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The boss-underling relationship is rarely simpatico. But not in Avryll McNair and Olivia Botrie’s case. “We met at a furniture store on Queen West 15 years ago,” says Botrie. “Avryll was the manager; I was the new hire. And we became fast friends. We were the dream team.”
Two months later, McNair left to do an art degree at OCAD and earn a real estate licence; Botrie became a designer, who today heads up Dart Studio.
Over the years, the friends have laughed over wine and gone to concerts. And they’ve put their shared love of design into several houses they’ve renovated together. McNair has a fantastic art collection and gravitates to interiors that blend ornate traditional and sleek modern designs.
The last place McNair herself lived in was a wood-and-white affair designed by Botrie; it was “pure perfection,” as she describes it.
She sold it, albeit reluctantly, when circumstances changed and she needed more space for some very persnickety roommates: two rescue redbone coonhounds and a toddler.
The three-storey Roncesvalles semi she snatched up in its place was too far gone for a cosmetic touch-up. “There were three different types of flooring, wobbly metal railings, peeling wallpaper and water issues,” says Botrie. “It was so bad in the basement the side of the tub fell off when I touched it.”
A gut renovation was in order. “The goal was to turn it from a dumpy, dated house into a hyper-functional welcoming family home,” says Botrie.
“Avryll has so much art, we wanted to make sure there’s a lot of places to display her amazing collection – there’s a lot of quirky details. I’m obsessed with banquettes,” which are ideal, she points out, for gallery walls.
Off the entry, Botrie nixed the typical Toronto straight-run staircase, swapping it for a C-shape design off the side of the house to maximize space. “The railing and newel posts are round and ornate to balance the clean contemporary slab cabinetry in the kitchen,” she says.
“This house originally had French doors to the living room,” McNair says. “I liked that formality and the big dramatic doors,” so the idea was to work in a similar element. In the entranceway, nine-foot-tall salvaged doors are both attractive and functional — they can hide a messy foyer. “The square panelling detail and the muddy paint colour add warmth,” says Botrie.
More drama can be found in the fireplaces: the traditional chunky limestone number in the front living room has “a Brooklyn brownstone vibe,” says Botrie; the other, in the back lounge, is a contemporary slickster. Yet the two behave well together on the same floor.
“Mixing things up looks more casual and collected,” says Botrie, gesturing to the kitchen as well.
It’s U-shaped, by Olympic Kitchens, and has warm oak cabinets that play well against a linear walnut light fixture. Hardwood flooring from the front rooms transitions to black chevron tile for dog durability that carries to the rear lounge.
A blend of lighting also fills the house with personality: over the dining table, a trio of loops from Concord Lighting look like gold skipping ropes.
Botrie designed a three-storey addition to the back of the building. The second floor now contains a principal suite with 20 feet of closets and a spa-like ensuite. The addition bumped the house up from 1,800 to 2,900 square feet. A kid’s bedroom, an office and a bathroom are on the third floor.
Nothing in the home is contrived, or looks like it’s been airlifted from a furniture showroom. After all, a home should reflect its owners. As Botrie puts it, “My personal style is not necessarily what I’d give a client. I listen to my clients.”
Even if they are old friends.