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Guiding Sight Lines


This article was written by Alissa Schulman and was featured in our March issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article and view additional photos, click here.

When Toronto-based designer Melanie Hay first toured this Etobicoke, Ontario Home, with its dated, closed kitchen, family room, and entryway, and outfitted in chunky orange wood, paneled walls, and yellow paint, she knew she’d be starting with a blank slate. Tasked with providing the breezy, grounded interiors that better fit the air of the lakeside toronto suburb, she equipped for a star turning remodel in a process that was filmed for HGTV’s Property Brothers: Forever Home.

Ready for a challenge, Hay, along with the Property Brothers’ Jonathan and Drew Scott, faced a tight six-week turnaround on the first floor of the home, where they tore down one major wall between the kitchen and family room and added windows and doors along the perimeter to create a more modern, natural flow to better accommodate a family of five.

The homeowners stated two needs for their space: storage and comfort. “This is a private, cozy, super casual place right off of their kitchen, so the idea was mom and dad could be cooking dinner and their kids can be visible and everyone can be together,” says Hay.

After an initial consultation where the homeowners discussed general inspiration and approved structural changes, Hay and the Property Brothers team had more freedom than a typical design process might allow. They began with a focus on custom millwork throughout the main floor, building along the walls of the kitchen, family room, and entry, generating ample closed storage and quickly fulfilling the first of the family’s needs.

Hay and the team took the millwork as an opportunity to guide the sight line. Centering the space in the kitchen, they chose Benjamin Moore’s Knoxville Gray, a deep gray with striking green undertones. “I definitely see a trend towards more colored cabinetry now,” says Hay. “There’s so much dimension to color if it’s used thoughtfully.” The bold shade is balanced with pale-gray, built-in banquette seating to one side, mirroring arched built-in cabinetry with blue undertones across the forty-seven-foot length through the family room. From the family room, the gray millwork in the entry is visible, where tall, closed cabinetry hugs a spot to sit and put on shoes.

Hay added quieter accents, like white quartz countertops with a matching backsplash and timeless brass hardware, to keep the space from feeling too trendy. Oversized bell pendant lights above the island help distinguish the kitchen from the family room, while clear glass shades keep the sight line open. “They give off this beautiful glow, but they don’t block your view from the kitchen to the family room, which is what we were trying to achieve in the first place by removing the wall that was there,” says Hay.

Aligning with the homeowners’ desire for a space that’s as comfortable as it is practical—where “nothing’s too precious”—Hay layered textures and colors throughout the family room, sticking with small-scale patterns and earthy shades of blue, terra-cotta, and purple in throw pillows, custom drapery, and the Persian vintage-style rug to avoid overwhelming the 210-square-foot space.

They added kid-friendly details wherever possible, including the vinyl gray herringbone wallpaper from house interior design lining the walls between the bookshelves in the family room and the kitchen’s banquette. “It looks like grasscloth, so it added that warmth and texture, but it was still wipeable,” says Hay. And in the family room, rather than opting for a traditional coffee table, she centered the seating around a tufted ottoman so the family could kick up their feet and watch a movie.

Still, Hay was intentional in making the space feel grounded, incorporating organic wood elements and woven jute to lighten the space, alongside fresh-cut seasonal foliage from the home’s backyard and florals that fit the interior color tones.

The most pleasant surprise, however, was the number of the vintage finds Hay discovered around the home while sourcing for the decorating process. They arranged old books on the bookshelves spine-in, exposing the warmly faded pages, and placed various hand-painted ceramics from the 1960s and 1970s on exposed shelves and countertops. The black bowl on the ottoman, the ceramics displayed in the glass shelves above the banquette, the large gray bowl by the kitchen sink, stacks of yellow-brown plates—all treasures the family collected over the years.

“Every vintage piece is unique, so it keeps your space from feeling bland and big-boxy,” says Hay. “Any time there’s an opportunity to incorporate something that’s old and also potentially has sentimental value, that makes your space feel much more personalized.”

Property Brothers: Forever Home airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on HGTV.