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This busy, young Toronto family was expecting their fourth daughter when the wife asked Colleen McGill to create a quiet, manly escape for her husband, a place where he could relax and watch football.

Virginia Macdonald Photographer

Colleen McGill has been designing for close to 20 years, imparting her keen sense of classic style and subtle luxury to upscale homes and vacation properties in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Florida. The Globe asked McGill to talk about a recent project that illustrates her principles of good design.

The design brief: This busy, young Toronto family was expecting their fourth daughter when the wife asked me to create a quiet, manly escape for her husband, a place where he could relax and watch football. Like many Toronto houses, theirs had a room at the front of the house that was underutilized as a formal living room while most of the gatherings happened at the back in a more casual family room.

The challenge: The biggest issue was timing: The baby was on the way so I didn't have much time . Plus, the house had lovely old-world charm, but the walls were old plaster and the crown moulding and trim had cracks and visible imperfections.

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What worked well: I am known for creating light, white airy spaces but for this room the masculine blue/grey suede wallpaper I chose created a striking backdrop of colour and texture that gave it a luxurious envelope of saturated blues. The brass elements gave the room warmth and played to the old-world men's club feel but in a more modern way.

I decided to paint the bookshelves, ceiling and trim the same dark colour. Without costing a lot, it added a remarkable level of sophistication and drama to the room. I used larger pieces in the space to make the room feel bigger and more inviting:

Design rule:One of the principles I learned years ago from Joe Brennan when I designed the interiors for his projects was always try and play up the inherent architectural elements in a home. If they don't exist – add some. In this case the existing marble fireplace mantle with gold accents was ideal.

I find that smaller spaces look great in dark colours – a saturation of colour creates drama and an incredible effect.

Try to create height in a room by adding vertical elements to make the room seem taller. I often hang drapery high to create a feeling of grandeur and openness.

Favourite aspect of this project: Each element of the design makes the whole room special. However, the blue Tuxedo Sofa (which is part of my Plum Furniture line) is so handsome it became the centrepiece. It is just the right length for a tall man to lie down on and watch a game and it is extremely comfortable with its generous depth and down-filled pillows. Staff

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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