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Why this den is Thrush Holmes’s favourite room

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Thrush Holmes might be a well-known Toronto-based artist, but he's trained as a master carpenter, a skill that has come in handy while renovating the 120-year-old High Park house he shares with his wife, Steph, and their 14-month-old son, Duke. Since buying it six years ago, Holmes has taken apart the house one room at a time, rebuilding it from the ground up. Most of his time, however, is devoted to painting, which he has been doing a lot of in the lead-up to the Toronto International Art Fair, running this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Holmes will have both a solo booth (organized by his New York dealer, the Mike Weiss Gallery) and a large-scale work commissioned by the fair (The Break Room, according to Holmes, is a partially completed dude den in the form of a construction site in the wilderness, littered with the detritus of tradesmen). His own man cave, in a rear addition he designed and built himself, is filled with books and his guitar collection. It's where Holmes likes to retreat after the workday and clear his mind. "It's a new room, a new slate," he says. "It's completely open to possibility."

The shelves

"This is a vintage unit, dating to the 1960s, by Poul Cadovius. It's called the Royal System. Cadovius popularized the idea of modular shelving. I use it for my books and wine and as a small office."

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The chairs

"These are e15 chairs, from Germany. I got them through Klaus by Nienkamper; Klaus Nienkamper is a good friend of mine. The design speaks to my interest in architecture. They're actually very comfortable."

The wood floor

"It's a chevron pattern, which is the hardest floor to lay. I wanted to do it, I think, because of the challenge. It's red oak and consistent with the rest of the house."

The tile floor

"I designed it myself. I am known for my floral paintings. I wanted to sign the house and create a pattern that would incorporate what is present in my artwork into the tile."

The guitar on the wall

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"It's a Gibson Hummingbird. I've had it for eight years. It's not just for display – I pull it down every day to play."

The couch

"It's beautiful. The company that made it is Spectrum, out of Holland. The designer is Martin Visser. It's a pull-out sofa, so it's versatile. It's also a classic design that has been in production since the 1950s, when it was first made. Again, it's from Klaus. We had it reupholstered in this acrylic, green boat material because we have three cats and they can't scratch through it."

The side table

"That's by Hay, out of Denmark. The table is called DLM, which stands for Don't Leave Me. It's also from Klaus. The yellow one is a counter point to the smaller black version at the other end of the couch. I love bright colours. I've been called a colourist in my work, and this room is a reflection of that."

The neon artwork

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"FLOWERS is one of my neon pieces. It's from 2013 and is in a small edition of three. I use a lot of neon in my work and am starting to explore exterior installations. The placement and suggestibility of this piece over a large concrete planter box with an opposing wall of glazing is pretty seamless. It subtly punctuates the day and dazzles by night."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

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