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A Tale of Two Condos

Sometimes the best way to revive a flagging relationship is to tear it all down and begin again. That’s what Sean Ward and Stephen Fillmore did last year after nearly 20 years together. They sold their terraced house on Toronto’s Berkley Street and each bought a place of their own where they could rediscover themselves and each other on fresh footing.

For new digs, Stephen chose a modern condo in the sky, a 750-square foot, 1-bedroom plus den on the 39th floor of the spanking new X Condominium, above. As befits his more traditional bent, Sean purchased a 1,300-square foot penthouse in a much older co-op overlooking a leafy park in the city’s prim Rosedale neighbourhood, below.

Stephen wanted practically nothing from the old address — some art, a few sticks of furniture and little else. That left Sean to cherry pick artwork and furnishings from what was a three-story, 3,000 square foot house. Predictably, there are now two storage lockers bulging at the seams containing the leftovers . . .

decorator-for-hire, Sean had no trouble adapting Stephen’s contemporary, less-is-more aesthetic. The condo feels wee compared to Sean’s more sprawling layout but there’s an exuberance within the utility and Stephen is clearly at home in his more compact, less fussy surroundings.

The kitchen island pulls out to create a small dining table with stools at the ready.

Off the entry there’s a cozy den for TV and reading.

Sean’s influence is more strongly felt in the bedroom, which is more composed with layered side tables, lamps, artwork and rococo mirrors.

The living room view is framed by two perfectly transparent acrylic pedestals bearing antique Chinese ginger jars and below them, a collection of ancient Buddhas.

Artwork is grouped and stacked wherever wall space allows but display is a challenge in a condo where one side of the box is floor to ceiling glass.

Just a few blocks away as the crow flies is Sean’s leafy, maximalist aerie. His taste for old world etchings and fine antiques is leavened with a generous dose of abstract, modern art and splendid Christopher Spitzmiller lamps.

For a space with windows on only one side, the home feels surprisingly bright thanks to a north-western exposure that floods the space with indirect light. The newly-renovated kitchen off the dining room has no windows at all yet it also feels remarkably light thanks to the mostly white scheme and an abundance of reflective glass and potlights.

Sean indulged his love of unpolished marble with black countertops with pronounced white veining. The millwork — notice the moulding around the vent hood — is extremely well done.

Sean plans to wallpaper the bedroom, in the meantime he’s created a beautiful gallery displaying some of his most treasured art and mementos.

The view from the bed does not go to waste in this space, below.

And neither do the corners, which are just as carefully composed.

Back in the living room Sean’s talent for balancing volume is especially evident in the vignette below.

It’s been a year since the couple embraced the possibilities of being alone together and all indications are that the moves have been a healthy tonic. Sean’s decorating business is flourishing while Stephen, left, has taken on a new position as showroom manager of Rewrap Upholstery. Apparently a change really is as good as a rest.

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Friday, March 9, 2012 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 849 posts on styleNorth.

23 Comments For This Post

  1. Wallis Says:

    Both places (all 3, really, when you factor in the terrace house) are spectacular. I notice that both photographs of the guys are taken in kitchens. Coincidence or a pattern for them/you? Great story and great apartments! Thank you, Chris!!

  2. Liza Says:

    Beautiful spaces. Great post.
    A question: how are the small porcelain bowls, around the convex mirror in Sean’s living room, mounted on the wall? Any tips where in Toronto I might find whatever was used?
    Thanks!

  3. ingrid Says:

    What a wonderful story all around!
    It certainly doesn’t hurt that these two talented gentleman have incredible taste in design and style, and you Chris, can capture all this so beautifully.
    thank you.

  4. Magda Says:

    What a great job with the decor and a great storey. Wishing them both the very best.

  5. Taylor de Sa Says:

    Both spaces are so fantastic! Thanks for sharing such a great story… There are many lessons for us all here.

  6. chairtablelamp Says:

    Loved it, a great post visual eye candy.

  7. shezcomeundone Says:

    Individual space(s). The final frontier.
    LLP Sean and Stephen!

    Interesting post Chris. You do bring it. Bring it more often.

  8. VegHead Says:

    While I respect Sean’s ability to really work the traditional tip, I think I would find it all a bit suffocating. My preference is for Stephen’s lower key approach — love the yellow and blue painting in the living room, with art like that you can’t go too far wrong. Who is the artist?

  9. Sean Says:

    The blue and white plates on the living room wall are a combination of original Nanking Cargo Porcelain, from the Christies Auction in Geneva and reproduction plates from the now defunct Eleanor Dover, here in Toronto. They are hung with ordinary plate hangers, available all over town. Recommend the plastic coated ones over the metal ones, kinder to the porcelain. Sean

  10. Audrey Says:

    Maybe it’s just the photo but it seems to me the gentlemen look younger, healthier and happier in the new picture than they did three years ago in your older post, just my opinion

  11. Sean Ward Says:

    Dear Veghead. I was responsible for the decoration of both apartments, each hopefully being representative of our individual tastes and personality. The painting over the living room sofa is by Canadian artist, Henry Bonli. Sean Ward

  12. Lots to say Says:

    We wandered into a Cabbagetown Open House about a year ago. Imagine my delight when I recognized one of my all time favourite bathrooms from a magazine spread! That was the day my husband proposed to me and it was Stephen and Sean’s house on the market.
    I love all the traditional overstuffed cushions, Ikat fabrics and artwork filling the walls.
    Where is that adorable butcher block from the kitchen
    ? Would be a shame if it were in storage!

  13. David Says:

    I have to wonder about the framed art over the cook top in the traditional apartment. I question the practicality of this? If any serious cooking action goes on, it would be a shame to ruin the print.

  14. sc Says:

    Love the townhouse and the Rosedale penthouse. Very nicely done. The modern condo is nice too but not to my taste. It’s nice to see something out of the Toronto norm – I’d certainly look into hiring Sean if I could afford it (I’m certain I can not).

  15. Wallis Says:

    “Lots to say”, I have it on good authority that the butcher block is for sale! Leave a note here if you want more info!

  16. Malcolm Says:

    I found your blog through the Globe and Mail and I have to say that the writing is better than much of what I see elsewhere. Kudos to you.

  17. Susan TributeDecor Says:

    Gorgeous spaces – the art and textiles (textures, patterns and colours) are exquisite, never mind the plumpness of each and every cushion! Also liked the shared greek key fabric/pillows. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Clare Says:

    Wow, I’m crazy about Sean’s new space. Amazing!

    There’s a den just like Stephen’s in my new place so I might take a page from his book when it comes to decorating it… right now it’s full of all the odds and ends that haven’t found a permanent home yet.

  19. Lots to say Says:

    I want more info!
    Can you send to me privately?

  20. JaneBB Says:

    My husband and I were fortunate enough to have Sean help us with our home in Sarasota, Florida. We are sooo happy with the work that he has done. Can’t wait for his return trip next week. Sean has amazing taste, great creative ideas, and above all is wonderful to work with. Listening to our likes and making it all happen. Love both of thier apartments and the artwork!! Congrats on another job well done.

  21. Karen J Says:

    Alone together – in a happy way. I love it!
    Two tours in one. Thanks Chris.
    Best wishes to Sean and Stephen:)

  22. brendamacdonald Says:

    Love these spaces!! very creative and tasteful. I love the paintings by peter bonli. They just make the rest of the space come alive!!

  23. Lara Finley Says:

    I like all the millwork Sean :)

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