Practical elegance: High-end finishes meet family living in old Unionville
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When Peter and Christine Schmidt found the large lot in old Unionville, a neighbourhood they'd long admired, they thought they could remodel the existing house to suit the needs of their family.
But the scope of their wish list made tearing down the old to build the new a better option. They hired Toronto-based Merlin Family Home for the design and build and Lee Brown of LRB Interiors in Newmarket for the interior design.
But they also invested hours of their own time—touring similar size homes in areas like Oakville and Toronto's Forest Hill, visiting tile and flooring stores, scouring magazines and collecting tearsheets—to ensure all the details were just right.
The Schmidts wanted a home where they could nurture their three children and encourage their studies and extracurricular activities, as well as indulge their own love of entertaining and interest in music. “I was passionate about it,” Peter says of his role in designing the house. “I was picky, very picky.”
“Practical flow, usable and easily organized space” is what Christine wanted. Beautiful and elegant, for sure, but not at the expense of comfort and pragmatism.
What the Schmidts didn't want was open concept; they'd lived with an open main floor in the previous home and found it impractical. “The noise levels bothered me,” Christine says. “The kids want to watch a show and you want to read a book—it doesn't work.”
So the main floor offers three distinct living spaces—a large family room with a sectional to seat 12 for Friday movie nights; a more formal adult space at the front of the house; and a small sitting area with television off the kitchen.
It works for their family of five and when they entertain friends and family.
“We host 27 people for Christmas,” says Christine, “and we can all gather here comfortably.”
Christine's desire for clutter-free, organized living is evident throughout the home.
A kitchen beverage station houses wine fridges and refrigerator drawer, as well as hidden storage for coffee and tea supplies. A large custom chalkboard opposite the island details the busy family's schedule for the coming days.
A separate entrance leads to a mudroom that features closed storage for out-of-season items, hooks and nooks for coats and shoes and a massive charging station with cubbies labelled for each smartphone, tablet and camera. Inside, the design brings together traditional and modern elements for a transitional style that is both elegant and comfortable. Handscraped wood floors were given a contemporary dark finish. The rustic honey-coloured kitchen table is surrounded by chartreuse leather chairs. The substantial millwork has simple lines.
Scale, says Brown, was key in decorating the home's spacious rooms.
“The pieces were purchased correctly to scale,” she explains. “In the family room, for example, there is an over-sized sectional, an over-sized coffee table, an over-sized area rug.”
Accessories were chosen to have similar impact: A line of three modern chandeliers with large exposed bulbs light the expansive kitchen island. Birch trees, taken from the Schmidts' cottage property, flank the door in the two-storey foyer. Large artwork, with subjects including steers and horses, grace the walls.
The result is in keeping with the Schmidts' original vision: elegant, comfortable, home.

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