Jessica Helps wishes the work-live Lofthouses at Corktown District, developed by Streetcar Developments, had been around when she started her own business, Seven Haus Design, four years ago.
“This would have been a dream to work and live here,” says the young Toronto designer. “Nowhere in the city can you find a space like this, one that’s yours to divide up to suit your living and working needs. You might find a fixer-upper — if you’re lucky — but not this quality.”
The multiple live-work options, though, also made it more challenging to design the model. “Everybody has such different work needs; a chiropractor or wellness coach or bespoke tailor would all use the space differently.”
Helps ultimately decided on someone in fashion — a tailor or designer —hence the rack of clothing in the wide side hallway and some of accessory choices.
Having two substantial entries — one to the outdoor parking, the other to the hall and elevators — makes it possible to locate the work portion at either end of the 1,065 sq. ft. loft space. The rear entry is a full level lower, thereby creating a double-height ceiling in a space that would work well for a reception area with plenty of room for a desk and chair, book shelves and a comfortable tulip chair and ottoman for clients to wait.
Although the front works equally well for work, Helps interpreted it as living space. On entry, your eye is drawn to the kitchen, with its walnut island and spectacular chandelier. Cabinets are an efficient galley layout with uppers and lowers in striking striated veneer or laminate, and a mosaic backsplash. The island, custom made by Design Republic, has metal legs that allow four stools to tuck under neatly.
To the right of the entry, a large brown sectional — with one white armless end seat — and two vintage brown upholstered side chairs demonstrate how generous the gathering area is, with room enough for three fabric ottomans and a very large antique cart as coffee table.
High ceilings, in some places 16 feet high, bright white walls and lots of windows accentuate the spaciousness. To make it homey and inject human scale, while still retaining the flow and light, Helps used a combination of warm natural materials, a smattering of accessories (some of them antiques), and whimsical, quirky touches like the large wristwatch hanging on the wall of the kitchen.
To ground the living room area, she selected a vintage oriental carpet. And to anchor the opposite wall, she selected a primitive-looking bronze console under a slim rectangular mirror, then dressed it with an assortment of pottery, some of them on the floor.
“If everything is streamlined in a large open loft space like this, or anywhere for that matter, you end up with a very cold looking space,” Helps says. “This creates balance resulting in a warmer space with more character.”
But she was careful not to go overboard with the accessorizing and warm materials. Too much wood, she believes, can result in a space that feels haphazard. And with all the floors being whitewashed oak hardwood, there was already a huge amount of wood. Pieces were added with deliberation: the walnut table in the kitchen, the wood-topped desk to match in the wide hall (also from Design Republic) and the book-matched walnut shelving unit behind the bed.
Some of the more eccentric pieces have turned out to be a nod to history. There’s industrial (the cart as coffee table) and things more rococo, such as the ornate mirror over the desk. Mirrors are essential in any interior, Helps says, but especially for someone working in the fashion industry. Plus the mirror reminded her of Paris, which is one of her favourite places.
Lighting, too, is critical in the ambience of a home. While plenty of natural light floods through huge windows, the loft also comes with plenty of track lighting and a unique chandelier (a standard in each loft space), like the funky one over the walnut kitchen island table.
One of Helps’ aims in designing the loft was to give people an idea of how they can use their space, so she selected pieces that could double in either circumstance. The kitchen island, for example, has an obvious residential use or could be used in a lunch room. However, if you want to host a dinner party, there’s lots of room to accommodate a big table.
Dining, though, is changing, Helps finds. “I think we’re seeing three things define dining in Toronto. You either eat out a lot — this is really becoming a foodie city which explains why kitchens have become so much more minimal — or you can have friends in for a casual dinner, gathered around the island, or on the sectional and eating tapas from the coffee table. The third option is to hire a chef to cater.”
The versatility of this loft is one of the things Helps loves about it and the way it serves equally well for living and working, equally well.
Ten lofts remain at LoftHouse, ranging in size from 850 to 1,500 square feet and priced from $399,000. To see the model, call 416-485-2374 or go to corktowndistrict.com to make an appointment. Model is at 510 King St. E., Unit 102.