Designing Canada 2023: Form meets function in these spaces that celebrate livability


How can a home’s shape enhance the life within it? By creating a sense of harmony with its surroundings and welcoming that environment in

Cadboro Bay House

by BoForm and Falken Reynolds

Sometimes, design starts with an a-ha moment. For Victoria-based architect Christian Foyd of BoForm, inspiration struck during the first site visit to this Cadboro Bay, B.C., property. “The homeowner and I stood on the beach looking up at the land,” he says. “In the foreground, at the high-water mark, was a line of grey driftwood logs. We agreed we’d found our palette and the home should be a play on this horizontal grey line.”

Victoria-based architect Christian Foyd of BoFormJefferey Bosdet

True to the shared vision, Foyd chose materials that spoke to the natural colours and textures of the land: driftwood, architectural concrete, raw untreated western red cedar and steel. The house is designed as two blocks with a transparent front-to-back glass connector, which houses the living and dining rooms and kitchen. As the owners are an active couple with three sons, the home’s durability outdoors and in was as crucial as its good looks.

Chad Falkenberg and Kelly Reynolds, of the Vancouver-based interiors firm Falken Reynolds, collaborated closely with Foyd throughout the process so that “the cuffs would match the collar,” as Foyd puts it. Their focus was on highlighting the horizontal lines and maintaining a calm palette. “Similar to the effect of a campfire, we brought warmer hues into the centre of the space, like the leather of the bed or the oak of the coffee table,” Falkenberg says. “The owners are highly supportive of local craftspeople and Canadian artists, so all the products in the house tell a story.”

Stone Manor

by Tim Phelan

Charlottetown-based architect Tim Phelan.Handout

Less than an hour from Saint John, a house hugs a cliff overlooking the Bay of Fundy. The dramatic site and home’s fortress-like limestone façade look like a movie set, and it’s all by design. “The first time I spoke to the client, he told me he wanted a stone manor like the one in Skyfall, the James Bond movie,” says architect Tim Phelan, who’s known for his portfolio of striking coastal dwellings.

Charlottetown-based Phelan designed the 6,800-square-foot home earlier in his career, shortly before founding ARCHwork Studio, but it remains a highlight. “It’s one of my favourite designs,” he says of the home, which completed construction in 2022. “It’s disconnected from the outside world and was built to endure the elements like a fortress.”

A focus on natural materials was a must for the owners, a couple with grown children. Phelan spent hours studying the architecture of Maine and Martha’s Vineyard to find a coastal form that would translate to maritime Canada. To differentiate the guest house “barn” from the main house, Phelan added a widow’s walk with spire and vertical, black-stained cedar siding.

The entire dwelling was situated as far forward as the contours of the cliff would allow. From the principal bedroom, the owners see only water; no land is visible below. Another unique, view-based feature of the property is a catwalk that cantilevers out from the deck with a 125-foot drop beneath. The idea came from one of the owners, who has a background in engineering. “Being at the back of the property is almost like an adrenaline rush,” Phelan says. “There’s a sense of uneasiness in the best possible way.”

Architects and Superkül partners Meg Graham and Andre D’Elia.Christopher Wahl

Tucked away from the bustle of midtown Toronto, this converted coach house is the epitome of a multipurpose sanctuary. Its owners, a couple with two teenagers, use the light-filled 400-square-foot structure as a garage, office, entertaining space, yoga studio and library – to name just a few of its functions.

When it came time to reimagine the previously dilapidated coach house, the couple turned to friends, architects and Superkül partners Meg Graham and Andre D’Elia. While the primary home has a transitional feeling, marrying both modern and traditional elements, the coach house is clad in shou-sugi-ban cedar – a Japanese charring technique – with a black standing-seam steel roof to create a new silhouette in the garden. “It was clear to all of us that this room wanted to look outward rather than inward,” Graham says. “The mission was to create an open, airy space that is of the landscape and invites the outdoors in.”

Inside, the mezzanine holds a library, there’s storage in the basement and a wood-burning stove creates a warm and intimate environment. “Garden Room has been used for gathering – to host get-togethers, sleepovers and dinners – and retreat to find a quiet moment of pause,” Graham says. “We designed every square inch to be flexible and welcoming for a family who values their community as much as they do moments to themselves.”

Interior design

Whether your look is traditional, transitional or contemporary, a room should capture that sense of style while functioning hard for a multi-faceted life

West Point Grey

by Oliver Simon Design

Jamie Hamilton and Greer Nelson of Oliver Simon Design.Janis Nicolay

Fun and fearlessness, that’s what landed Jamie Hamilton and Greer Nelson of Oliver Simon Design the job of transforming a 2,025 square-foot contemporary home in a coveted Vancouver neighbourhood. Its owners, a young couple – one of whom is a prominent gaming YouTuber with nine million subscribers – felt the recently renovated home didn’t reflect their personalities.

Their inspiration? The Manhattan loft belonging to Stranger Things actor David Harbour, an airy space with infusions of colour, vintage furniture and live greenery. “They love eclectic style and when we first met with them, they had some complaints about other designers being too safe for their tastes,” Hamilton says. The challenge was to give the house and its owners a sense of fun without taking it too far.

