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Anouchka Freybe in the living room of her Toronto home on March 18, 2019.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

For mother, writer-in-training (“I’m working on my hundred rejections,” she says) and self-styled introvert Anouchka Freybe, her living space – the one room in her home in Toronto’s Etobicoke neighbourhood that she and husband Scott Connell did not renovate – is a space for quiet reflection. “We thought there was something pensive about the room that we wanted to keep,” Freybe says.

The space’s intricate mouldings, fireplace and woodwork date back to 1948, when the house was built. “We didn’t want to take away everything that was original to the home,” she says. “It’s a space that gets its fair share of use, but it’s not the highest traffic [area]. It really is a place to go to escape.” Shutting the doors closes it off from the rest of the home, making it the perfect space to read, chat or contemplate the artworks within.

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Freybe studied art history and has stayed involved in the arts community over the years. Her interest in collecting started with print material, including photography and works on paper. “That’s how we started, from an affordability perspective, as well as just enjoying the materiality.” The sensitivity of the works makes demands on the space, but Freybe is content to comply. “It’s nice light, but we have to keep the blinds closed – unless it’s winter!” she says.

Ron Terada's neon Big Star hangs in the living room.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Their collection has grown to include more diverse media, light-emitting vs. light-sensitive, such as the neon piece titled Big Star by Ron Terada. A photograph of Freybe and Connell’s kids, Maia and Julian, was taken in front of the fireplace in their home and now hangs facing it. But there’s a more involved story behind the process-based work by Mitch Robertson. The couple had originally purchased a model ship by the artist, but the intent all along was that the miniature would be burned and Robertson would photograph it aflame. Freybe and Connell chose to burn it in their fireplace, with their kids seated in front. Freybe selected this particular setting and style as it played with the “nostalgic-rich imagery of children being warmed, mesmerized and caught by the dance of fire,” she says.

Furnishings are spare and neutral to give space to the artworks, with the exception of two family heirlooms that bookend the doors. A chair, re-covered in a “zig-zaggy” material, belongs to Connell’s family and goes back to the 1800s. A Biedermeier-style secretaire, for writing letters, is made of walnut veneer and maple and ebony inlay. “That’s really important to my mother’s side of the family,” Freybe says. “And even though it’s really impractical and huge and takes over where an artwork really should be, we really wanted to keep it so something of both families is in there.”

The sofa comes from Palazzetti in Toronto, with a cushion by Bev Hisey that swarms with ants (Freybe claims to have a bit of a phobia, having grown up on the West Coast with the carpenter variety, those “frequent foragers,” she says). The geometrically patterned rug was purchased online and atop it is a black and matte glass coffee table by Niels Bendtsen. “It’s a great surface to put books on. It’s kind of like our horizontal library,” Freybe says.

Both the books and artworks are food for thought and family conversations. “Bit by bit we started collecting mostly Toronto-based or Canadian artists and felt they were talking points for our family,” she says. “Even though we’re kind of in suburbia, you remember the [larger] community and those artists that are active and making comments about things around us.”

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