When Patti Loach wants a little music to go along with her dinner, she needn't go further than her own kitchen, which has been designed and outfitted as a state-of-the-art sound stage and recording studio.
"Some people might call it a great room," the professional pianist says of the 700-square-foot space, an addition to her Beaches home.
Its eight ceiling-height windows allow in a flood of natural light as well as provide hilltop views of surrounding treetops and the distant CN Tower.
"But, really, it is a music studio with a gas fireplace, a plasma screen TV with surround sound and an eating area where we entertain friends and family with good food and music."
A showcase for her $100,000 Steinway B piano, the kitchen has, since its 2003 unveiling, cooked up jazz recordings by Gene DiNovi and Laila Biali, along with self-made classical CDs such as the recently released Carmen unzipped, made in collaboration with Canadian opera star Jean Stilwell.
"The piano takes up a lot of space and so a lot of thought went into building a room around it," says Ms. Loach, a miniature blonde with a personality as oversized as her prized instrument.
The six- by eight-foot cherry wood island, accommodating the couple and their grown sons, is covered in honed black granite from Yarrabee Stone that mimics the matte finish of Ms. Loach's piano.
The stainless-steel appliances, on the other hand, reflect the glint of the microphones and amps littering the floor in anticipation of a rehearsal for a concert Ms. Loach was to perform at Toronto's Distillery District at the end of March.
The end result is a kitchen unlike any other.
"It's truly where we spend most of our time," Ms. Loach says. "It's where other musicians also like to be, so much so that we now only take people if they come highly recommended. Our kitchen studio is quite in demand."
For design advice, she turned to Toronto interior designers David Powell and Fenwick Bonnell, well suited, it turned out, for the job, Mr. Bonnell being a former bass player. Husband John, a mechanical engineer who paid his way through university playing trumpet in big bands, provided the technical expertise.
"I love the look of the room when it is set up for recording," Ms. Loach says.
"I love the look of the hardware. Maybe it's because I love the look of music being made."
That love extends to a series of custom collages commissioned from Toronto artist and photographer Jim Allen that graces the wall flanking the piano.
Whimsical in nature, they reflect the pianist's love of Glenn Gould, who grew up around the corner from the 1929 formerly red-brick house she and her family has occupied for the last 12 years.
The late artist's image dominates a pastiche that includes notes from the musical piece that became his signature, Bach's Goldberg Variations. It is also a work close to Ms. Loach, a sixth-generation Canadian, born in 1958, who grew up in Scarborough and studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
"That's my seminal piece of music," she says. "For me it all begins and ends with the Goldberg Variations."
Sheets of music by Bach and other classical composers are carefully stored in a series of lateral files concealed within taupe-coloured built-ins by Cameo Fine Cabinetry. They also hide much of the technical equipment required to give the room its dual function as family room and performance space.
Linen-covered pocket doors hide the IBM computer that enables Mr. Loach, often acting as producer on his wife's projects, to make hard-disk recordings in their kitchen studio.
On the ceiling and covered with drywall as insulation tiles that enhance the quality of recorded sound, but also keep it within the space.
Ms. Loach gets to test the efficacy of the tiles whenever she goes to bed early in the upstairs master bedroom -- directly above the kitchen -- during a recording session. "Trumpets could be blaring and I don't hear a thing," she says. "This [bedroom]is the quietest in the house because of those tiles."
Sound of a different sort can be heard elsewhere in the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home. Chief is laughter, erupting in summer when the 20- by 40-foot deck overlooking an in-ground swimming pool becomes party central to a wide assortment of Toronto musicians and artists, including Rex Harrington of the National Ballet of Canada and jazz pianist Mark Eisenman.
Next is the clinking of glasses in the heirloom-laden dining room, filled with family at Christmas when Ms. Loach plays hostess in a room that, to her, is about celebrating the continuity that is family through a collection of objects handed down through generations.
While the light and airy kitchen is decidedly modern in design, a decision dictated by the presence of so much technical equipment -- "there's no way to make a computer look like an antique," she quips -- the dining room is step back in time. Almost every piece of furniture is an antique acquired by Ms. Loach through a grandmother or a great aunt long gone but not forgotten.
At the centre is a long rectangular walnut dining table that seats 12, passed down by a relative. On a sideboard is a sizable silver tea service several generations old.
But the showpiece is undoubtedly the dark silk wedding jacket, museum-mounted and framed behind glass that belonged to Ms. Loach's great-great-great-great grandmother, a pioneer from Scotland. Boned and still showing the pinprick where the ancestor must have placed her posy, it is hand-beaded and decorated with embossed brass buttons that suggest pride of ownership in the original wearer.
"I love that in a family often it is the items chosen and treasured by women that are carried from generation to generation, pieces like furniture, jewellery, things you used to serve family with," she says.
"I serve all the family dinners here and they are to celebrate family, celebrate the women, especially, who came before."
What will she hand down? The Palazzetti bar stools? The Isomac espresso machine purchased following a recent trip to Rome? Or could it be the leopard-spotted runner covering the central staircase, inspired by an Annie Leibovitz portrait of Ella Fitzgerald in an animal-print stole? Ms. Loach, a fan as much as a player, doesn't leave you guessing.
"When Ella's belting through the speakers and you put on your red lipstick, you can do anything."
Including a $200,000 renovation that has ended up being music to many people's ears.