From her home on a winding road near the west bank of Toronto’s Humber River, Diana Olsen has a good view of the wildlife that visits the area. Through her living room window, she often sees deer, coyotes, turtles, squirrels and red-crested cardinals. “It’s unbelievable. Just yesterday there was a wild turkey hanging out on our front lawn,” Olsen says.
She has been in the space, shared with boyfriend, Tom Paterson, and her daughter, Annabelle, for a year. And in addition to all the activity outside, the living room is a hub for the family. “We’re always in this room, all three of us,” Olsen says. “[It’s] where all the action happens.” It’s also where all the favourite furnishings live – such as a bone-inlay and brass coffee table from Anthropologie, and a stool used in coffee ceremonies, picked up on a trip to Ethiopia, the birthplace of the caffeinated staple. Olsen is the founder of Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, the Parisian-inspired coffee chain with locations across Ontario – from Toronto to Kingston, and Guelph to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Throw cushions in Olsen’s living room are in Balzac’s trademark sunny yellow.
But where the cafés favour floor tiles, bistro tables, bentwood chairs and vintage ephemera (though, according to Olsen, this aesthetic is evolving), her taste at home skews Scandinavian, with West Coast Canadian and 1970s influences. “I love the seventies. It was my favourite era,” she says. “My parents were West Coast hippies and very much into the arts. Between my West Coast [upbringing] and being a creative person coming from a creative family, it all translates into what I do – in my cafés, but also what I do in my home.” Olsen describes her referential, mashed-up aesthetic as “bohemian” and “warm and inviting.”
While the living room’s palette of turquoises (Olsen’s birthstone shade), terracotta-oranges and yellows may hearken to another time, certain items are literally lifted from the past. A cabinet with brass pulls came from the 75-acre family farm on Hornby Island, B.C., inherited from Olsen’s father, along with a glass float, used to keep fishing nets aloft. “A lot of them floated onto the west coast from Japan. They’re quite rare and this is the only one I’ve ever seen that has actual etchings on it,” says Olsen, describing the Haida Gwaii eagle delicately imposed on the blue-green globe. A painting by Graham Gillmore, who Olsen went to high school with, is from the mid-1980s and depicts a troller fishing boat. “It reminds me of B.C.,” she says.
There are musical notes throughout as well. Paterson is a musician (and owner of Junction Craft Brewery in Toronto) and “Annabelle and I dabble in ukulele,” Olsen says. The three spend time here listening to music on the record player and partaking of their preferred imbibements. “Coffee and beer! Our two favourite things,” she says. But Annabelle, at 12, is a bit young for these. “We don’t let her drink coffee or beer yet. [She] likes kombucha,” says Olsen, describing the fermented, effervescent tea drink containing yeast and bacteria – an appropriately hippie-sounding beverage for a new generation of bohemians. And no better venue to sip it, observing the urban wildlife beyond a stand of birch trees outside their window.
Get the Look
Targua coffee table, US$1,498 at Anthropologie (anthropologie.com).
Soderhamn sectional, 4-seater corner, $1,510 at IKEA (ikea.com).
Light brown armchair, $207.96 at Pier 1 (pier1.ca).
Light large terracotta planter, $54.95 at Crate and Barrel (crateandbarrel.com).
Outdoor solid basketweave cushion, $37 at West Elm (westelm.ca).
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