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favourite room

Why interior decorator Emilia Wisniewski is obsessed with wallpaper

The Studio 1 NINE 1 proprietor 's dining room is her personal, whimsical design lab

Emilia Wisniewski poses for a photo in her dining room in Toronto on Jan. 9, 2018.

For interior decorator and Studio 1 NINE 1 proprietor Emilia Wisniewski, the semi-detached, 110-year-old home, that she shares with her husband, young son and Labrador, in Toronto's hip Junction neighbourhood, is a space for trying out her latest design obsessions. Right now, that's wallpaper.

Totem Vase, $49 at West Elm (

"I feel like I could wallpaper every single wall in my house," Wisniewski says. For now, she's settled for papering the dining room, vestibule, upstairs hall, bedroom and mudroom. The dramatic clouds that roil above the dining room's original wainscoting, recently painted creamy white, are part of the Fornasetti Murals collection, purchased from Cole & Son.

"I think wallpaper is so transformational," Wisniewski says. And though it can get pricey, she reasons it's more cost effective than filling the same space with artwork – and it achieves a similar effect. She's so enamoured of the stuff that she's exploring creating a wallpaper and textile line to supplement her design and consulting services. "For me, it's the next natural step to evolve the business. Also, it allows me to be that much more creative, too."

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Fornasetti Murals Nuvolette Wallpaper, bespoke service pricing upon request at Cole & Son (

Wisniewski and her husband moved into the 1,400-square-foot space eight years ago, bringing their previous condo's furniture with them. The dining room has since had a couple of "cosmetic" overhauls, with the latest completed in the fall of last year. A glass-top dining table and upholstered chairs were replaced with an Eero Saarinen-style tulip table and seating modelled after Hans Wegner's classic Wishbone chair.

Rove Classics Wishbone chair, $266 at Rove Concepts (

"I chose the round table because it promotes a sense of flow in the room, versus getting a square or rectangular dining table," Wisniewski says. "I think for small spaces going round or oval is key." The sculptural seating brings a light, airy quality to the room, which is cast in a neutral palette of white, greys and blacks. Tabletop decor from West Elm and a Pencil Cactus (which, according to Wisniewski has grown "totally gangbusters") cut striking silhouettes in the window. The items are perched on a credenza refinished with matte black vinyl from PANYL – an inexpensive, DIY upgrade to a 10-year-old, still functional IKEA piece.

Nelson Crisscross Saucer pendant lamp (medium), $490 at Design Within Reach (

Speaking of function, this room, according to Wisniewski, has many. "We have dinner as a family there every night. It's also used as an office. My son will spread out his Legos on the floor. The dog will be circling the table looking for scraps," she says. She paints a picture of a space well used, unlike bygone dining rooms that belonged to our parents and grandparents. "Nobody ever ate in there – that was the fancy room. Whereas, living in a small space, you really have to use every single square inch of what you have available."

But Wisniewski proves functionality can co-exist with whimsy. The pixie-ish decorator has got the latter in spades. "I have two obsessions," she says. There's the wallpaper, but also the Fornasetti Tema e Variazioni plates that hang atop it, featuring Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri as a recurring, playfully altered motif.

Fornasetti Theme & Variations Plates Series No. 130 and No. 286, $225 each at Studio Pazo (

"Those are my newest addition. I've wanted them for years and they are a bit of an investment. I mean, it's a plate," she says, faking incredulity. "However, I just love everything about Fornasetti."

That freedom to explore what she loves is the designer's dream. "I have… not carte blanche, but sort of carte blanche to use the house as a creative outlet – sort of like a lab, because I'm always testing stuff out," Wisniewski says. Whether that's getting new pillow covers, swapping out area rugs or building beloved collections, she's constantly at it. "I never think anything is done."

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