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Favourite room: Whimsical Toronto loft’s colour-coded bookcase looks like art

Armita Ghasabi in her loft apartment in Toronto's east end on March 29, 2018.

Tim Fraser/Tim Fraser / The Globe and Mai

Armita Ghasabi’s east Toronto loft is whimsical as its owner. Ghasabi studied interior design at Ryerson University, but her postgraduate pursuits – she’s an account director for design studio aftermodern.lab, a photographer and location scout for film and works with an agriculture school in Iran to seek out and identify truffles in their natural habitats – reveal a life lived eclectically. “I can’t really fit into one type of category,” Ghasabi says . “I like design. I like archeology. I like anything that might be a bit mysterious.”

When exploring locations for film and television, she looks for places that tell a story. In her own living space, which she also rents out for commercials, the narrative that emerges is spare – a couch from CB2, books, plants and a projector for screening movies on a nearby wall are all Ghasabi says she needs in her living room – but also full of colour and artifacts that carry meaning. The 15-foot ceilings lend the space an airy, fresh feeling. “There’s not much to the styling. It’s just whatever I felt that I need in the space,” Ghasabi says . “I feel like every space should be whatever that person is in need of.”

Many of the tomes that bookend the living space belonged to Ghasabi’s grandparents, parents and cousins. New additions to the library are mostly second-hand; she favours local shops like Great Escape Book Store, Contact Editions and suggests the Salvation Army for surprise first-edition finds. “They’re just stories that I like to feel around me. There’s something to it – especially the smell,” Ghasabi says . She arranged her library according to the colours of their spines, with shelves of yellow, orange, green and blue. Although the organizational system took some time to get used to, it was well worth the effort. “It’s like a painting, it’s like an artwork,” she says. The rest of the space is a careful composition though easily dismountable for film shoots, if necessary, with a photographer’s backdrop adding height and throws and cushions from Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters adding colour and texture. An IKEA bench draped in a burgundy faux-fur rug from Homesense and a pink pouf provide additional seating for gathering. “Is it too girly?” Ghasabi asks with a laugh. “My space is very welcoming,” she says. “My friends are in it if I’m not.”

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A shelf with dozens of miniature Dutch houses, souvenirs from flights on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, are collectibles that remind Ghasabi of her travels and lessons learned at an early age (before she turned 19, Ghasabi had visited 53 different countries). Her parents believe that the more you travel, the more you learn, she says. “And they were correct,” she says. “It’ll teach you empathy, that everyone is pretty much the same.” Ghasabi arrived in Toronto when she was 12 and visits family in Iran twice a year: “I feel like a part of me is there and a part of me is here. Both feel like home.”

Ghasabi doesn’t believe in stylists or designers, she says, despite her educational background. But the statement makes sense, given her varied interests. “I do believe there are basic elements when it comes to design [that] you need to follow. But it’s like photography. Everyone’s a photographer now. It’s just practice,” she says.

Get the look


Avec sofa with brass legs, $2,249 at CB2 (cb2.com).

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Winky embroidered pillow, $49 at Urban Outfitters (urbanoutfitters.com).

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Piles of Books Wallpaper, $2.89/square foot at Wayfair (wayfair.ca).

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Celestial Nesting Side Tables, US$798 at Anthropologie (anthropologie.com).

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Customizable “Onward” Vintage Globe, US$325 at Wendy Gold’s ImagineNations (artonglobes.com).

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