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favourite room

It's a process

Joanna Bryden and Jon Pezim are seen in their favourite room, the living room in their Toronto home, on Aug. 30, 2017.

Joanna Bryden's multipurpose space in Toronto's Summerhill is a work in progress, just the way she and her fiancé like it

When Joanna Bryden and fiancé Jon Pezim began renovations on their 1890s-built red-brick row house in Toronto's Summerhill neighbourhood, they agreed they wanted a clean, minimalist look, "but still comfortable and inviting, not stark," says Bryden. With the help of Vanessa Fong of the eponymously named Vanessa Fong Architect, big decisions like opening up the ground floor, tearing out walls and doing away with the mantel and surround of the original wrought-iron fireplace came fast and easy. "I didn't know what to expect," she adds, "it was our first house, our first big renovation. But we felt like we were in good hands."

When it was time to add furnishings and finishing touches, however, the couple luxuriated in the process. "I had no idea how much Jon loved design until we embarked on this," Bryden says. "Although the main floor renovation came together quickly, we took our time decorating it, adding furniture slowly as we came across pieces we really loved."

Bryden is a senior designer at a management consultancy cum ad agency and Pezim is a commercial real estate agent, so it's no surprise the two know the value of great space and design's potential to enhance and individualize. Previously, Bryden attended art school in Boston, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she focused on combining media such as paint, photography, resin and screen-printing. Upon her return to Toronto, a busy work life, planning a wedding and settling in have taken up most of her time. A third-floor den is slated to become her studio when she has a moment to breathe. "After the wedding," planned for this October, she assures.

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In the meantime in the open-concept living-kitchen space, the couple started with a couch, linen-fabric chaise and coffee table, all from Elte, a favourite retailer of Bryden's, and built out from there. The table exemplifies the feel and function they were going for: "The brushed nickel frame [adds] a bit of sophistication and modern brightness juxtaposed with the warm ruggedness of the reclaimed wood. And it has lots of room to store books," she says.

The floor-to-ceiling shelving, built-in and original to the home, is likewise stocked with books, family photos and special finds, including the Georg Jensen black facet vase (an early wedding gift), a fun photo-realistic print by artist Erin Rothstein, a Fendi treasure box replete with Karl Lagerfeld's sketches and notebooks and white quartz bookends from one of Bryden's favourite shops in Toronto, L'Atelier. "I love the texture they add," she says. The mementos frame the seating nook, one of Pezim's favourite places to spend time, awash in bright light, with a pop of colour courtesy of the stained-glass of the transom window, also original to the house.

This area in particular, according to Bryden, is where Pezim's flair for composition comes to life. "Throughout this process, he was full-on involved from the get go," she says. "He really knew what he wanted, had a vision for the space and, luckily, we had the same vision." Though that vision, apparently, is somewhat mutable. "I'll come home and it's rearranged, or he'll change the layout of the books on the coffee table," she says with a laugh. "It's made it a really fun collaboration, rather than what I thought it would be, which was me making the decisions. It was a partnership."

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