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Toronto home's doors open on a joyous sight

The grand piano at the Rosedale, Toronto home re-designed by Bill Mockler of Drawing Room Architect. 'We knew that the house was about art and objects,' says Mr. Mockler.

Joy von Tiedemann/Joy von Tiedemann

Long before visitors were arriving at a house in Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood, William Mockler was thinking about them.

The Toronto-based partner at Drawing Room Architect Inc. imagined guests arriving at the front door of the staid Edwardian house and crossing the threshold into a contemporary interior full of colour, whimsical furniture and distinctive art. Looking to the right, those guests would see into the music room with a grand piano and most of one wall given over to a painting by a renowned artist.

"As you enter the house at the front door, you look to your right," says Mr. Mockler as he moves through the space. "It's about seeing something joyous to the right."

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As guests move forward into the living room and dining room, they are surrounded by a collection of furniture and lighting as carefully curated as the paintings and sculpture.

"We knew that the house was about art and objects," says Mr. Mockler, who worked with architect Stuart Watson and Charles Hart of Drawing Room.

But just beyond the grand open space for entertaining, the house becomes all about two boisterous children. Mr. Mockler sees no reason why investment-quality furniture can't withstand bouncing boys and some occasional splashes of apple juice.

"As a parent with young kids, go ahead and get great stuff," he advises. "So many people think they have to wait until the kids are older because they're going to wreck everything."

The team at Drawing Room was called in soon after the owners bought the timeworn house near Yonge & Summerhill. The owners called for the dated interior of small rooms and dark wood to be completely reconfigured. A new addition on the rear would provide space for a great room combining the kitchen, casual dining area and family room.

In the great room, Mr. Mockler points out, the family-friendly design is no less sophisticated. The marble surrounding the fireplace, for example, has bumpers around the sharp corners and hard edges.

"They're harmless and out of the way," says Mr. Mockler. "When the kids grow, they'll come off and the marble is exquisite."

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Built-in shelves behind sliding doors allow toys to be hidden away.

"The kids don't have to worry about their toys. They can throw them everywhere. It's so easy to clean up."

A large solid walnut table from New York's fashionable Chelsea district provides a welcoming place to gather for family meals. The table also has some soft brown bumpers that blend right in with the wood while padding the corners. The chairs, imported from Italy, are made of pony skin.

The kitchen, with an island of white marble, is flooded with light from south-facing windows. Doors lead to the garden and an outdoor living area.

Between the family space at the rear of the house and the more formal area at the front, a butler's pantry and a home office for mom disappear behind wood-panelled walls.

That arrangement keeps the look of the dining room spare, explains Mr. Mockler, because the owners keep china and stemware on the floor-to-ceiling shelves of the butler's pantry. Caterers can also do their work behind closed doors.

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In the main entertaining spaces at the front of the house, Drawing Room designers chose furniture and lighting that stands out against white walls. The white oak floors are quarter-cut and riffed, with a very light stain.

Mr. Mockler prefers to mix different types of wood on the walls and floor.

"Floor material is meant to take a beating. Wood used on the walls doesn't need to be able to take a beating, so we like to use something different."

In this case, cerused oak lines some of the walls in the principal rooms and warms up the space. Some starkly contemporary rooms appear too cold to some people, he explains.

"We knew they wanted contemporary," says Mr. Mockler. "But we had to listen to find out exactly what they meant by that. We spent a lot of time talking about places they've been in the world, the hotels they've stayed in. I think it's dangerous to rely on clichés like 'we like modern'."

Throughout the main floor, curves in the furniture and lighting provide a counterpoint to the rigidity of the architecture.

The black-and-white chairs in the music room are as rounded as the edges of the grand piano.

For the living room, Mr. Mockler searched the world for the right furniture. A tailored contemporary sofa is from Milan.

To offset the room's hard lines, he found a pink sofa in Miami that wouldn't look out of place at the Mondrian in South Beach.

The white marble coffee table, with matte and polished areas in relief, is a computer-generated creation of the Dutch artist and product designer, Marcel Wanders.

"It's a serious piece of art," says Mr. Mockler.

The hanging light fixtures in the dining room are made up of undulating organic shapes.

"We wanted to play something organic or feminine against the orthogonality."

The stair to the second floor hasn't moved, Mr. Mockler points out, but the old wooden pickets and rail are gone, as is the avocado-green broadloom dating to the 1970s.

At the side of the house, a wide interior stair leads to the basement, where a lounge for the grown-ups has been created.

The glowing green glass suspended from the ceiling is a sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly. The incandescence that appears to come from within it is actually created by beams of light aimed at the glass.

The adults and their friends can gather for films in the theatre, watch sports on television, or play pool on the table that Mr. Mockler spotted in the in-flight magazine of an international airline. The onyx-topped bar is covered in gold leaf and made gently curving to a Drawing Room design.

The curvature as a counterpoint to the orthogonality carries throughout the house, says Mr. Mockler, but the night-club feel of the downstairs couldn't provide a stronger contrast to the bright and child-friendly area upstairs.

"The kids won't be down here for a few years."

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