Lifestyle

A New-Build By Toronto’S Urban Blueprint Has Given Its Owners Something That Truly Turns A House Into A Home

Yes, it’s stunning – but this new-build by Toronto’s Urban Blueprint has given its owners something that truly turns a house into a home.

Some of the most important design details in Jessica and Kyle Gorassi’s home in Toronto’s West Rouge neighbourhood aren’t obvious. When the couple started working with brother-sister design-build duo Natasha and Luca Penzo of Urban Blueprint, their goal was to build a warm, chic transitional home tailored to their family (they have two young daughters). They wanted a place where they could entertain their extended families and one that would take full advantage of their east-end property and its views of the city and Lake Ontario. They got that, and a whole lot more. 

Their new home – which incorporates spacious family-gathering zones, guest bedrooms, plus fun extras like a rainbow-themed playroom – capitalizes on the unique site, offering spectacular views from the double-height great room, as well as Kyle and Jessica’s bedroom and ensuite. “On a clear day, from the top of our staircase, we can see right to the CN Tower,” Jessica says.

But there’s more to the house than what meets the eye. The picture-perfect kitchen is, of course, kitted out with the latest amenities, and its family-friendly layout works wonders. But the blue-painted kitchen island wasn’t only an aesthetic choice. It’s the exact shade of the siding on the house that previously stood on the property – Kyle’s beloved childhood home, where Jess, who grew up nearby, visited as a teen. Another example: the elegant Ralph Lauren wallpaper in the powder room reminds Jessica of Delftware, which harkens to her family’s Dutch heritage.

Most special of all is Lynnie’s Pub, the welcoming entertaining space in the basement that’s a nod to Kyle’s late mother, who always had an open-door policy, including for neighbourhood kids, who could expect snacks waiting on the kitchen counter. Lynn’s ideal of filling a home with friends and family anchored Kyle and Jessica’s hopes for their own home and is one way they plan to carry on her legacy. “We cannot wait to have a party!” Jessica says. “It’s the first thing we’re doing when restrictions allow.” 

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Photography Stephani Buchman

“This is where Ava tells us her stories and helps make meals,” says Jessica Gorassi (shown with baby Ella, Ava, 5, and family pooch Lola). She and husband Kyle love to cook and entertain, so the kitchen has loads of countertop space, storage and seating. “And we have a full view of the great room, so we feel part of whatever’s going on – a Raptors game or birthday dinner.” 

DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, Urban Blueprint. DECORATING, STYLING, Homekin. CABINETRY, Altima Kitchens. STOOLS, Sunpan. LANTERNS, Circa Lighting. Caesarstone COUNTERTOPS, Stone Design.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

While the great room epitomizes the sophisticated transitional look Jessica and designer Natasha Penzo sought for the house, it’s also cozy and inviting. “It was built to be their playground – to chill out, relax and have fun!” Natasha says. The 20-foot ceilings and refined traditional built-ins and mantel are balanced by a rugged coffee table and pillowy seating for a crowd (often used to appreciate “stunning sunsets” visible out the tall windows). Most important, though, is its openness, a welcome change from the family’s previous home, a side-split with small, chopped-up living spaces. “Here, I can be in the kitchen, someone else can be watching TV, someone can be at the kitchen table, and the baby can be in her little ExerSaucer, and we’re all still together.
I can see everybody and chat with them, but everyone has their own space,” Jessica says. “That was so important during all the lockdowns.”

SWIVEL CHAIRS, coffee table, RH. Yellow PILLOWS, Jacaranda Tree & Co. SOFA, Silva Custom Furniture. BUILT-INS, Dream House Carpentry. RUG, Stark Carpet. BUILT-IN paint, Chantilly Lace OC-65, Benjamin Moore. FLOWERS (throughout), Homekin Styling.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

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Photography Stephani Buchman

The powder room’s lighthearted chinoiserie-style wallpaper by Ralph Lauren Home gives the small space a polished look (soundly seconded by the brass washstand and accessories) and resonates with the home’s location in a well-treed neighbourhood. For Jessica, it also recalls pretty blue-and-white Delftware – a touchstone of growing up in a Dutch family. “I didn’t want to do too much wallpaper but this room called for it, and it just makes me happy!” Jessica says.

Ralph Lauren Home WALLPAPER, Kravet. WASHSTAND, MIRROR, SCONCEs, Wayfair. TAPS, Perrin & Rowe. TOWELS, Bed Bath and Beyond. TOPIARY, Jacaranda Tree & Co.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

With its towering velvet headboard, fine linens and full drapes, the spare bedroom makes guests feel like they’re on vacation. A plush area rug provides a cushy contrast to the wood floors, and pulls even more focus to the bed.

HEADBOARD, Sunpan. DUVET COVER, RH. BEDSIDE TABLE, LAMP, CHAIR (above), CB2. SIDE TABLE (above), West Elm. DRAPES, Eurofab. FLOORING, Flooring + Home. WALLPAPER (behind bed), Kravet.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

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Photography Stephani Buchman

A graphic mirror by Mermelada Estudio pulls the guest room’s glam dresser and side tables in an edgy, modern direction. “Jess and Kyle love style and fashion. Kyle has a huge sneaker collection,” says Natasha. “So, from the get-go, it was clear they’d be willing to take some risks with design.” Because of the pandemic, many pieces were purchased online, sight unseen. “It was the craziest thing. We could barely touch or see anything before we bought it. When everything arrived, it felt like the big reveal they do on TV,” Jessica says.

