Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: jamie lawson and jacqui oakley

by Shannon Grant

As a married couple operating separate design and illustration practices across the hall from each other at home, Jamie Lawson and Jacqui Oakley feel it’s important to have a comfortable living space that lends itself to creative work. The apartment, located on the second floor of a Victorian home in Hamilton, Ontario — just outside of Toronto — came with a personality all its own. For Jamie and Jacqui, there’s no set agenda in terms of decor, except to surround themselves with things they love and find inspiring. Along with an eclectic collection of furniture, they feel extremely lucky to own beautiful artwork made by their many talented artist friends. With partner Marlon Lulgjuraj, Jamie runs Poly, a design studio specializing in logo design, branding and hand lettering. He is also a painter and enjoys any opportunity to combine his artwork and design. Jacqui has been an illustrator for more than 10 years, working with clients such as Rolling Stone, AOL and ESPN. She specializes in hand-lettering, portraits and bright colors and has shown her paintings around the world. In addition to her freelance work, Jacqui teaches in the illustration program at OCAD U in Toronto. Thank you, Jamie and Jacqui! — Shannon

Image above: The fireplace in the living room was one of the selling points of this apartment — we love the blue tiles and dramatic mantel. We’re so lucky to have a Harvey Chan original to contemplate from our comfy vantage point. The mantel is home to brass partridges, an antique ceramic clock from the ’30s, vintage glass Javex bottles and an old tennis racquet press we’ve turned into a frame. Also seen are one of a pair of red ceramic lions and a Krampus doll (complete with stolen baby) from a friendly Czech toymaker, a memento of our trip to Prague last summer.

Image above: Here is Jacqui’s illustration studio. It’s great to have some quirky objects that also have some utility — the vintage medicine cabinet that once stored vials of medicines and remedies now houses a formidable ink collection (and an ever-watchful Totoro). The walls above my desk are always inspiring, with work from great friends: Dushan Milic’s Bear print and a page of original art from Kagan McLeod’s Infinite Kung-Fu. The Lion is one of my paintings, from a fun album cover project. The rest of the walls are decked out with clippings and ephemera from museums and antique stores. One of my favorite items is the weird dusty wooden Chinese doll that I fiercely bargained for at an antique market in Yangshuo, China.

See more of Jamie and Jacqui’s Ontario home after the jump . . .


Image above: This Victorian couch weighs a ton — we are forever indebted to our friends who helped move endless amounts of books and this beautiful monstrosity up the awkward wooden fire escape to our 2nd floor apartment. The couch sits on a Persian rug that Jacqui’s parents brought back from the Middle East. It’s nice to be surrounded by objects from one’s childhood. Behind the couch, you can see a vintage typecase drawer that we’ve repurposed to cover the rather unseemly window air-conditioning unit.

Image above: The bedroom walls are garnished with original paintings from more of our good friends, Darren Booth and Jen Hsieh. The headboard for the bed (seen in the mirror) was found alongside the house of an old neighbour (luckily we snatched that bad boy up on garbage night before the rest of the vultures descended on it). We think it’s from the ’60s . . . A lot of the wood furniture is gathered from various antique shops, and the dresser in the corner once served as Jac’s dad’s tool cabinet. We like to rescue furniture from undeserved fates. It’s nice to find interest and beauty in things others discard.

Image above: This is the deepest, most comfortable couch anyone will ever sit on, and we’ve enjoyed watching many a film from this perch. We’ve filled the shelf above with books and other bits & bobs that are dear to us. The large photograph is courtesy of our lovely friend Danijela Pruginic, and is a shot from one of her travels to Croatia, depicting a portrait of Tito hanging on the wall of a derelict school. Next to that is Jamie’s mom’s old Yashica camera, copper letters spelling “ZOO” found at the nearby Aberfoyle flea market, vintage wooden shoe lasts, an antique bird print from London and a framed sewing machine diagram from the owner’s manual of a White sewing machine circa late 1800s.

Image above: This hoard of stuff comprises a reservoir of stimulation: assorted books on art, design, philosophy & arcane material; the far edge of our CD collection; various toys, trinkets and talismans. I love the contrast that the stripey Beetlejuice chair provides in here (I also love that some fellow decided that this fabric was well suited to this style of chair). The shelf tops are home to (among other things) a handful of my artwork, a poster from musician Nurse With Wound, an early Cold War-era gas mask won during a tour quiz in a subterranean hospital in Budapest (not joking — the answer was Morpheus) and a vintage imported Turkish Shriner’s fez found in an antique shop in Ithaca that specialized in secret society paraphernalia (a lovely anniversary gift from Jacqui!).

