This Is How to Style a Home When the Décor Theme Is Minimalism
Call it the voyeur in us, but we love nothing more than peeking behind closed doors to see how the other half lives. Erin Kleinberg clearly sides with us. As the co-founder of Coveteur and Métier Creative, Kleinberg has been fuelling our obsession and taking style notes while she's at it. After several years of documenting the enviable homes (and closets) of some of our favourite personalities, she was armed with more inspiration than Pinterest when she eventually bought her first home in Toronto, Canada.
By the time they purchased the "adorable white brick bungalow" in 2015, Kleinberg and her husband knew what they wanted. So they built their dream home from the ground up with the help of Toronto-based design firm, Izen Architecture. "Even though we tore it down practically to nothing, a lot of the inspiration for the house came from the original look of the home," she tells MyDomaine. "I loved the cottage-y vibe of the home." The styles of architecture are a complete mix, but it works.
"I can't lie. I'm thrilled with the final product," she exclaims. "It is modern but not stark—mission accomplished. Often I find modern houses can feel quite cold, and I wanted our space to feel warm and cosy, reminiscent of a beach house or a Palm Springs oasis." The goal was to create a little piece of R&R paradise in Toronto, and we think she nailed it. "[I wanted a place] I could come home to every day and feel instantly transported to some of my favourite travel destinations," she says. Ahead Kleinberg shows us each room of the striking abode with a few style notes along the way.
When Kleinberg and her husband first went looking for a home, she found herself "thoroughly fed up" with the homes she was seeing. "It was beyond a Goldilocks situation—there was nothing that was just right," she recalls. "Ultimately, this led to the decision of dedicating two years of my life—and living with my parents, I might add—to doing it ourselves rather than having to give up certain things I did not want to sacrifice. Now that it's a reality, I can say with confidence that it was well worth the wait."
In terms of a directive for the space, Kleinberg wanted to create an environment that reflects her "open-door policy." She adds, "I wanted anyone to feel welcome at any time, that they could walk through the door, hear Drake playing from the Sonos, and feel like they're at home. A large, open, high-ceiling space with plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows and a large sliding door at the back has accomplished that. Oh, and my overarching goal? To never move again." We're on board with that plan.
While the house is minimal and sleek, it doesn't feel stark or cold. "I would say my style plays off the idea of being shabby-chic—beach house meets cottage meets functional yet modern," she says. "Such a big part of my experience with building the house came from my time at Coveteur, which had me in and out of more than 500 of the best tastemakers' homes across the world. I would definitely say I took a little bit from each person's home, and not only did this spark my obsession with interiors, but it influenced the design of my own."
While there were countless "drool-worthy" homes she visited, some of the most memorable homes belonged to Karla Welch, Adir Abergel, Katherine Power, Jessica De Ruiter, Emily Current, Irene Neuwirth, Brady Cunningham, Laetitia Crahay, Nicole Richie, and she recalls, "in my opinion, Jenni Kayne is the holy grail of epic baller design genius."
Kleinberg opted out of a formal dining room and "went for what is essentially one massive room with 10-foot-high ceilings" instead. "It's cool because both doors on the first floor run the length of the ceiling," she says. "And one has a sort of corduroy glass in it to let the light come through in the office, which pours into the rest of the house."
Kleinberg has an "obsession" with midcentury-modern architecture native to Palm Springs, so she infused this design into the living room via the stones in the fireplace wall. The pair sourced different-size stones, roughly 250 in total, that they collected from the Muskoka Lakes Region in Ontario. "The beauty (at least for me) is in their irregularity, which provided a natural and outdoorsy feel," she explains. "All the homes there have this sort of motif on their exterior, and I wanted to play that up in my interior."
As a regular visitor to Palm Springs for years—she had her wedding there and even named their daughter Parker after the hotel "where we got hitched"—it's no surprise the nostalgic town influenced her home design too. "From the rug to the Moroccan pillows, I wanted this room to feel like the focal point of the house, and the cosy factor made it completely functional."
The young couple wanted to create a space that "invites and welcomes" people to "come over and chill," so the entire first floor was designed within the open-floor concept. "One cool detail I should mention about the home is that we went with small trimming (two inches in height) to create the illusion of an even higher ceiling," she recalls. "The goal was to create gallery walls, however—stay tuned—more art to come. I'm just starting to dip my toes in and am taking the time to find pieces that speak to me."
While the entire house is breathtaking, the kitchen had us gasping. "We took things a step further with the cottage-like shiplap paneled hood, which is continued throughout the home under the island and in 10-foot-high closet doors in the front foyer," explains Kleinberg. "All this cabinetry was done by our family friend Jarek Slupek. We probably drove the man crazy, but he is literally like the Monet of millwork.
"My mum is an amazing cook too, so I wanted to create a space that everyone would want to congregate at, and with the super-long marble countertop, it always becomes the hub of the house if her banana bread is in the oven."
Keeping within the open-plan theme, Kleinberg went with open shelving in the kitchen too. "We wanted to keep things airy, adding clerestory windows above to accentuate the open feel, creating light throughout the day," she says. "The kitchen, in particular, is a blend of high/low and contrasting materials (which is how I live my life). The cabinetry is super raw, made with natural wood, and it is juxtaposed against the polished white statuario marble backsplash."
The couple managed to repurpose a lot of the furniture from their former apartment, which was great and economical. "Furnishing a home can feel overwhelming. Prepare to pace yourself," she advised. "It takes time and money to fully invest in a space, and it is important to remember that and not rush the process. So for now we're taking the slow and steady route."
Looking at this room, it's hard to imagine it almost didn't happen. "Everyone doubted me, but I insisted on a massive bedroom," she says. "As a kid, I spent so much time hanging out in my parents' bedroom, and I was always awestruck by the sheer size. I wanted something where our whole family could hang out in the morning, night, or on a lazy weekend. I am obsessed with the rafters, which are made from reclaimed wood. I think they feel modern but still earthy and grounded."
While it doesn't seem like there's much of a colour scheme at first glance—white, white, and more white—there's a layered neutral theme. (And for those interested, the white paint is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore). "A lot of homes in Toronto have very dark walls and floors—I wanted my home to be the opposite: bright and airy," she says. "In terms of other tones or hues I gravitated toward, I was taken by one tile I found as we were just beginning the process, and those colours led me to others in the same vein. I was also inspired by The Apartment by The Line and Amber Interiors."
Although it's hard to tell looking at it now, the renovation "was like having a third job—my career, my family, and my house. Not to mention having to cozy up in my parents' home for a year and a half, which added some major time to my commute to my office every morning." For the most part, it was a "huge emotional investment" and a true labor of love. "But it also involved such a great deal of time and money, which was stressful in an adult way I had not yet experienced," she adds.
The entire design of the master bathroom revolved around the light. "I am a huge proponent of natural light, so we carefully chose windows based on their size, placed them accordingly, and opted for a skylight to top it all off," she explains. They decided to ditch the tub and opted for a massive, three-head shower instead.
That decision also lead Kleinberg to offer up some very helpful and sage advice. "You don't need to include design features just because they are supposed to be in a certain room," she says. "Do what is best for you, and plan interiors that work for your lifestyle rather than try and live your life in service of design. When it comes to form and function, it is about creating a balance, rather than making sacrifices. If you're going to do a major custom renovation, use the opportunity to create the space you want to live in forever." Preach.