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Why the living area is illustrator Alanna Cavanagh’s favourite room

Alanna Cavanagh’s living room.

Jodi Pudge

An internationally acclaimed illustrator and print maker, Alanna Cavanagh purchased her loft-style condo opposite the Drake Hotel on Toronto's Queen Street West three years ago. It was a concrete rectangle when she first moved in, but Cavanagh was soon busy reconfiguring the 950-square-foot raw space, adding walls to create a series of rooms for herself and pet canary, Mr. Percy, who is the inspiration behind a housewares collection she designed for Hudson's Bay last year. Her favourite space, the living area, displays an intimate collection of objects, including some of her own work, such as the large-scale Penguin book cover, a silkscreen print collected by Ann-Marie Macdonald and Michael Redhill, among other Canadian writers. "I'm a homebody," says Cavanagh. "I'm all about creating a cozy, layered space with prints on the walls."

The light fixture

"The shade is from Aristocrat Lighting, which used to be next door to my building. I wanted to get something from them before the building was torn down."

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The throw

"This is Kuba cloth, made by the Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, that an old friend bought when he was in Tanzania, knowing my love of African textiles. It's made from strips of raffia cloth that are decorated with bold geometric shapes. I love its muted tones, bold shapes and coarse feel."

The scissors print

"This is a silkscreen print I created as an homage to my mom, Lenore Cavanagh. When she was alive, she was a wonderfully supportive mother. I am one of six kids and my mom could tell I was creative, so she used to keep me well supplied with crayons, paper and scissors. The scissors here represent being able to make things with limited means."

The birdcage

"I found it at the Cabbagetown Festival's giant annual garage sale. After I bought it, I remember carrying it down the street and people shouting out at me, 'Hey! Great Find!' People often say that an artist's space reflects their work, and that is true in this case. I draw a lot of birdcages. Perhaps not coincidentally, I have a boxed set of note cards with birdcages on them coming out soon from teNeues in Europe."

The chair

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"I found it at a Leslieville antiques store. It's a copy of a classic bergère chair. I've actually drawn that kind of chair before; I love the lines. I haven't reupholstered it yet, but I'm thinking about doing it in a contemporary pink fabric."

The pillow

"I made this needlepoint pillow myself. It's an image of brogue shoes and checkered socks. I do needlepoint to keep my busy hands preoccupied. I find it a very relaxing exercise."

The coffee table

"It's from IKEA. I definitely have mixed high and low, old and new, vintage and contemporary in this room. It's round because the Canadian anthropologist Margaret Visser told me that round tables are more welcoming."

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