Image above: This is Jamie’s studio. Fortunately, I have room in my studio for two distinct workspaces: my “digital” table with my computer, scanner, etc. and my “analogue” table (pictured here) where I paint, glue, cut, etc. The artwork on the walls and floor are all paintings of mine from the last year or so. There’s also a collection of esoteric reference and inspiration print-outs taped to the wall (including a self-portrait by my lovely wife on the far left). I painted a gaudy cyan & magenta “Admiral” plaque on the back of my chair some time ago in an effort to promote decisiveness. The jury’s still out on how that’s going.

Image above: Here’s our little kitchen with a door that leads out onto our balcony, overlooking neighborhood rooftops. The table is covered by an ornate Arabic tablecloth from Bahrain (one of Jacqui’s childhood mementos). On the shelf we have some ’50s Japanese ceramics, an out-of-control plant, and below is a framed image from a Communist Chinese ballet. Peeking out from behind the table, you can also see the bold floral pattern of our metal folding chairs. We like how the orange sets off the bright green curtain, which we added for a bit of pizzazz.

Image above: This is a wall in my studio that houses a fun collection, dominated by the incredibly heavy antique White sewing machine. I love the woodwork on this table, especially around the White logo on the middle drawer. Luckily, this piece came with the added treasure of the original owner’s manual, containing some of the most beautiful technical drawings and ads of great interest to the Victorian housewife — now I just have to learn to sew. Obviously I like collecting vintage things: from keys, clocks and illustrated kids’ books to everyone’s favourite: alligator heads. Also here is my grandmother’s ivory kimono doll and a doll from my childhood in Bahrain, wearing a traditional abaya. On the wall above is a portrait I painted of my grandparents, a print of one of Jamie’s pieces, “The Fabulous Night Panther,” and a signed print of the amazing Bill Sienkiewicz cover art for Criterion’s edition of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, or as we call it, “Space Monkey,” which was a fantastic gift from Jamie. To top it all off, I love the colours of this globe, another flea market jewel.

Image above: This mind-blowing “bronze” dog portrait was unearthed from Jac’s dad’s basement; goodness only knows from whence it originally came. Discarded and unloved, we have given it a purpose in our bathroom, watching over our suitcases containing all manner of cough syrups, epsom salts, cotton balls and other assorted remedies that surely only improve with age. Also, here’s a framed photo of an abandoned building in Shanghai, taken on our Chinese adventure a few years ago. So great to be surrounded by memories of our travels.

Image above: We have been told that the blue in this window is “Tiffany” blue (and that, therefore, this is a Tiffany window), but we’re not sure if we buy it; either way, we love this damn window and the unique light we get from it throughout the day. We were sold on this place at the landing alone.

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  • Oh my God! A Hamilton apartment! So pleased to see my beloved Hammer on DS! What neighbourhood are you guys in? I’m right by the west harbour…

  • Love the aesthetics here! Btw, I don’t think Louis Comfort Tiffany (the stain glass artist) is connected with Tiffany the jeweler, and owner of the “Tiffany blue” trademark, but I could be wrong. Either way, what a breathtaking window!

    • CC – Tiffany & Co., the jewelry store, was founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s father. -AmyA.

  • Thanks for all the lovely comments everyone. It’s so nice to be asked to be featured on Design Sponge. Megan, we’re on Homewood in the Locke Street area. We love our neighborhood. So much fantastic architecture along this street.

  • I love this home! I would love to know where their couch is from. My husband and I love how cozy this one looks! Thanks!

  • Beautiful home….of everything in it, I think the green curtain in the kitchen is the most fun item I’ve seen in a long time. It brings such life to it all. I would love to have that stained glass window anywhere in my home….congratulations.

  • Thanks so much for the kind comments everyone. It is a bit nerve wrecking to share your home and studio but I’m so glad we did. I’m so happy our ‘lived in’ home looks comfortable and creative. We love it. Liz, sorry we didn’t include Harvey’s link. His website is, http://www.harveychan.ca/. He lives in Hong Kong now but comes to Toronto fairly regularly. His artwork is fantastic and he’s a really lovely person. Cassie, I’m actually not sure of the colour. Luckily that room was painted before we moved in and we loved that colour. I know it’s Benjamin Moore is that helps. Thanks everyone!

  • This home has so much color & inspiration! I could only dream to have such a cohesive blend of things. Well done! One of my favorite sneak peeks because it looks so realistic & live-able!

  • Yay! A normal looking, not full of ridiculously expensive furniture, not over styled HOME – I love it! *s*

  • I have been reading DS for years and this is seriously my FAVORITE home ever featured. It is lived in, has lovely layered colors + texture, and isn’t overly styled. Mad props!