Down a quiet street in little Portugal, an unassuming exterior belies the wonderful interior of Neil Brochu and Derek Sullivan's home and studio. The previous owners of this two-story semi-detached had a penchant for covering rather than removing, making the transformation from double granny flat to elegant three-bedroom home an exercise in excavating. Brochu, coordinator for collections and conservation for the city of Toronto’s museum services, and Sullivan, visual artist, have the skills needed to create an environment that is both refined and relaxed. Peeling away layers like wall to wall carpeting and a makeshift second floor kitchen to find the Edwardian bones intact underneath, they also discovered a mint 1940s linoleum “rug” as well as preserved newspapers and packaging, from the mid 1940s, insulating the walls of the back porch.
It was the unique banister post that gave hints of the house’s potential, Neil Brochu explained. And in taking the house back to when this original feature was installed, they added historic details like push button light switches (CSA approved) and applied Farrow and Ball paint to their walls using a large brush in the traditional technique so as to attain the right texture. This is not to imply that the house is “precious” or striving to be a museum. By leaving swirling plaster ceilings and adding modern artwork and furnishings, the place is a perfect synthesis of old and new. The pottery of Harlan House echoes throughout, from the bathroom sink to the dinner service to stunning sculptural pieces atop the mantle, creating a cohesive nod in his signature HH celadon glaze.
With the Dahlias ready to be moved outside for the summer, the garden will soon be as stunning as the inside. Last year’s praise from a neighbourhood nonna (knocking on the door to make her point) attests to the green thumbs inside.