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Interiors

A Constantly-Evolving Home in East Danforth, Toronto

by Annie Werbler

When buying a first home, people often talk about finding the one or instantly falling in love with a property. For Catherine Cachia and Lionel McDonald, this was decidedly not the case when they purchased a 900-square-foot semi-detached home in the East Danforth neighborhood of Toronto. The couple had viewed dozens of sales and lost out several bidding wars in the area’s competitive real estate market. They saw this century-old place in the rain late on a Sunday night, looked at each other, and said something like, “There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong or weird about this one!” They were actually very excited that it had an ugly, outdated kitchen because that meant they didn’t have to pay for someone else’s renovation, and they got to make all the selections themselves with the money saved.

The pair knocked out half the wall between the kitchen and living room to create a breakfast bar as soon as they moved in, and installed all new cabinetry, countertops, and flooring in the kitchen. They then painted the interior walls white throughout the house. Considering how much Catherine loves color, it was a surprising choice, even to her. But it created a sense of consistency, kept the small spaces as bright as possible, and allowed her to decorate with eclectic, vintage details. A year and a half later, she’s finding that turning a house into a home is an ongoing process that takes time and shouldn’t be rushed. To understand how it should function and feel, it needs to be lived in first.

Catherine gets bored of looking at the same things fairly quickly, so her rooms are constantly evolving. Changing or rearranging a few simple things can provide new inspiration in spots that previously felt tired. For her, trying out lots of different ideas is the only way to see what works. She has thrown countless DIY projects in the trash, and scrapped many furniture configurations. The homeowners tried every conceivable floorplan on the main floor because there isn’t an obvious dining or living room — just one open, continuous space. It is only now, on maybe the tenth try, that they suspect they’ve gotten it right.

Catherine wanted to create a colorful home that felt welcoming, above all else. As much as she loves vintage and usually leans towards mid-century modern pieces, she didn’t want any room to be entirely from one period, and instead opted for a mix of different eras and styles, including contemporary. After renting in big cities for many years before buying, Catherine and Lionel have learned to appreciate every single inch of space here. Having a second bedroom and backyard for the first time in their lives has been a dream. And because they are expecting their first little babe in September, there will be lots more experimenting to do. —Annie

Photography by Catherine Cachia

A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Griffey the chocolate Lab relaxing in the bright afternoon light of Catherine Cachia and Lionel McDonald's sweet Toronto cottage living room.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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A west-facing view of the living room, looking towards the backyard, featuring the breakfast bar created by the homeowners. The wall opening allows light to flow right through the entire main floor.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Cachia prefers using shelf ledges for art instead of committing to a gallery wall, because they allow her to change out the decorative pieces more often without worrying about having to patch holes.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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The breakfast bar with reclaimed Ontario barnboard finishing the front surface. The salvaged letters that spell “city” are a little homage to the couple's city, Toronto. The area is completed with tractor-seat style barstools from the 1960s.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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The simple dining area, featuring a retro chrome dining table, isn't located next to the kitchen, but the alternative of putting the four-person sofa near the front door just did not work.
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An east-facing view of the dining room, looking towards the front door where Catherine and Lionel keep their CD collection and computer.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Since all the walls in the house are painted white, Catherine added some pops of color elsewhere to liven things up. This yellow door adds so much cheer to the room. The couple also painted a chalkboard under the stairs where they leave eachother messages, doodle when the mood strikes, or work out the occasional math problem.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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An east-facing view of the renovated kitchen. Neutral white cabinets, white subway tile backsplash, sparkling white quartz countertops, and grey flooring keep things feeling fresh and open.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Catherine negotiated with Lionel to omit a microwave from the kitchen renovation. Instead, she proposed putting the appliance out of sight in the unfinished basement, and promised to heat up anything he could ever want warmed as long as they lived in the house. Thankfully for her, the deal went through!
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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The kitchen shelves showcase vintage items Catherine has collected over time, and she has lots of fun reorganizing them every month or so.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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The couple's bedroom snugly fits a queen-sized bed, so there's no space for unnecessary furniture or stuff. This room was an addition and is without the hardwoods seen throughout the rest of the house. To save some cash, they decided to simply paint the floor black.
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Catherine sells women’s vintage clothing, and loves using her wardrobe as wall art for a different way of appreciating the collection. The blueprint poster of Griffey is taped to the wall with washi tape.
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Catherine repainted Craigslist lockers that fit well in the small space and also maximize storage. She inherited the dresser, which has been passed on through her family, and painted it as well. She then added mismatched Anthropologie knobs for a bit of interest.
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This built-in shelving unit in the hallway is one of the most unique features that came with the home. Catherine enjoys changing up the items showcased here.
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The second bedroom is currently used as an art studio, but will soon become a nursery. The blueprint poster is a shot from Catherine and Lionel's wedding day in the Distillery District, and the vintage Judy dress form is more than 50 years old and belonged to her great-aunt, after which she named it "Dorothy." Catherine loves displaying different vintage outfits on her.
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Family portrait of Lionel, Catherine, and Griffey.
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What Catherine loves most about her home is "all the colourful vintage details."
A Constantly-Evolving East Danforth Eclectic, on Design*Sponge
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Catherine has a dedicated workstation in the studio, where she stores art materials and works away on craft projects. The beautiful robin's egg blue storage boxes are repurposed Sophie Conran dishware packaging from wedding gifts.
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Floorplan of Catherine Cachia and Lionel McDonald's Toronto home.

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