DRESSER, MIRROR, CB2. RUG, Crate and Barrel.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

Jessica and Kyle wanted their ensuite to feel like a sanctuary. “In our old house, we all shared one bathroom. Here, we finally had the opportunity to have our own bathroom, so we definitely ran with it,” Jessica says. Natasha washed the room in warm white and had twin vanities (the second is on the same wall, but separated by a door) custom-made by Altima Kitchens and topped with thick slabs of quartz. As for the sanctuary part? “The kids use it more than I do,” Jessica says, laughing.

Caesarstone COUNTERTOPS, Stone Design. MIRROR, Wayfair. SCONCES, Circa Lighting. WALL and TRIM paint, Chantilly Lace OC-65, Benjamin Moore.  

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Photography Stephani Buchman

 By outfitting the ensuite with a separate shower and soaker tub, plus two vanities, Natasha amped up function and headed off morning traffic jams. With rain shower and hand-held heads, the shower is the height of luxury. (There’s a steam room in the basement for a total spa experience.) The mosaic flooring in Calacatta marble with a brass inlay – chosen to echo the jewellery-like look of the chandelier – adds quiet geometric pattern. Elegant light fixtures and accessories in a variety of styles and metals suggest the look has been edited and refined over
the decades.

SHOWER, E&B Glass Enclosures. FLOOR TILES, Saltillo Tile.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

“We wanted to create a chic oasis with Parisian touches like the gold and the chandelier,” Jessica says of the ensuite. “A soaker tub was on my must-have list, so we made it the focal point.” While the tub is an artful keynote, the view is the real masterpiece. “It’s the best in the house,” says Jessica. “The old house was a bungalow, so it didn’t go up this high. We have a few grandfather trees at eye level, but we’re above all the others.” 

BATHTUB, Victoria + Albert. FAUCET, TAPS, Perrin & Rowe. BLINDS, Eurofab. CHANDELIER, Wayfair.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

Ava has a girl’s dream bedroom, complete with an ethereal tulle bedskirt by wedding gown designer Monique Lhuillier (for Pottery Barn Kids), velvet drapes, and wallpaper printed with butterflies and dragonflies. “I’ll give Miss Ava credit for her room. We gave her wallpaper swatches to choose from, and she was without a doubt going with that butterfly pattern!” Jessica says. “She had a baby sister on the way, and we were moving out of the only home she’d known, so we wanted her room to feel special for her.”

WALLPAPER, Lee Jofa. BED, TABLE, DESK, BEDSKIRT, Pottery Barn Kids. LAMP, Accents for Living. DRAPES, Eurofab.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

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Photography Stephani Buchman

A whisper-soft backdrop of creamy white and cloud grey lets the eye-catching floor tile and brass accents take centre stage in the girls’ bathroom. “We were a bit more playful here than in other areas of the home,” Natasha says. While the room isn’t huge, she was able to fit in a Shaker-style vanity with two sinks (heading off future quarrels at the pass). 

VANITY, COUNTERTOP, SINKS, BATHTUB, Roman Bath Centre. FLOOR and WALL TILE, Saltillo Tile. Vanity HARDWARE, West Elm. TAPS, FAUCETS, Perrin & Rowe. MIRRORS, Structube. SCONCES, CB2.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

 A dramatic wallpaper mural in Ella’s bedroom gives the impression that the crib is nestled in towering treetops. “I get a chic Dr. Seuss vibe from it. It has a mystical, magical little woodland feeling,” Jessica says. “Ava’s old nursery furniture was our starting point. Then we wanted something that makes a statement. It’s soft enough that we can make changes as Ella gets older.” A wood-beaded chandelier takes the serene space in a bohemian direction, and the pale rug (enjoyed here by French bulldog Lola) balances the dark hardwood.

WALLPAPER, Rebel Walls. RUG, Pottery Barn Kids. basket, Crate and Barrel. CHANDELIER, Wayfair.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

 In a fun twist of fate, the furniture that Natasha and Jessica chose for Ava’s bedroom – this dresser, plus the bed and desk (previous pages) – is actually from the aptly named Ava Regency collection at Pottery Barn Kids. A piece of art featuring a hot-air balloon dovetails with the lighter-than-air theme set by the butterflies and dragonflies on Ava’s wallpaper. As with the wallpaper, the five-year-old was presented with a few paint samples by Natasha, and she chose her favourite, a barely-there blush pink.

DRESSER, Pottery Barn Kids. WALL PAINT, Bashful 1171, Benjamin Moore.

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Photography Stephani Buchman

 In the basement playroom, a wallpaper mural splashed with a pastel rainbow sets a joyful tone. A play table is a smart addition for arts and crafts and tea parties, while the plush rug invites plunking down. Vinyl flooring in a chic herringbone pattern is a practical choice here. This hard-wearing option was also used in the basement’s movie room, wine cellar and bar. “The basement is where you come in from the pool, so we did vinyl,” Jessica says.

WALLPAPER, Anewall. BUILT-INS, Simply Closets. RUG, LLAMA, TABLE, CHAIRS, Pottery Barn Kids. OTTOMAN, KITCHEN, Wayfair.

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