When Donna Scharfe renovated her family's home in the Beaches neighbourhood, she brought in the usual assortment of contractors and labourers - drywallers, plumbers, electricians, tilers, painters and so on.
But she also hired a handful of artists and artisans.
Toronto's creative community played a key role in the extensive makeover, providing one-of-a-kind accessories and details that not only lifted the renovation above the norm but also maintained the historic integrity of the home, which bears characteristics of the Arts and Crafts, art nouveau and art deco movements.
The house already had a lot going for it before the construction began. It is spacious, filled with light and sits high above a quiet street across from a ravine. It just needed to be brought up to date.
But Ms. Scharfe didn't want to disturb or erase the home's past in the process. So, with the guidance of interior designer Shelley Kirsch, she went the extra mile to find artisans who could recreate the kind of details that defined early 20th-century architecture.
"I felt like the house deserved it," Ms. Scharfe said.
"The people who had the house before … kind of kept the good bones to the house. I didn't want to mess that up. I wanted it to have that integrity."
The house became an artists' collective over the course of the seven-month reno, with each taking Ms. Kirsch's directions and Ms. Scharfe's refinements to create unique pieces that work together in an overall scheme.
"To me, to work with these people was the best part," said Ms. Kirsch, who scouted many of the artisans through Sheridan College's arts program and has used them on other projects. "This kind of collaboration is rare [in a home renovation]"
You need go no farther than the front entrance to see the artistic handiwork on display.
A large beige carpet adorned with a stylized red rose - a signature motif of art nouveau pioneer Charles Rennie Mackintosh - lies in the foyer just inside the front vestibule.
The stunning wool carpet was designed by Carol Sebert and made in Thailand to hotel-grade standards so that it could withstand the heavy traffic of a busy family of five.
The stems of the rose can also be seen in the carpet runner that covers the stairs heading to the second floor.
Ms. Sebert, co-founder of custom rug-making company Creative Matters and an artist who works in a variety of media, also designed a living room carpet that's more modern and has a mix of Asian and African influences. It was made in Nepal.
"We've never created anything like that before and we'll never do anything like that again," said Ms. Sebert, whose company works on both residential and commercial projects. "That's part of the fun."
Elsewhere on the main floor, Mike Fedynyszyn of Abbotsford Interiors built a massive art deco mantle around the living room fireplace and a pair of built-in cabinets nearby for storage. Metal worker Steve Crilly devised fireplace screens to cover the hearths in the living room and a sitting room. The latter features a trillium shape that's engraved into some of the original interior doors.
Textile artist Karen Krupa created horizontal-striped blinds to cover the dining room windows. Mr. Crilly invented hinges and a mechanism to allow the blinds to open and close like a cupboard door, rather than go up and down like traditional blinds.
"I loved doing the work in that house," Mr. Crilly said, even though it meant creating items from scratch and facing a learning curve with each. "We made what Shelley calls 'jewellery for the home.' She's used that term. It had the feel of that."
With everything, the artisans borrowed period symbols and styles. "We were all co-operating to the same vision," said Ms. Krupa of Karen Jack Designs.
She enjoyed the process as well, especially the trust she felt from Ms. Scharfe.
"A lot of people aren't willing to do that," Ms. Krupa said. " They can't see the finished project and they're afraid to go out on a limb. … But Donna was very open to trying things."
It would have been possible, and likely less expensive in most cases, to buy all these accessories off the rack at Home Depot or even high-end specialty shops.
But Ms. Scharfe was fortunate enough to have the time and money to invest in the renovation minutia. In many ways, she was mimicking the original Arts and Crafts leaders, who promoted simple and hand-made accessories as a revolt against the assembly-line products of the time.
"There was already some original detail in the house and I think that's probably what attracted me to it in the first place," said Ms. Scharfe, who had her eye on the house for more than 20 years before she and her husband, Randy, got the chance to buy it. "I like the details. I like when you notice the small things."
The small things abound now in the Scharfes' renovated home. They're impossible not to notice.