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sarah 101: an MCM living space for the 21st century

June 6

There’s no doubt that Sarah Richardson is one of the more popular decor personalities at the moment, and while it’s lovely to admire her designs in two dimensions on the tube or in design magazines, a true appreciation for the attention to detail in her interiors is afforded when experienced in the third dimension. And a personal connection to last night’s episode that updated a mid-century modern living room and dining room affords me that view, having personally experienced the before and now the after of this home.

living room * after

living room * before

Homeowners Michael and Erika feel as if they have won the ‘design lottery’ and are thrilled with the reinvention of the combination living/dining room in their mid 1950s side-split, of which they are only the second owners. Sarah’s design direction reflects their personalities and how their family uses the space, successfully tackling the typical and often challenging L-shaped space.

seating area * after

L-shaped challenge * before

As a designer myself and one who counts herself lucky to be able to socialize in this space, I appreciate the completeness of thought and execution that Sarah and Tommy Smythe and the team give to their projects. I have a new appreciation as well for how quickly these shows come together. It seemed that no sooner had Erika completed the casting-call form via HGTV Canada, did the telephone call of interest come from the producers and the movers arrived to pick up the pieces the team would be repurposing in the design. I barely had enough time to get in and take some before shots, with the vintage sofa and chair Erika has purchased for at a thrift shop for a song already sent off to the upholsterer for a breath of new life. In fact the project was completed in a matter of weeks.

wall of windows, panelling, niche * after

wall of windows, panelling, niche * before

While the space as a whole is a hit with the homeowners (despite some concerns early on about the plaid fabric used on the rejuvenated sofa and chair), it is the attention to detail that bolsters that enjoyment – from the smoky mirrors installed below the clearstory windows that subtly extend the space and reflect the view from outside, to the light emitting drapery solution for the challenging walls of windows, to the neutral palette balanced with small hits of colour in Sarah’s signature throw pillows and bold pattern in the ottoman. The original dark stained wooden panelling is now painted a light complementary colour, expanding the space even more. The cubby by the entry was also treated to a backing of smoked mirror, creating an interesting little art niche. Sarah’s design featured a lovely piece of art over the sofa which, however, was out of scope of the project. So Michael and Erika have since hung the original painting of a wooded lakeside setting by Warren Goodman that was in their dining room before the makeover over the sofa, and it completely suits the new space, further adding an element of bringing the outdoors in.

dining room * after

dining room * before

I too love the space and appreciate how it updates yet complements the MCM design of the house. The bench at the dining table is a roomy, practical addition – I’ve been seated there at dinners with a couple of kids at both my sides and the storage beneath is great for seldom used serving pieces. I find, though, that my problematic back needs just a bit more support for longer meals than the creative collection of pillows provide. The Crate and Barrel Dakota dining table is a beautiful unfinished wood slab design with its stunning grain on display, though care does need to be taken to ensure no spills set. While they don’t shed quite as much light as the previous MCM chandelier, original to the house, the Tom Dixon pendant lights over the table are striking.

The new, light, wide-plank flooring is a perfect base to the rooms, but the environmentalist in me cringes ever so slightly at the removal of the oak flooring that the homeowners had installed not so many years ago.  The stone fronting applied to the fireplace is a dynamic, natural element, but I am a little sad to see the stack bond brickwork covered up (a hallmark of mid-century architecture and the only sample of it in the house). However, seeing and experiencing the finished design, and having a designer’s perspective, I understand how the sum of the well-selected parts is greater than the whole in creating a warm and welcoming space such as this.

Canadians who missed last night’s showing can catch the episode online at HGTV Canada’s site.

fireplace * after

fireplace * before

living room * after

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6 7:02 am

    Very cool that you get to see the space in 3D! I love the change – so fresh yet in keeping with the style of the house!

  2. June 6 6:40 pm

    what a great perspective, very cool. I love to see the ‘lived in’ Sarah space – I can never make that mental leap from styled “AFTER” to real life…

  3. October 12 1:27 pm

    I love your blog here! It’s been very informative and fun to learn so much about Canadian terrain and culture, and to review the vacations you’ve taken.

    I LOVE this home, too. I’m a big MCM fan and it’s so great to see when people use it in an updated, more-modern way. Thanks for sharing!

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