Mingling Past and Present

By September 7, 1999 July 10th, 2022 No Comments

Dee Hannah has great affection and admiration for the past. As an architect and interior designer, it influences her at the drafting table. It also affects her personal preferences. And it is the main reason she chose her 1920s Arts-and-Crafts-style home. 

“It had only been on the market two hours,” says Dee Dee, recalling the moment she set eyes on the house a little more than a year ago. “It seems uncanny, but as soon as I walked in, I could smell my grandparents’ house. It was a smell that reminded me of home, and I immediately knew I wanted to raise my family here.” Happily, her instincts not only sold her on the house, they inspired the owners to sell to her. 

As a design professional, Dee Dee has a lot of experience fashioning houses to the tastes and needs of others, but “doing your own home means figuring out what you want for yourself,” she says. In this case, she put to personal use the talents she’s gained as the head of Taylor Hannah Architects Inc. and the skills of the team from Montclair Construction, the other company she owns and runs. Her goal: to “reinterpret Arts and Crafts style for this house.” 

 At the outset, Dee Dee restored everything that was inherent and endearing about the place. The cherry-wood staircase was refurbished. Four coats of paint were stripped from the dining rooms wainscotting to reveal its gleaming wood. In the living room, two stained-glass windows were recovered from behind a wall. Even the 1920s Heintzman piano – a permanent household fixture that was bought by the home’s first owners from their next-door neighbour, Heintz man himself – was reconditioned.

Throughout, Dee Dee took great care to preserve the past and, at the same time, mix it with the present. It’s a knack she also used in the decor, she says, “mixing antiques and modern furnishings to create timeless style.” Dee Dee also took that approach with building materials, making it difficult to tell which of the house’s features are original and which are newly built – precisely her plan. In the reconstructed kitchen, for example, she says, “I don’t think you Can tell when it was put in.” The new cabinets, with their bead board and wire-mesh panels, could easily have been installed 80 years ago. The same is true of the patterned marble floor in the foyer, the white-washed beams on the ceiling of the guest room, the antiqued vanities in the powder room and master bath, the French doors to the balcony in the master bedroom and almost every cornice, ceiling medallion and piece of moulding in the house. In fact, you could even mistake the cathedral ceiling of the entire upper floor – created by removing the attic – for an original design.

By respecting and reviving the old house, Dee Dee has breathed new life into it. You might say it’s a testament to her skill – but she wouldn’t. “It’s not a showcase, it’s where we live,” she says, referring to herself, her husband and their four-year-old son. She knew at first sight this house was home and, now, in every respect it is. 

1 Framed architectural prints of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Somerset House, $99 each, framed mirror, $59, The Bombay Company, 877-3BOMBAY (326-6229) for stores and to order. 2 Louis XVI-style wall sconce BM16006GCH in cast brass, $270, Sescolite, Toronto, 416-651-6570; Burlington, Ont., 905-632-8659. 3 Polyurethane architectural mouldings (top to bottom): Modillion bracket B806, $50; Vice Regal cornice T200, $44 per eight-foot length; Doric door trim capitals C111, $50 per pair; The Balmer Studios, Toronto, 416-491-6425 for retailers. 4 Enchantment Rena five- by eight-foot rug in Midnight, $599, Sears Furniture Stores. 5 Cotton toile fabrics (counter-clockwise from top left, prices are per yard): Pierre Frey’s Le Temps et L’Amour J1778, $212, Scenes Champetres J1850, $180; Cowtan & Tout’s Le Brun Toile 8174, $238; through designers, Primavera, Toronto, 416-921-3334. 6 Chardonnay F-24 nightstand, $1,799, Decorium, 800-232-2267; in Toronto, 416-736-6120. Miramar ash sideboard, $2,199, Sears Furniture Stores. 7 Rekord picture frames: five-by seven-inch frames, $10 per set of two, four- by six-inch frame, $8 per set of two; Corr New York Black and White art cards (in larger frames), $5 per pack of five; IKEA.