Interiorssneak peeks

An Artist’s Lively Toronto Renovation

by Garrett Fleming

“It had five different types of carpet, a kitchen in one of the upstairs bedrooms, the dining room had been drywalled into a bedroom, creaky floors, a clanky furnace, a kitchen from the 1950s, and both yards were full of weeds. I knew it was the one for me when I stepped inside!”

That doesn’t sound like most people’s cup of tea, but artist and instructor Holly Wheatcroft was ecstatic when she found this 1920s-era home to share with her two daughters. Although it wasn’t much to look at, the right bones made this 1,500-square-foot charmer perfect for her family. “We are two blocks away from a fabulous school with an attached community center, ice rink and soccer fields. The neighborhood is very special,” Holly says of their community in Toronto, Ontario.

The renovation process proved to be quite time-consuming with walls and fireplaces coming down, new floors being installed and painting galore, happening all over the 3-bedroom home. Holly’s uncle even moved in to help with the project. The garage was flipped into an art studio for Holly while the kitchen was totally gutted in order to open it up to the living and dining area. “I wanted to have a space on the first floor where everyone could be doing their own thing, but still be close by… that sense of being connected without having to be in the same room,” Holly explains. One night while cooking dinner she realized she had achieved just that. While stirring away at the kitchen stove she laid eyes on her two daughters, both in different rooms lost in tasks, but still so near. The revelation brought her to tears.

That’s what I love most about Holly’s home. It’s built on love and the desire to be close to the ones she cares for most. Living 1,000 miles away from my family, I am not too proud to admit that I am a bit envious of Holly’s setup. To have those you adore so accessible and close enough to hug on a whim is something to be cherished. With a pretty plant wall, color in excess and a one-of-a-kind rug, this home is not only a fantastic testament to family, but so joyful as well. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The wallpaper between the entryway's Martha-Stewart-green door and the kitchen is Cole & Son "Cow Parsley."
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The entryway's cutout to the left looks into the living room. The yellow wall is painted in Farrow & Ball "Yellowcake."
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
During the renovation, the kitchen was given an entirely new look.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
A closeup of the kitchen's nook that Holly's friend Gillian curated.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Holly painted the window's trim black in order to help it pop off of the white walls that surround it. When she brought it home, this school table still had old bubble gum stuck up under it. To prank her girls Claire and Bridget, Holly left it there. She sewed the bench's cushions herself, and the girls' artwork decorates the walls.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Holly wanted a rug but wasn't crazy about the idea of having to clean crumbs and leftovers out of it after meals, so she painted the floor pink. Now all she has to do is a quick sweep. The dining room's lighting is from the Noguchi Museum. The wooden chairs were found on the street, and Holly had a friend "cut them down to make them look more modern," before painting them black.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
One of Holly's favorite spots in her newly renovated home is the dining room's "living wall." Wooly pockets hold each plant – a great option that won't rot or ruin the drywall. The eye-catching wall is painted in Benjamin Moore "Naples Blue."
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
This whole space is much more fluid and accessible now that the back walls have been torn down.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The front hall is decorated with original art by Holly. This piece was inspired by the Axis Mundi – the world's center/connection between Earth and Heaven. The staircase is painted in Farrow & Ball "Strong White."
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
A little greenery soaks up the rays coming through the landing's original, stained-glass window.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Bridget's room's coral walls peek out into the upstairs landing. The landing's light fixture was found at a shop on Toronto's Queen Street and is adorned with a hand-painted compass.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Holly's master bedroom may be small, but it gets beautiful light and looks out over the street. The bed frame is from West Elm, and the side table was picked up at CB2. The bedroom's lamps are from Lotte, and the bed linens are from Crate and Barrel.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The living room.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Another view of the living room.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
Holly made these curtains with fabric she snagged from Designer Fabrics.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The living room is "the coziest spot in the house. [The whole family loves] curling up on this small loveseat." The watercolor by Aba Bayefsky is of a Japanese man's tattooed back. The loveseat is from INabstracto.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
A Virginia Johnson urn sits on the living room's table. The wooden cake was part of an art series where Holly hid "various treasures in wooden cake pieces and displayed each slice on a wooden shelf in the shape of half a plate." She was "inspired by the tradition of Gateau des Rois where if you get the slice of cake with the figurine/treat/piece of money, then you have good luck all year."
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge
The living room's side table is decorated with vintage finds. According to the shop owner who sold Holly the mirror, it's done in a particular folk-art, carving style done by inmates. The small painting is by Holly herself.
An Artist's Lively, Toronto Renovation, Design*Sponge

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  • This home feels real and lived in and well loved. Your tours are great because they don’t feel styled and curated within an inch of their life (and I do appreciate that there’s some styling involved for the photos!).

    I am lucky to own one of her sculptural pieces similar to the colorful pickets on the wall. More good memories of our ten years in Toronto…

  • What a lovely, happy space. The pops of color give it such a sense of fun. It’s clear there’s a lot of joy in this home.

  • It would be great to know more about the living wall. How do you protect the wall from damp, and is it possible to do yourself? I always thought they were very high maintenance!

    • It was a bit of work to get started, but most of the plants are of the indoor tropical variety, so low maintenance. Watering once a week is usually enough (all depending on the location and amount of sunlight – indirect is best). I moved the entire wall from home to new shop and after 8 months, my drywall and paint are both perfectly fine. You would never know! I used Woolly Pockets (large felt ones in brown).

    • I agree, Elle. I saw that and thought “Why didn’t I think of that?!” So clever and beautiful.


  • Hi

    What a gorgeous home!!!

    I am buying a home and dream about making every space reflect us. I love the living wall. Please help / guide me to make one for my home too. Please please please.


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