When actress and playwright Liza Paul purchased her home in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood in 2006, it was a decrepit former crack house. But her contractor dad, Everton Paul, insisted she buy it, saying it was solid. The ensuing year-long renovation was a family affair, with Dad and his team gutting and rebuilding the interior and others, including aunt Helga Stephenson, former director of the Toronto International Film Festival, donating furnishings. In this home, the theatrics typically unfold in the open-concept dining room, where Paul has recently been doing run-throughs of her award-winning play Pomme is French for Apple , co-written with Bahia Watson. (The play is being remounted for a limited run at Toronto's Young Centre for the Performing Arts starting Feb. 28.) "The dining room is where all the fun is," says the former Soulpepper Theatre Company associate producer, "even when I'm using it as an office and rehearsal hall."
The brick wall
"My dad and I briefly fell out over this feature. When he and his team of guys stripped the place down, I saw the brick that had been hidden under the plaster and lath and loved it. He thought I'd get bored of it and told me to paint it, but I loved the texture and colour it adds to the space and refused. It's one of the only things in the house that wasn't demolished or covered up and I'm happy I won the battle."
"My dad designed this staircase. It has lights built into the stringer closest to the brick, which makes for excellent mood lighting at night. It's so sturdy, but the floating treads and the glass and metal railing make it appear light and airy, which I love."
The trap door
"Trap doors are so cool. This one is under the stairs and leads to a mechanical room in the basement. It's weighted with an antique lead weight to keep it from closing while anyone is down there. The trap door means that, during a 'bashment' (which is a big, noisy, excellent party), there are more places for people to congregate."
"This is a wood called Lyptus (which I had never heard of prior to doing the renovation) and I think it is so gorgeous. The variety of colour is really beautiful and the satin finish feels so nice underfoot. It's also really slippery, which I love because sliding across the floor in my socks is one of my favourite things to do."
"Who doesn't love a blackboard? I use it when I am rehearsing. The show I am now working on is a series of vignettes and this is how we keep them organized during rehearsals – by writing them down."
The paint colour
"This spicy mustard replaces the awful taupe colour I originally had. It's a vibrant accent for the red and the black in the room."
The table and chairs
"These were an amazing steal of a find. My mom, Helen Paul, had a colleague at Telefilm who was moving out of Toronto and needed to sell her dining-room set. She wanted $500 but when my dad showed up with the truck she was so relieved she gave me the set for $400. The glass alone would have cost that much. When I have rehearsals here, I push the table aside to make space."