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Sarah Richardson: Here's how the designer helped fix a first home

From dark and dingy to light and bright

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Interior design by Sarah Richardson. Many apartment dwellers dream of one day making the big jump to owning. After years of communal hallways and cramped spaces, my clients were keen to land in a home that was entirely their own. The one they chose required work to the living and dining rooms, while most of the other spaces needed only simple fix-ups. Yours truly was tasked with turning the dated and dark principal rooms into cheery open spaces that embraced the owners’ bright, bold personalities.

Stacey Brandford

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I love working with colour, but the secret is balancing where to use colour and where to do without. No matter how hue-filled my rooms appear at first glance, I would always encourage you to look a little closer and see how many neutral elements you can find. Since you never know if your clients’ colour preferences are a lifelong passion or merely a passing fancy, it always makes sense to plan for change.

Stacey Brandford

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The sofa and armchairs are cream leather (which is light, bright and durable to boot), the main section of the walls are painted cream, and we kept an eye on the bottom line by fashioning drapes with decorative patterned edge panels out of inexpensive ready-made cream drape panels. If you start out by committing to a light neutral for the majority of your furnishings, it’s easy to have fun and inject playful accents of colour and pattern in high-impact ways.

Stacey Brandford

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Prioritization of renovation dollars is a tough exercise, but an important one. Getting the fundamentals of a room right before you move in should always be top of the list. You’ll always be able to swap out furnishings, accessories and artwork for better quality in the future, but replacing floors, smashing fireplaces and demolishing plaster walls should always jump to the front of the line.

Stacey Brandford

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My client requested turquoise as her colour of choice for this main floor makeover. Most people like to make a colour statement, but it’s important not to overdo it. Bold, intense hues can energize a room, but they can also easily overpower it. In addition to being too much of a good thing, wallpapering the entire room in Farrow and Ball paper was also out of the budget spectrum, so we made the best use of a single roll and installed it horizontally across and around the chimney breast. The saturated turquoise is a welcome contrast to the crisp white fireplace below.

Stacey Brandford

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When we started, the living room and dining room were small rooms that felt cramped and out of sync with my clients’ desire for open entertaining space. If you are trying to mindful of your budget, major structural changes are out of the question, but small modifications may still do the trick. Widening and raising the archway between the two rooms proved to be money well spent as the living room furniture was able to edge into what was formerly the dining room.

Stacey Brandford

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Widening the doorway also provides better traffic flow, makes the room feel more contemporary and brings in more light from the west-facing front of the house. Treating both rooms to a single paint and decor scheme has the added benefit of making the spaces seem bigger since the eye reads them as one.

Stacey Brandford

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This house came with one of the ugliest fireplaces I’ve seen, but a few hours and a few sledgehammers allowed us to be out with the old and in with the new. Once the bricks were off, a simple rebuild of the fireplace took place with new framing. Next came concrete board and the whole thing was ready to be re-tiled. A custom marble slab surround wasn’t in the budget for our first-time homeowners, so we used inexpensive sheets of marble mosaic for the face of the surround, large-scale marble tiles for the hearth, and lumber store elements to create a custom mantel with crown moulding and flat stock.

Stacey Brandford

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Stacey Brandford

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Stacey Brandford

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Stacey Brandford

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