The Toronto Star .  Oct 21 2006 . Alex Newman

Four levels with function and finesse

The model homes at Monarch’s new Neighbourhood Gardens townhome project in Toronto’s east end are a testament to the success of the Keep It Simple school of design.

At about 1,800 square feet, the model packs in big function spread over four levels. On the ground level there’s a family room and garage. One floor up there’s an efficient eat-in kitchen, open- concept living and dining room. One floor down there’s a finished basement for home office and laundry, and the top level has three bedrooms and two baths.

As designer Janice Wilson says, “It’s simple. When you live in the city, land is a precious commodity, so the only way to go is up. High ceilings help with a greater volume of space and feeling of breathing room. Looking at the outside you wouldn’t believe how much space is on the inside.”

Room layouts are efficient, with little wasted in hallways, and more space devoted to principal areas than to private spaces. Ambient light from adjacent rooms floods the L-shaped kitchen and its breakfast area. Antiqued brown cabinets, marble counters and tumbled marble backsplash are rustic counterpoint to the stainless appliances and modern wood and steel table. Benches slide under the table, which doubles as a secondary food prep surface.

Simplicity reigns in the furniture layouts as well. In the open concept living and dining area, Wilson used fewer pieces but ones with proper scale – a generous tuxedo-style sofa with two tailored club chairs. Simple cube ottomans tuck under the glass coffee table and can be pulled out for extra seating. A wood dining table and linen upholstered dining chairs are simple and elegant, and can be dressed up or down. A large floor mirror helps reflect light and opens the space.

Wilson decided against area rugs, because the hardwood floors are beautiful and help reflect light.

“Putting a big area rug just chops the room up,” Wilson notes.

With the trend toward a less-is-more approach, Wilson pared down but went larger, especially with accessories – such as the huge pottery floor vase in the dining area, and the ficus tree in the living room.

When your space is not “overly huge,” Wilson explains, “keep items to a minimum. All you really need are principal pieces that are big enough for comfort – a nice large sofa, squared off coffee table, two chairs, some tasteful pictures and you have a nice living space that anybody would be happy to call home.”

In a word, simplify.

The colour scheme, too, is pared down, muted and calm with a variety of creams and accents of green, brown, tawny gold. Buttery cream walls, natural linen drapery, pale upholstered furniture, medium tone hardwood floors and wood accent tables create a restful upcountry look that’s upscale and chic enough for great entertaining.

With so much room given to principal spaces, bedrooms, especially for children, don’t need to be huge. “Children don’t need huge spaces, especially since they usually like to hang around and play where the action is – kitchen, family areas,” Wilson says. “In bedrooms, which is their territory, they want to throw their toys around – smaller space means less to clean up.” And when you use fewer pieces and keep things in scale, Wilson adds, the rooms feels spacious. A baby’s room in a soft robin’s egg blue, has a simple white crib and pale window coverings.

In the other children’s bedroom, pretty white cottage-style bunk beds have linens and accessories in bright fuchsia and green.

The master bedroom, though, is more spacious with room for wall-to- wall closets, bedside tables, and a queen bed with chocolate brown velvet headboard. “Everything’s co-ordinated to keep the scheme simple, but without rigidly matching,” Wilson says.

“I love to use silks the drapery panels and the bedspread. It’s so luxurious, and when furnishings are minimal and simple, you can add the depth with texture and fabrics.” For a great functional space, Wilson turned the lowest level into a completely outfitted home office – with so many people working from home these days, it made sense.

Out of the way from the main family areas, it’s really efficient and has good access to the street level for couriers and clients.