Judy and Rob Ranieri renovated their 100-year-old, midtown Toronto home expecting to sell. They ended up with second thoughts – not on the renovation, completed with the help of interior designer Jackie Di Cara, but on the sale. “I wish we had done it sooner. I really love this space,” Judy Ranieri says.
The couple live with their 23-year-old daughter, while their son, who also grew up in the family home, lives and works in Hamilton. And though it’s just the three of them, the renovation, which opened up the kitchen to the adjoining dining and family rooms, has improved the way they interact.
“The big open space just suits our family so much better,” says Ranieri, who does most of the cooking and felt isolated in their old galley-style walk-through kitchen. “There’s a lot more connection. For the whole family it’s great, we can sit around the island and catch up with each other.”
The space feels a lot more spacious too, and the aforementioned 4-foot-by-10-foot island provides plenty of surface to work on and socialize around. The openness also allows for views out that weren’t previously possible. “It brings the outdoors in, because I can look out, wherever I am in the space and see greenery,” Ranieri says.
There are other natural elements, which are source of joy for the “real nature girl,” as Ranieri self-identifies. The barn door, sourced from Tin House Woodworking in Coe Hill, Ont., near the Ranieris’ cottage, is solid walnut and conceals a hall coat closet turned pantry. “It’s probably one of my favourite things about the kitchen,” Ranieri says. “That wood, with its beautiful grain, brings the outdoors in as well.”
So, too, the range hood clad in marble. The vein running through the slab recalls a tree branch or root network to Ranieri. She credits Di Cara with the vision for the space and opening her eyes to options she wouldn’t have considered otherwise. “If it were just me doing the renovation,” and Ranieri has completed several, “I would have gone to Home Depot and found a stainless steel range hood.” As it is, “it’s like a piece of art,” she says of the element.
Di Cara also suggested the granite sink (“I didn’t even know they existed,” Ranieri says) and faucet, sourced from Roman Bath Centre, and the Shaker-style cabinetry, custom built by Simply Divine Designs in Stratford, Ont. The below-the-counter pull-out cabinets are hugely efficient, especially for storing coffee grinders, food processors and the like. “I don’t have to take five things out to get to the small appliance I want,” Ranieri says.
The Hale Navy Benjamin Moore shade on the lower portion of the island was courtesy of Di Cara, too. “We went back and forth on it. But I think it really makes the island pop – and the colour just makes me happy,” she says. Ranieri ended up recovering her mahogany dining room chairs with navy blue upholstery to match, but not before painting the chairs the same soft white of the cabinet uppers. “It killed me when I first thought of the idea,” Ranieri says, “and now even my daughter thinks it looks great.”
“It was definitely collaborative,” she says of the working relationship with Di Cara. Ranieri made all the final decisions, armed with Di Cara’s options and professional opinions regarding where to spend the money and why. “That was what was really great about working with a designer. She was able to see the forest for the trees. I ended up with a space that really meets our needs and actually goes way beyond my expectations.”