Interior design guru Steven Sabados has an enviable commute to his studio – he walks a few steps, turns a corner in his living room and enters a 300-square-foot space with an abundance of natural light.
“I’ve always had studio space, but I always had to drive a few blocks,” Sabados says. “As soon as we saw this loft, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, I knew there was enough room to finally spread out at home, creatively speaking, without infringing too much on Chris’s [Hyndman] space.”
Sabados and his husband, Hyndman, who died in 2015, bought their 4,000-square-foot loft in Toronto’s east end almost a decade ago. As the tour de force behind the long-running CBC design show Steven and Chris and HGTV’s Designer Guys, they could see beyond the stark, cavernous floor plan, bare walls and steel beams. “Chris called it ‘the garage’ because it reminded him of an auto body shop, but the anticipation of building it from zero was very exciting,” Sabados says.
The first thing they did was spray paint everything white. “Our homes have always been black and white. We spent our days decorating other people’s homes in colours and patterns so when we came home we craved monochrome. It was cleansing and cathartic,” he says.
After the exterior walls were cleaned up, the couple added a few dividing walls down the middle of the main floor – enough to create two distinct spaces – work/business on the left, with a boardroom/office and studio, and leisure on the right (living room and kitchen.)
The renovation took about two years. “We basically lived in a construction site. I remember one day three skids of Italian travertine were delivered in the middle of a snowstorm. There was dirty snow and salt everywhere,” he says. “But you do what you have to do and, in those days, we hid out a lot in the bedroom.”
Sabados’s studio, however, took no time to set up. With a fine arts degree from Fanshawe College in London, Ont., he’s a big fan of function, and so went to Home Hardware and bought a Dewalt tool cabinet, which has multiple drawers, to hold his vast assortment of solvents, brushes and paints. The rest of the counter space and storage is a mish-mash of tables and cabinets found at a Habitat ReStore, which accepts and resells new and used building materials to fund Habitat for Humanity home-building projects.
In recent months, Sabados says he has primarily lived in the left-hand side of his loft while he raced to complete a new home decor collection that is edgier, and some would say darker, than anything he has designed in the past. The line, called Taboo, includes skulls on throw cushions, carpets and even the odd lamp.
“Since Chris’s passing I’ve been in the studio a lot,” Sabados says. “It’s my safe place and it’s my therapy."
His one indulgence in the studio is a custom-made vision board, which he describes as his version of a fridge except without those “ghastly magnets,” where he pins magazine clippings, photos, travel brochures – really anything that strikes him as interesting, inspiring or moving.
“I don’t believe in putting things in cupboards because then they’re gone,” says Sabados, who adds he needs to declutter a bit because he’s running out of board space. “If you shove things away you forget about them. This board is a microcosm of who I am and what’s important to me. It’s a visual diary of where I’ve been and where I hope to go.”
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