is comfortable yet ascetic. Oliver, Banister’s “failed labradoodle,” as he calls the 12-year-old adopted mix with a coat that closely matches the plywood wall finish, gets more cozy seating. “He loves the studiolo,” Banister says. “As soon as the back door’s open he’s standing at the door, waiting to go in and lie down.”

Oliver’s not the only one contented by – and in – the space. “As someone who needed an office, I got far more than that,” Banister says. “That means a lot.”

Get the look

Haiku ceiling fan, 84-inch brushed aluminum, starting at $1,395 at Haiku by Big Ass Fans.

Welf small wall shelf, $89 at Blu Dot.

Kendall pedestal, $499 at EQ3.

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Nakashima straight-backed chair by George Nakashima for Knoll, $1,050 at Design Within Reach.

Painting by R. Parret, $165 at Guff (gufffurniture.com).

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