With the bar set high and clients willing to take risks, the designers opted to keep the home’s positive elements, like the layout and enviable ceiling height, and update the dated kitchen, lighting and wall of brick veneer. Next, they added the character their clients craved, installing green floral House of Hackney wallpaper to the bedroom, a vintage Slim Aarons photograph to the dining room and custom mustard-coloured velvet drapes to envelop the living space.

What started as a neutral, bland interior is now an organic, inviting home with a fresh point of view. “It represents a grown-up space for the next chapter of their lives,” Nelson says.

Project Vandorf

by Ashley Montgomery Design

The two-year transformation of this Stouffville, Ont., home – “a cross between a farmhouse and a Colonial,” according to designer Ashley Montgomery – was an exercise in slowing down and loosening up. The owners, a young couple who decided to leave their Toronto lives behind at the beginning of the pandemic, were in search of fuss-free rooms and wide-open spaces, both indoors and out.

“They wanted land, with chickens and gardens, and to own a home where dogs and cats can happily roam, muddy boots are fine and nothing’s so delicate you’d be afraid to touch it,” says Barrie, Ont.-based Montgomery, who is known for her layered, British-influenced approach.

Barrie, Ont.-based designer Ashley Montgomery.Lauren Miller

Her first task was to unbutton a 4,500-square-foot traditional home full of formal wall panelling. Though no walls were moved, thanks to a solid layout, every room in the house was touched by the renovation. The biggest change was to the heart of the home, where Montgomery replaced a “floor-model kitchen” with pale, powder blue-green cabinetry, artisanal tiles and warm touches of oak and brass. The home has a formal dining room, but a welcoming kitchen nook with a lush mohair-upholstered banquette is where 99 per cent of meals take place.

Textiles and prints play a significant role in the interior decoration, from the playful cushions on the living room sofa to the nostalgic Lulie Wallace wallpaper in the primary bathroom. One of the home owners came from a fashion background, so when it came to fabrics and patterns, “she would just light up,” Montgomery says. “The colours and textiles we chose are fresh, but with a warmth that works throughout the seasons.”

Fisher House

by Deborah Wang Architect

Toronto architect Deborah Wang.Jenna Wakani

What do you get when two creatives and friends collaborate on a home’s interior? A “million texts,” hundreds of decisions and a crisp, clean-lined contemporary family home within an Edwardian façade. When photographer Jenna Wakani and her husband purchased a circa 1910 duplex in west Toronto, her first call was to close friend, architect Deborah Wang. “She asked me to see the house before they bought it so we could evaluate its potential together,” Wang says.

Wang approaches projects holistically: “I’m involved in a home’s interior design because that’s always been part of my practice, and I don’t see them as separate,” she says. A shared affinity for Louis Poulsen pendants, Italian Mutina tiles and natural light provided the jumping-off point for quiet interiors that allow Wakani’s art collection and beloved Moroccan rugs to shine.

“As a photographer, I stare at images all day and a white backdrop at home is a necessary respite,” Wakani says. Her husband works from home and loves to cook for Wakani and their two children. The kitchen had to do much of the home’s heavy lifting while visually receding against the adjacent family room. Wang designed an oversized 8.5-foot by 6.5-foot island to accommodate a cooktop, sink, plenty of storage and seating so the whole family can face one another during meal prep.

“It’s so nice that I get to continuously experience the house and see how it’s lived in,” Wang says. “Jenna and I joke that when we get old, I’ll move in with them. Sentiments like that make a project really special.”

Furniture and housewares

Working in wood, ceramics and statement lighting, these designers recognize that livability is enhanced by honest materials that evoke nature and personal stories

We Wall Sculpture

by Daej Hamilton

“Having an interior designer for a mom made me acknowledge design at a young age,” Daej Hamilton says. “I don’t think 11-year-olds normally complain about restaurant tables being too high for the booth seating.” By sixth grade, Hamilton had taken up woodworking after becoming “mesmerized” by the movement of grain in furniture. After graduating from the Craft and Design program at Sheridan College, the Toronto-based designer began creating her own wares and selling them online.

Toronto-based designer Daej Hamilton.Nautica Simone

Hamilton is drawn to the timelessness of mid-century lines, and that influence is clear in the tapered legs of her stools and tables. “I find that era allows for the item to fit into any space without being overpowering,” she says. Nearly all the wood she uses comes from fallen trees and she rarely uses stain to change the wood’s natural colour. “Sure, you can be intentional when you paint ceramics or polish stone,” she says. “But when you go to the lumber yard and sift through piles to find a piece that’ll make everything come together, it’s a whole different experience.”

Lately, Hamilton says her work has become more delicate, gravitating to the straightforward forms of bowls and carved wall installations (the We sculpture pictured here is made from Sapele, an African hardwood). The pieces are a perfect expression of her “simplicity is elegance” ethos. “It’s so intimate to be able to create what someone wants, and will pass on to another generation,” she says.

