interior designInteriors

An Artistic Couple’s Toronto Home

by Lauren Chorpening

Relationships in which both people encourage each other’s passions and dreams just seem to work. When Lori stepped out of the 9-to-5 world to become a full-time artist, her husband Michael couldn’t have been more excited. Finding a home that would give them the studio space and creative vibes they were looking for was challenging, but they have found a home that supports both of them well.

Lori Harrison, artist, designer and entrepreneur, and Michael Clark, an organizational designer, moved into this home three years ago. The building had been a co-op in the 1950s and were transformed into apartments in 2010. “After looking at a dozen other condos, when I saw our home, I instantly knew this was the one,” Lori says. “It was so different than all the others, it had just recently been renovated and was done so beautifully and so me.” From there, Lori and Michael have used their combined creativity to make a space that is minimally designed with lovely, personal accents throughout. “My goal was to create a home that reflected both Michael and my aesthetic and a space that honored our treasured things. The process of making our space a home is one of my favorite things to do. I love nesting.”

Like any form of creating, there is a trial and error process in making a space into a home. “One challenge we had was with art. We have quite a collection and in our old apartment, we created an art wall which worked beautifully to minimize less desirable pieces and highlight others. We thought we would try a similar effect in our new hallway area,” Lori says. “We spent most of the day hanging something like 25 pieces of art, all measured and spaced out perfectly, and when we were finished we looked at it, looked at each other and said, ‘crap, it totally doesn’t work!’ So we spent the next day taking it all down, filling all the holes and painting the entire wall. Sometimes there is just no way to know for sure unless you try it.” Their gorgeous home is beaming with creative energy and seems to be a place they can both live and work to the fullest. – Lauren

Photography by Stacey Brandford and Courntey Lee Photography

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Lori and Michael's home is cohesive, modern and bright. Since they both work from home, having a space that inspires them is important. The pieces in their home reflect them, their travels and their aesthetic.
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"This room is the perfect balance of all the things I love - things I have made, found on the ground, purchased as an investment or picked up for a steal," says Lori. "Our space is not big so my art seems to take over, the piece above the couch is one of mine. The rug was a splurge and it really anchors the space. The colors and design are very organic and earthy."
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Lori's simple and minimalist approach to decorating is still incredibly personal.
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Turning sentimental objects into design pieces is one of Lori's talents. The chair pillow was made from a picture she took of graffiti from Paris.
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"I love looking around and seeing a rock that I brought home from a summer cottage trip or a crazy Day of the Dead Mexican shadow box tucked in our travel book section or the old chair I dug out of the barn at my parents' place and stripped myself," says Lori. "Things can be so much more than just objects, they carry place, meaning and emotion and they truly make a house a home."
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"I love how the table is built in and integrated with the island. It provides a beautiful focal point in this area," says Lori. "The only downside was that I had designed and made a really large 6-seat table for our previous apartment which wouldn't fit here. It's now on permanent vacation at my parents' place. I visit when I can."
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"We had already accumulated a lovely collection of pieces, many with memories and stories from our individual and shared pasts - like the Cambodian cabinet in the hallway which Michael brought back with him after living there for several years, long before we had met," says Lori. "I love that it has a different aesthetic but fits in perfectly."
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Lori has designed several of the furniture and textile pieces in their home, like the bedside table.
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"We like to take naps on the weekend. It's so decadent and we highly recommend it. Our favorite thing is to do is read the NY Times and then snooze in the late afternoon," says Lori. "The large wooden candle sticks on the bureau were one of the first presents I received from Michael when we were dating. I love how sculptural they are."
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Lori uses neutrals, textures and organic materials in every room of the apartment.
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"The first thing we did was have my cabinet maker put in our custom built-ins for the library/office/studio space. Michael has a substantial collection of books and we needed storage and a place for us both to work," says Lori. "We were coming from an apartment where we each had separate working spaces so this was a bit of an adjustment. Luckily the room is spacious and with the wrap around desk - it works really well."
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"Michael has always loved that I'm an artist and has been my biggest supporter, encouraging me to practice my art and to start my business. I launched two years ago, and am so lucky I get to be creative everyday - well, most days," says Lori. "Running a business is challenging, especially when the business part is not my deepest well of expertise, but I'm learning and looking at it just like any other creative project. It's fun and I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing."
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"Michael's office space is directly behind mine but we each have our own distinctive feel," says Lori. "One of my favorite things is my bulletin board. I like looking at each thing and how it looks - my little mood inspiration board."
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Lori and Michael in their studio.
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"Our imaginary pet dog, Biscuit. I painted what I imagine our dog might look like when we get him from the pound. I can't wait for the day but for now our building doesn't allow dogs. We are working on it," says Lori.

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