Before Cheryl Moldon bought her Summerhill home in 2018, she and her partner, Ken, looked at over 100 prospective Toronto properties. “We saw a lot of tear downs,” she says. “We saw a lot of potential renovation projects. We were already building a complex in Muskoka, so we were not interested in more building.”
Ms. Moldon describes the style she was looking for as “masculine, a bit like a bachelor pad,” adding “we like right angles.” Her real estate agent, James Sarner, eventually found such a place: a four bedroom that had recently been completed for a business executive. The executive, currently the CEO of Air France-KLM, had recently taken a job in Paris so never really settled into his new place. The design, by architect Richard Wengle, had lot that Ms. Moldon admired: a toned down, Georgian-style exterior, with brown brick and sash windows, and modern, muscular interiors with a minimal palette of dark walnut and travertine marble, a similar aesthetic to the Mies van der Rohe TD Centre downtown.
“I loved it,” Ms. Moldon says. “It was very masculine.” So much so “I almost thought it might actually need a feminine touch, just for a bit of balance,” she adds.
Although Ms. Moldon didn’t want a major renovation, personalizing the space was a necessity. The family came with an impressive collection of art – including pop pieces by Charles Pachter, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Banksy – but they were also only bringing a single piece of furniture, having included all their sofas, rugs and tables in the sale of their previous home. “We brought my husband’s favourite chair,” Ms. Moldon says. “It’s also a special piece for me. I used to read to my son in that chair when he was young.”
To soften her new home’s hard edges, Ms. Moldon worked with Toronto interior design studio Nivek Remas. Ms. Moldon’s realtor made the recommendation.
The founders of Nivek Remas, Samer Shaath and Kevin Chan, initially trained under Yabu Pushelberg, a studio skilled at adding a warm touch to often spare modern spaces. The original Canoe restaurant in the Mies van der Rohe TD Centre, for example, as well as the golden-glow interiors of the otherwise glass-and-steel Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
For Nivek Remas, part of the challenge in creating a sense of intimacy in the home was the overall size of the structure: 6,500 square feet, with six bathrooms and space for a piano bar in the basement. On its own, the central corridor on the ground floor – linking the front door to the back garden, and passing by the formal living and dining area, a tucked away family room and kitchen – runs a full 60 feet. That’s basically the length of a bowling alley.
Part of the solution Nivek Remas proposed initially made Ms. Moldon nervous, including the use of vibrant colours. “I hadn’t worked with an interior designer before and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Ms. Moldon says. “And seeing certain things on the mood board, like a mustard yellow headboard, I wasn’t sure about. But after getting to know Kevin and Samer, we really believed in them. And the way their ideas work in the space – I’m really glad we trusted their judgment.”
On the main floor, much of the original, bachelor-pad architecture remains, only now contrasted against curvaceous furniture and lush hues. Juxtaposing the travertine fireplaces and wood-panelled walls, the front living dining area is imbued with a bright, welcoming blush. The back family area is cozy with brasses and burnt oranges.
Those colours might not sound complimentary. They tie together in a custom, sixty-foot long runner graduating between the shades over the length of the home in a slow, not jarring way, that draws the eye into the depths of the space and encourages exploration. “The ombre of the rug allowed us to mix the bold and the soft,” Mr. Shaath says. “It has a big impact.”
Downstairs, the piano bar-sized basement actually was outfit with a custom drinks cart and a limited-edition Steinway (punched up with the signature contrast of brass accents and a floral rug). “I’m dying to entertain,” Ms. Moldon says, who explains that the renovation was completed during the pandemic, curtailing any plans for her beloved dinner and cocktail parties.
Upstairs, the master suite might be the biggest holdover from the original, more masculine design. Slate grey wallpaper, a zebrawood desk striped with light and dark grains, the mid-century chair from the previous house sitting in the corner by a window and a fireplace. The sole divergence might be a custom mustard headboard upholster in plush velvet. “I love that headboard,” Ms. Moldon says. “I can’t imagine the space without it.”
The bedroom for Ms. Moldon’s preteen son continues the ombre effect introduced with the ground floor runner. The walls graduate between a Shirley Temple orange and a dusky blue – tones also accentuated with a pair of iridescent Glas Italia mirrors and twin side tables. “It’s a Muskoka sunset,” Ms. Moldon says. “It was great to see Kevin and Samer work with my son. They were able to incorporate his ideas, but also make bring a lot of sophistication.”
“It’s a very whimsical room,” Mr. Chan says. “It’s also meant to be flexible. Maybe the house-shaped bed will change. But overall, it’s the kind of space that can transition as the client grows from being a young boy into a young man.”
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