Client Project: Worth the Wait

Magda was/is my first decorating “client.” I use parentheses because our relationship has evolved over the course of the two years we’ve been working together and we have definitely become friends. She introduced herself at the end of a talk I gave at the National Homeshow in fall 2009; she was looking for help rescuing her decor, which was stuck in the ’80s . . . the 1880s. And if you think I’m kidding here’s a little taste of “before.”

The reason the rescue was such a long time coming is that Magda endured some significant personal trials along the way, which set us back many, many months.

So how did we get from there to here? After years in her Victorian parlour, Magda desperately wanted something more modern. I knew she liked burgundy, obviously, so when I spotted a fun pair of 1970s bucket chairs at Philz in Toronto ($1,300 the pair) I thought they might be a bridge between the old and the new. Magda loved them and made the purchase. Next came the rug, a tribal but very contemporary-feeling Persian that extended the colour story with its muted, orange ground; I knew collectors who were selling the carpet and we got it for just $400 (plus $200 for cleaning).

Magda purchased the Le Corbusier sofa without my input. I suggested softening the stiff, square back with a couple of black sheepskins; the change in texture made a world of difference and suddenly this firm, uninviting box became a welcoming perch. The Adrian Pearsall “Jacks” coffee table was a lucky score at the Twice Found closing sale ($225), its long, narrow shape worked perfectly in the space and the walnut base was a welcome departure from the chrome used elsewhere.

Magda already owned the artwork by renowned Aboriginal Canadian artist Norval Morriseau and while the awkward frame and quirky subject matter posed decorative challenges, you couldn’t ask for a stronger focal point. The key was the vintage Frederick Cooper lamps, which I found at Toronto’s Rogue Gallery ($400 for the pair); the large scale, colour and loose, hand-painted glaze relate beautifully to the art.

The drapery fabric Magda and I found in the Designer Fabrics remnant room for just $6.99 per yard. With rusty orange and burgundy, it was perfect, unfortunately, there was only 10.25 yards on the bolt. But drapery specialist James Gagliardini at Pro Blind Install made it work; he did the measurements, sewing and track install, all for $800, including hardware.

With the addition of some chrome and glass nesting tables, the living room was nearly done but I felt something was missing. Plants are important to me and I knew the space needed something living to literally breath life into it. I desperately wanted a tall fiddle leaf fig tree but the lighting conditions weren’t ideal so Magda found herself a Money Tree, which she jacked up on an overturned planter.

There wasn’t much to do in the dining room once Magda fell in love with the Calligaris Hyper table and Flair chairs in walnut and the Horizon sideboard. We were able to purchase floor models on sale and got the set for about $6,000, delivered. It was a big purchase but Magda was adamant that at this stage in her life she didn’t want someone else’s hand-me-downs. The delivery team damaged the table during the initial install but the Calligaris Toronto team came through with superior customer service and made things right. Thank you Carole and Jana.

The light fixture you may recognize from previous incarnations of my own spaces; I wasn’t using it and the orange glass went so well with Magda’s scheme that I passed it along. In fact, the light came out of my first house, which is located just a few blocks from Magda’s place.

Magda didn’t know me from Adam when we met, she’d never even seen styleNorth. Since then she’s become a fan of the blog and has learned to trust my judgement. I have to give her ample credit for agreeing to what sometimes felt like risky purchases but in the end it all came together beautifully. Thank you, Magda, for letting me join you on this decorating journey.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

23 Comments For This Post

  1. Michelle Says:

    Those lamps are gorgeous!

  2. kim Says:

    Great space! So unique. Do you consult on other people’s spaces? If yes, could you give me a ballpark for your rate. I have no idea what designers charge and would love to use your talents but have small budget.
    Your blog is on my bookmark bar–I read it regularly and love it.
    Kim xo

  3. Lizzie Says:

    She looks so happy in her space! What a great result.

  4. VegHead Says:

    The difference between the before and the after is beyond night and day. I like the mix of the vintage with the contemporary, it feels very current.

  5. magda Says:

    I am very grateful to Chris for his assistance, patience and understanding through this transformation both in the decor of my home and in my personal life. He is truly one of a kind.

  6. Taylor Says:

    Chris, this transformation is fabulous. Congratulations to you and Magda both. The space came together beautifully!

  7. Wanda Says:

    Very nice use of colors. Love the morriseau, love the lamps, and really love the table.

  8. Lin Says:


    Your home is lovely. Would kill for that coffee table. Great job Chris.

  9. Cathy Says:

    What a wonderful home! Both of you have great taste. Just where would I start…. love the chairs, couch, lights all of them… need I go on.

  10. Lois Says:

    Good evening, Chris met a friend of yours today Kate Eisen, what a delight, you truly meet the nicest people at Style North…Lois of Magda sure knows beautiful job

  11. David Says:

    Well done to you both! The new room has so much more light and air, what a wonderful place to come home to.

  12. Karen J Says:

    Love before and afters.
    Wow! What a transformation.
    So bright and fresh. Great job!

  13. Holly Says:

    I was delighted when Chris and Magda purchased the coffee table at our (Twice Found) closing sale. When you have to let things go at such low prices it is always a relief when they go to great people! The bowl on the dining room table looks familiar too. The rooms look wonderful and Magda, I wish you many years of enjoyment in them.

  14. tim Says:

    well done Chris! love the transformation and how you guided your client with one of a kind, investment pieces pairing with other fantastic bargains!

    my personal favourites are the dining set, the two club chairs, and that pair of lamps!! You’ve got to tell me where you got those lamps!

  15. S Says:

    That Norval Morriseau piece is amazing. What are the mediums used?

  16. Lois Says:

    The Morriseau, looks like oil on buckskin…Lois of but I’m not Chris

  17. magda Says:

    Hi, It is oil but I am not sure on the type of skin used.

  18. Lindsay Says:

    WOW – the after looks truly amazing! Great job.

  19. Lin Says:

    The Morrisseau is part of the Woodland School. These paintings were usually done on calfskin though he may have used deerskin as well. To my knowledge, the free-floating suspension in the wood frame would not have been original, and perhaps not in keeping with Morrisseau’s intent, though I could be wrong.

  20. Lisa Hunter Says:

    Great job. My own impulse would have been to funk up what she had, pushing it toward the Anthropologie/World of Interiors aesthetic. But for someone wanting a clean break, you really made it work.

  21. margo Says:

    WOW Chris you sure nailed it on this one truly amazing.

  22. Cora Says:

    Is the painting of horses by Marino Marina? Nice transformation. cg

  23. Magda Says:

    Hi, The horse art is by Vis Hi. I loved the art for the subject matter.

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