Wet Slate Series

by Heather Waugh Pitts

A dialogue between artist and landscape is common, but rarely is it so personal and place-specific. “Clay as a medium is like a language to me, a way of expressing memory and an extension of self,” ceramicist Heather Waugh Pitts says. Those memories were formed during her childhood in Woodside, an industrial suburb of Dartmouth, where Waugh Pitts’s family home was close to both refinery tanks and gravel pits, as well as mossy forests and rocky shorelines.

Dartmouth-based ceramicist Heather Waugh Pitts.Handout

An interior designer, Waugh Pitts began her foray into ceramics by experimenting with abstract earthenware. Once she installed her own studio, she switched to finer porcelain clay, firing her work at a higher temperature. Her recent Wet Slate series is inspired by photographing black slate along the shores of Nova Scotia’s Eastern Passage, not far from her home in Dartmouth. Rendered in black porcelain, the forms undulate and shift, as though battered by waves for hundreds of years. Some pieces resemble foraged mussel shells. “These pieces make me feel connected to where I live,” she says.

Retailers and restaurants have taken notice. “I love where my work has landed,” she says, listing collaborations with Toronto-based homeware retailer Elte and online ceramic destination Vessels + Sticks. She’s also had inquiries from noted Canadian and American chefs looking for unique, artisanal serving dishes. “The idea of serving their art on my art is exciting,” she says.

Exterior Modern Collection

by Luminaire Authentik

The newly-opened Luminaire Authentik location in Quebec City.Handout

Stylish, affordable lighting is hard to find. Just ask Maude Rondeau who, eight years ago, became frustrated when she couldn’t find great fixtures for her first home. “As I started shopping, I noticed a gap,” she says. “You either had these supercheap lights or beautiful designer objects that weren’t attainable.”

Rondeau decided to leave her fashion-industry job and launch Luminaire Authentik, where she would act as designer, distributor and manufacturer for a locally made product. Her calling card: All of Luminaire Authentik’s lights are customizable, from the interior and exterior shade colour to the cord and arm. “I figured if I made it fun and let the client choose every detail, she’d tell her friends and that would be my marketing plan.”

Maude Rondeau, designer, distributor and manufacturer of Luminaire Authentik.Handout

To say the market responded with enthusiasm is an understatement. In just a few years, Cowansville, Que.-based Rondeau grew her staff from three people to 36 and opened showrooms in Toronto and Quebec City. The Quebec City store is a satellite concept that allows consumers to enter the space and interact with the samples while speaking to a virtual consultant. If it takes off, she plans to roll it out across Canada and select U.S. cities.

Despite the growth, Rondeau remains rooted in her community. In 2019, she and her husband bought an old grocery store in Cowansville and filled its 55,000 square feet with a Luminare Authentik factory, a café and space for other design businesses to set up showrooms. In 2022, she launched the brand’s latest must-have, a collection of contemporary exterior lights that are “a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic but Quebec-proof,” she says of how they respond to her province’s varied weather.


Disrupting the practice of finding hardware in the endless aisles of a big box store, two designers built a jewel box space that celebrates a home’s finishing touches

Geary Residency

by Casson Hardware

It wasn’t the kind of thing you’d usually see on Geary Avenue, an industrial street previously called one of Toronto’s ugliest. But in the fall, the shipping container casting an ethereal glow onto the sidewalk invited passersby to pause and peep inside at an array of high-end hardware, courtesy of online retailer Casson.

“We think of it as a little diorama,” says Megan Cassidy, one of Casson’s founders along with fellow architect Jane Son. “It’s something to give us physical presence and be visually arresting.” Pulls, knobs, hooks, handles and yes, toilet-paper holders, are usually relegated to the aisles of home-improvement stores. Here, they were elevated to nothing less than pieces of everyday art, changing the way designers and homeowners think about the finishing touches that complete a well-designed space.

Megan Cassidy, one of Casson’s founders, with fellow architect Jane Son.Handout

“We represent small, design-focused fabricators and all the pieces we sell are hand-made or hand-finished,” Son says. “It felt right to showcase them in a gallery environment.” Cassidy and Son both cited the Prada Marfa installation on a Texas highway by artists Elmgreen & Dragset as a reference point.

The shipping container pop-up emerged as an idea for the brand’s fifth anniversary, a way to allow customers to see products they could have only experienced virtually in the past. In February, the brand is set to open its first bricks-and-mortar showroom at a nearby location discovered during the pop-up. Their full inventory will be on display, including the duo’s inaugural in-house line of hardware for the bathroom, Bende.


To compile this list, writer Beth Hitchcock reached out to Canadian design insiders to pitch the residential architecture, interior and housewares projects that are capturing their attention right now. Projects had to be completed in 2022 by a Canadian designer or firm based in Canada or abroad. Architecture and interior submissions had to be homes located in Canada, and housewares had to be available for purchase by Canadians. A group of editors from The Globe narrowed down the projects to the 10 featured here.

Have a design-savvy suggestion of your own? Post a photo of your contender to Instagram and tag the picture @globestyle and #DesigningCanada.