120 Inglewood Drive
by Harvey Kalles Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
A Cut Above
120 Inglewood Drive
Details on Page 22 harveykalles.com
By Neil Jonsohn, Principal - Creative, U31 Design
nevitably, there comes a time, after years of living
in the same home, that people decide it’s time for a
change. Not just a fresh coat of paint or a few new
pieces of furniture, but truly transforming their decor.
Most of us live with light neutral tones and introduce hints of
colour with art or cushions, and truth be told, this approach
can be quite beautiful. But how do you arrive at a design
scheme that’s not so run-of-the-mill? One suggestion would
be to go dark. Yes, I know you’re afraid it will be dingy or
depressing, or it will make the space feel small, but keep an
open mind. Introducing darker tones, whether deep charcoals
or browns, or even a rich sapphire blue, can actually create a
warm, comforting and dynamic space.
Recently, I designed a home in North Toronto that featured
traditional architectural elements — panelled walls, heavy
mouldings, beam vaulted ceilings — and in consulting with
my client, we decided to contemporize the home while paying
homage to the beauty of the traditional detailing. To that end, I
decided that the best way to do this was to incorporate deeper
backgrounds. Of course, achieving this is not just a matter of
going all out with black paint; it’s a matter of choosing the right
spaces, creating balance between dark and light, and pairing
the right elements to build upon.
In this residence, the living room walls are done in a smooth
black plaster finish. In so doing, the existing ornate fireplace,
done in a light textured stone, becomes the focal point,
holding court with the other furniture pieces in the space. The
furnishings, all with clean lines finished in lighter to mid-toned
textiles, provide a sculptural outline against the dark backdrop.
This outlining or contrast makes one acutely aware of the area
around each piece, which helps animate the space and makes
the room feel larger. The dark walls can do the same for art,
either emphasizing the bold colour of a canvas or highlighting
the delicacy of fine line drawings on paper.
As with all spaces, lighting is extremely important, especially
when working with a darker palette. I encourage people to use
multiple light sources including wall sconces, table lamps and
ceiling lighting to make the room glow. The eye doesn’t want
to focus on any one light source; the room wants to feel as if
it emanates light. Further to this point, I’d also recommend
introducing finishes such as mirrors and metals that help reflect
light. In this living room, we used an over-scale leaning mirror
with traditional gilt frame, sculptural polished steel side tables
and a glass coffee table, all of which help to reflect light and
maintain a balance with the surroundings. Even the wall finish,
though dark, has a subtle sheen to give it depth and play with light.
In the powder room, we took a dark feature — the modern vanity
— and set it against a light backdrop. This high contrast creates
a strong graphic visual that maintains rich warmth. Furthermore,
painting the ceiling dark not only helped to make it disappear,
but made the ceiling fixture with its multiple small globe-like
bulbs appear as though they were floating in midair. To help focus
Photos by Brandon Barrè
attention to the modern floating vanity, three of the four walls
were covered in a textured, chocolate brown wall covering, and
the feature wall was clad in a light marble which allows the dark
brown marble and bronze metal vanity to command attention.
Introducing darker tones, whether deep
charcoals or browns, or even a rich
sapphire blue, can actually create a
warm, comforting and dynamic space.
It’s important to note that not every space in this home was
finished in dark tones. The foyer, stair hall and corridors were
all kept quite light to maintain balance. As one exits a darker
space, they enter a lighter one. This creates a link between
the lighter elements within the darker spaces, and in so doing,
establishes a common thread that pulls the design together.
In this vein, one travels from the breakfast room, lined in
chocolate brown cork wallpaper — note the white marble table
top which becomes the focal point — to the great room which
becomes a much more tonal statement, pulling in elements of
the dark and light, focusing on the mid-tones: a light caramel
paint, mid-tone stained oak, acid etched bronze mirror and a
graphic carpet which animates and lightens the room, again
creating a link between all the spaces.
I think we are definitely seeing a resurgence of stronger jewel
tones and this move towards higher contrast. For those wanting
to try this approach but perhaps feeling hesitant about it, I’d
suggest choosing a central space that can be seen from various
locations in the home. Let’s say you choose a dining room. Think
about treating the wall with a bold deep tone and then pulling
that colouring or tonality through the rest of your home with
furniture pieces, art and carpets. This will help link the spaces
and create a consistent story throughout.
Embracing darker tones in our homes can also be beneficial
from a sense of well-being as we live in a climate that’s cold for
so many months of the year. Think of yourself slogging through
snow and cold, but knowing that once you step into your home,
you’re enveloped by the deep warmth of your surroundings.
It’s cozy to unwind in the comfort of a cocooning space… just
picture the traditional wood panelled library from times past.
To be clear, I would never suggest that going dark is the right
choice for every space or client. My job as an interior designer
is to present options and different solutions that fit each client’s
lifestyle. But, if you want a welcoming, warm space, and one
that doesn’t necessarily follow our conventional thinking, open
your mind to possibilities... and don’t be afraid of the dark.
Neil Jonsohn is the head
of the residential division
at U31 Design and has 17
years experience in design
and project management of
luxury homes. He’s worked
throughout North America
and the Caribbean and his
projects have been
recognized by various publications and prestigious
interior design associations.