Almost Every Corner of This Toronto Home Looks Like a Dream Flower Shop

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Between exposed brick kitchen walls and knotty pine floors, Cynthia Zamaria’s newest home in Port Dover, Ontario had 5,000-square-foot 1800s charm. So when we learned that the designer and author of House + Flower decided to leave the place she described to us as a “romantic dream” for an 1,800 square foot semi-detached property closer to downtown Toronto, we knew she would have a very good reason, and she did it. “That’s where the roots of our children are,” Zamaria shares. With her youngest, Théo (15), still in high school; her middle child, Ruby (20), often traveling between home and college; and his eldest, Ben (22), wanting to be closer to his girlfriend, downsizing in the name of the location was an easy choice to make. “It’s really the people who fill a home that make it special,” she says.

Photography by Janet Kimber | Used lamps and plaster garden urns, Facebook Marketplace; Vintage and antique art frames.

Renting the house before officially buying it allowed Zamaria to determine what renovations would be badly needed (mainly installing new windows and re-flooring). Once the major upgrades were complete, she dove into the experimentation phase. “I’m really influenced by the seasons,” she says. So it was the living room that underwent the most transformations: first, she painted it a dazzling white, then, when winter arrived, in dark green. Now it’s back to white. “Thank goodness my husband is very patient and accommodating,” Zamaria laughs.

The kitchen reflects the evolution of his personal design. While Zamaria opted for more traditional Shaker cabinetry and marble and butcher block countertops in their latest kitchen, she stepped out of her comfort zone in this kitchen space with a stone countertop and glossy white cabinets. . “When our cabinetmaker entered this house and I shared my vision with him, he was very surprised,” she notes. His logic for choosing such minimalist facades? They wouldn’t master the swirling, wood-like quartzite. (The master bathroom features another trompe-l’oeil moment: black-and-white porcelain tiles that don’t looks like marble.)

Fitting both sides of the kitchen with sinks has proven to be a game changer when entertaining Zamaria and her family. “You can have a few people cooking at the same time,” she says. A long brass rod from DeVol holds their most-used pots and pans, while Zamaria’s husband designed a smaller version to fit through the window so they can show off their collection of vintage tongs, mini pitchers and spoons to measure. Elsewhere, Zamaria has adopted equally casual methods of displaying small treasures, such as posting pages torn from old books on the wall with masking tape and slipping notes and cards from friends into the edges of an antique mirror.

nature art stuck to the wall

Photograph by Cynthia Zamaria
dining table used as a desk

Photograph by Cynthia Zamaria

While her house technically shares a wall with her neighbor’s house, the only place it was really noticeable was in the entryway – a glass partition is the only thing separating the two porches. The neighbors had been kind enough to put a blind on the side, but for an extra layer of privacy, Zamaria covered the windows with peel and stick wallpaper. During the colder months, her overwintering geraniums, perched high on wooden stumps she found on Facebook Marketplace, call the makeshift dressing room home.

With its low ceiling and complete lack of closets, the master bedroom required some clever tricks. As a solution for clothes storage, Zamaria bought IKEA kitchen cabinets (she reveals they’re “bigger and sturdier” than standard cabinets) and painted them the same color as the walls so they look personalized. To complete the rest of the space, she and her husband bought the lowest king-size bed frame they could find and some very small side tables. “We just have the necessary things,” she said.

outdoor garden wall

Photograph by Cynthia Zamaria

Even though they’ve downsized their country house considerably, Zamaria still has a separate shed to store her vast collection of vases and baskets, as well as her father’s old toolbox. And who said shelving is only for indoors? Zamaria and her husband have also installed ledges along their garden fence to create what she calls a “wall of flowers”. “It’s a dramatic yet simple way to display clay pots,” she notes. From time to time, his children may be required to lend a hand with the landscaping. After all, Zamaria says, “it’s in their blood.”

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