Chef Victor Barry believes design is as important as great food and a delectable dining experience. “It’s one of the three main pillars,” he says. “If you don’t have one, the building can’t stand. It’s a house of cards.” The Toronto-based chef and owner of restaurants Piano Piano and Café Cancan applies the same whimsical style to his home kitchen, with the help of interior designer and “technicolour force” Tiffany Pratt, who worked on the restaurants, too.
“We just had to have her do it, because what she brings to a space, it’s not just design features, it’s a feeling. And the feeling of a place is so important. She brings it to life,” Barry says. He also worked with Binns Kitchen + Bath Design and KitchenAid for the functional design and appliances. As for the latter, Barry uses their “pro” series at home – built-in fridge and dishwasher, oven, kettle, toaster and mixer – and “they really stand up to the test.”
The team worked to create a seamless transition from the living area to the kitchen in the open-concept space. “There’s nothing above counter level, so there’s this very airy feeling,” Barry says. They made use of lower cabinets and the large island for storage and for hiding larger appliances. A downdraft system meant Barry could avoid a hood above his induction cooktop (for which he’s a bit of an evangelist). “Induction is far superior in strength and precision,” he says. “I can cook a perfectly crisp trout skin every single time!”
With the basics taken care of, “Tiffany added the splash of colour and excitement,” Barry says. Instead of matching the island to the cabinets, Pratt created a statement piece by wrapping it with a heavy-duty vinyl by local wallpaper-and-textile-design firm Bettencourt Manor. The crystalline pattern is a complement to the peony-bedecked wallpaper from Designers Guild, as well as the colourful banquette cushions, custom designed by Pratt and made by Tonic Living.
They searched for a large table that could comfortably accommodate eight to no avail, so they had the oval top made and bought gold legs on Etsy. The chairs are vintage, while the counter stools are from Wayfair. Plenty of seating is critical, as family members, friends and guests like to be close to the cooking action – and Barry likes it, too. “I wanted the kitchen island [and table] to be large enough for kitchen parties,” Barry says. “My family is from the Maritimes. Kitchen parties are a big thing.”
In addition to joviality, there’s a touch of spirituality in the space. Barry’s wife, Nikki Leigh McKean, is part owner and creative director of the restaurants, but also a yoga and spiritual instructor. One hundred and eight etched mala “beads” encircle the window, designed by Janelle Falconer of Hello Dear Design & Co. “The mala is inspired by my yoga teachers and love for daily practice,” McKean says.
The shapes that make up the “beads” are a mix of symbols – some inspirational, such as triangles and diamonds that evoke the transformation and strength of mountain tops, and others that recall personal histories, such as a Dala horse that reminds McKean of her time spent in Sweden. “Waking up to it every morning reminds our family to find daily gratitude.”
Falconer, with Pratt, also designed the rainbow door vinyl, which was a direct request from the couple’s young daughters, Sofie and Charlotte, ages 4 and 5. “They wanted a rainbow somewhere in the house, so this was a perfect place to add a splash of colour and make the girls’ wish come true,” McKean says.
“They love it,” Barry adds. “They think it’s a fun house. Whereas a lot of houses are serious, ours is whimsical and joyful.”