After working as a fashion model in Paris for the House of Dior and launching her own public relations company with a focus on luxury brands, Mary Symons purchased a house in Toronto's Summerhill neighbourhood 15 years ago with her late husband, Newfoundland native Jim Good. He had found the property first, eventually convincing Symons that it would be perfect for what they loved most: entertaining at home. She didn't need much persuading. The dining room's elegant Old World proportions, already appealingly hospitable, were enhanced during an extensive renovation by Toronto design firm Powell & Bonnell.
With high ceilings and tall doorways, the 4,000-square-foot home seems to invite warmth and conviviality.
Since her husband's death nearly a decade ago, Symons has been hosting the dinner parties alone but in a milieu filled with mementos, including a few heirlooms she's inherited, inspiring happy recollections of the past: "It's a room where so many people have gathered over the years and where so many memories have been made."
The Table "I love this solid wood table because it's something my husband and I bought together at an Ontario antiques market. It can grow to seat 20 people using leaves as inserts. It brings me great joy when surrounded by the people I love. "
The figurines "These are [Eastern] figurines purchased at auction by my great-grandfather, William Perkins Bull, a successful businessman who owned and operated tobacco plantations in Cuba. He owned Lorne Hall, a beautiful home in Rosedale, which had been filled with pieces from his art collection. These were part of that collection, purchased some time between 1910 and 1930."
The URN "This is made of sterling silver and was presented to my grandfather, Harry Symons, by his friends at Confederation Life on the occasion of his retirement in 1955. I use it for flowers and for chilling wine or champagne."
The portrait "That's me, painted by Brenda Bury, a British portraitist.
This was done to mark my 30th birthday. I sat at least a dozen times for it. I feel that over the years I've grown into it. Yes, at 50, I am now older and look different from then.
But I think Brenda's gift lies in capturing the essence of a person, so it's still very much me. I see my curiosity, my joy of life. I never tire of looking at it. It makes me happy."
The curtains "These were custom made and took over six months to complete. I ordered the fabric from Europe and I remember thinking that my husband was going to be so upset by the cost. But he could appreciate the quality and I think he did say that they'd look good for the entire time we were in the house. He was right."