Welsh-born opera singer Jason Howard came to Toronto 12 years ago for a three-day vacation and, after falling for shutterbug Shelagh Howard, never left. It's a love story worthy of South Pacific, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in which Howard is playing the male lead, Emile de Becque, in the production on now at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. But instead of having palm trees and tropical sunsets as backdrops, their partnership plays itself out in the more domesticated setting of their Lawrence Park home. "Renovating houses is a passionate hobby of mine," Howard says. "Our kitchen is the true heart of the house."
1. The photographs
"These are mainly photographs of our children and family by my wife Shelagh, who is a professional photographer. She's also an art collector and that's her art on the wall, too."
2. The cabinetry
"We purposely ordered stock painted cabinetry from Rona, which I adapted where necessary to fit the space. We chose a light colour to make the kitchen look brighter than it originally was. I'm all about my investment portfolio, which is why I didn't go for a custom kitchen. My cabinets might be cheap, but my savings plan is exactly where I want it to be. When you're an opera singer, you think like that."
3. The lighting
"The lighting was designed to make the space as bright as possible. All the lights are on dimmers so we can change the mood of the room easily."
4. The colourful portrait
"This is a painting done of me in costume as Marcello in Puccini's La Bohème back in the early nineties, when I was with Welsh National Opera. Eugene Fisk was commissioned to paint the stars of WNO for an exhibition in Cardiff and he painted several of me. This was the only one I could afford at the time as it was the smallest."
5. The marble countertop
"It was Shelagh's idea to install light marble as opposed to the more popular dark granite for the surfaces. It lightens the room beautifully and looks like the kind of surface you would find in an old kitchen in Tuscany. I wasn't anticipating the island slab to weigh over 300 pounds, so I had to reinforce the unit below before it could be installed. The island is also on wheels, so we can move it out of the way for impromptu dance parties. I don't just sing, you know."
6. The flooring
"Removing the ceramic tile floor from the old kitchen was a back-breaking job - one which I never want to do again. We replaced it with natural-coloured wood flooring to match the rest of the main floor."