Complex Simplicity

At first glance, this living room appears to be quite sophisticated, yet very simple. In reality, it is not simple at all, but rather a complex variety of textures, tones, styles, and contrasts.

Located in a desirable suburban area just outside of Toronto, Ontario, this 1,600-square-foot home, built in the 1960s, has eight-foot ceilings and builder-grade finishes. The owner wanted the relatively small (12-by-16-foot) living room reimagined into something functional with a light and fresh new feel. “We had to seriously consider every design decision to completely transform this space and bring it up-to-date,” explains Elizabeth Metcalfe of Mississauga, Ontario-based Elizabeth Metcalfe Interiors & Design. “While this project appears to be simple, the process of creating this beautiful living room was much more involved.” 

 In theory, Metcalfe agrees with the famous quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” But she also knows, through her own experience, that simplicity isn’t that simple. The existing walls, ceiling, brick fireplace, and moldings were gutted so Metcalfe and her staff could start the project at the very beginning. “New drywall, beautifully proportioned moldings, and a custom fireplace design were instrumental in getting the architectural bones of the room correct,” says Metcalfe. “Although our client intends to stay in her home for many years to come, we, as designers, are always sensitive to adding value to a home.” According to Metcalfe, many houses in this upscale area have undergone renovations in the last few years, and it was important to her to maintain a level of quality and sophistication that would be expected for resale.

 Once the basic architectural details were completed, Metcalfe began layering textures to update the decor. She affirms that an interesting play of contrasting textures is a key component to making a room warm and inviting. “It’s about pairing tighter, smoother fabrics with rougher, heavier fabrics,” she explains. “You can never go wrong combining linen, silk, and velvet.” She suggests avoiding manmade fabrics whenever possible. There is a modest luxuriousness to linen sheers that you can’t replicate with a polyester blend, according to Metcalfe. She adds that her company’s signature style is similar to that of Barbara Barry—quiet, luxurious, and simple. “We appreciate that [Barbara Barry’s] products are thoughtfully designed with attention to detail,” she explains. “We use several in this project.”

 Textures come into play in accessories, too. The mother-of-pearl mirror offers a lovely alternative to the traditional framed mirror. Metcalfe feels it delicately echoes the soft blues and grays of the overall color scheme. The gray marble surround of the custom fireplace mantel continues the subtle color palette. A variety of metal finishes adds spark to the room. “We always try to mix metals in our designs,” she adds. “It’s so much more interesting than keeping everything the same. But the trick to mixing metals is repetition. If you want to incorporate brass, replicate it on several pieces.” The area rug is straightforward—a 100 percent natural wool fiber with a serged edge. All the upholstered pieces were custom-made locally. Additional texture was added to the sofa with the cut velvet Barbara Barry sculptural throw pillows.

 Custom draperies are always an integral part of Metcalfe designs. “It’s hard to explain in words what custom draperies bring to a room. But when they’re installed, something magical happens,” she says. “Well-crafted draperies provide a subliminal message that the room is comfortable and complete. They demand attention.” Metcalfe feels draperies are as vitally important as a sofa or an area rug in creating space that feels harmonious, coherent, and luxurious. The 100 percent wool drapery panels in this living room hang beautifully because of the sumptuous fabric.

Those at Metcalfe’s design firm truly believe that “A home well loved is a life well lived.” And apparently, those they design for agree. The owner of this gracefully redesigned living room says, “Although I have lived in my house for close to twenty years, thanks to Elizabeth Metcalfe Interiors & Design, this is honestly the first time I can truly say that I now love my home.”

As featured in
Home By Design

Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.
All measurements are approximate.
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