House Tours

Peek inside Virginie Martocq's renovated home

Former Chatelaine home editor Virginie Martocq shows us her newly upgraded house, perfect for showing off family treasures and entertaining guests.
By Kathleen Dore
Peek inside Virginie Martocq's renovated home

Photo, Roberto Caruso.

Starting from Scratch - Home Feature November 2014

"I wanted light."

Who can't relate to wanting as much sunlight as possible, especially in our northern climate? Not everyone, however, rips off the back wall of a house and puts in a soaring two-storey glass wall. But Virginie, an interior decorator, former home editor of Chatelaine and co-owner of Heritage Cookbook, is not everyone.rnrnDivide up a large wall with grid-style shelvingrnrn“The living room is really magical,” says Virginie. She installed walnut panelling on the ceiling to visually lower it because she was concerned the proportions were off. A huge sink-into sofa accommodates a crowd and is the right scale for the room.rnrnSofa, area rug, Elte. Coffee table, Pavilion. Window coverings, Mera. Artistic disks, made by Virginie's husband, Mark.

living-room-family-room-wall-art-bright-contemporaryPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

A complete change-up

"Being in design, I've been in a million houses. I know what works. I know the options," says the effusive Virginie. But even for fearless serial renovators like Virginie and her husband, Mark (this is their fourth renovation), the update of this 2,400-square-foot home in Toronto's High Park neighbourhood was ambitious. All that remains of the original house, built around 1900, is three exterior walls and a staircase.rnrnA bit of 1970s Floridarnrn“I wanted it to be like The Golden Girls, like ’70s Florida,” says Virginie of the new foyer. The wallpaper was her jumping-off point, and a green door announces her bold vision. A narrow bench with drawers keeps front-door chaos under control. rnrnWallpaper, Farrow & Ball. Custom cushions, sewing, angel interior, fabric (green cushion), Robert Allen. Rug, Ikea. Tiles, Granada Tile. Door paint, jade green, Benjamin Moore. Light, HomeSense.

entryway-entranceway-green-bamboo-wallpaperPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Let bold ideas flow naturally

This gutsy reno took only three months to plan but one year to construct. "During construction, there was a guy on a cherry picker welding the back wall, and my contractor said to me, "I didn't know you were building the Eiffel Tower." Neither did I," says Virginie. "I just wanted a sunny room!"rnrnShe got it. The new living room with its 18-foot ceiling and south-facing window wall glows from dawn to dusk and floods sunlight throughout the newly open concept main floor. But thinking big and bold is second nature to Virginie.rnrnMixing high and low findsrnrnThe mirror is a French antique, the fireplace design is contemporary, the side table is pure big-box store and the chair is, in Virginie’s words, “kinda cool, kinda ugly, but kinda ’70s, and I like that weird gold colour.” It was a $35 find at auction. When she got home, a cushion fell off, and she saw it was a Barbara Barry for Baker silk-mohair chair. She guesses it’s worth $7,000. Says Virginie: “Best. Find. Ever.”rnrnSide table, Target. Floor lamp, Ikea.

living-room-armchair-fireplace-broken-mirror-modernPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Exude personality with eclectic accessories

In every room, family heirlooms — fine European antiques (from Mark's side) and mid-century modern classics (from Virginie's) — mix with items the couple have acquired, like auction treasures, inexpensive reproductions and big-box finds.rnrnAn incredible piece of art by Mark, made from dollar-store toy soldiers, adds bold colour above the living room credenza. He also made the disks on the art wall out of fan grilles and electrical twist-ties. The rosewood wall-mounted units were bought by Virginie’s mom in the ’70s. A mix of accessories — an antique ormolu clock, a ’60s collage lamp and a candle — form a personality-packed vignette. “Somehow it all works,” says Virginie.

wooden-console-wall-art-decorationPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Inject glamour with dark-painted panels

It's an eclectic look, its era almost indefinable, though patterns, artwork and accessories tend toward a '70s vibe. "I think I'm getting to that age where I'm nostalgic for my childhood," she says. It's a confident look too. Take the den: Not everyone is brave enough to paint a room black. Virginie shrugs it off. "Originally, we wanted walnut panelling, but the budget! That couldn't happen. This is what you can do with wood and paint," she says, matter-of-factly.rnrnTo create a sense of coziness in the den, Virginie installed moulding and painted the walls a dramatic black shade. The sofa is a mid-century piece from Virginie’s grandmother, reupholstered in a bold modern graphic print. An abstract canvas and a “stag’s head,” cheekily dubbed Plexidermy by the artist, make a statement. “Art is at the core of our house. I think it helps drive the design,” says Virginie.rnrnSofa fabric, Designer Fabrics. Paint, railings, Farrow & Ball. Coffee table, Ikea. Floor lamp, West Elm. Stag head, Science & Sons. Rug, Elte. Painting, Gerald Gladstone.

den-living-room-dark-panel-lounge-virginiePhoto, Roberto Caruso.

A home for entertaining

It's the kind of pragmatic approach with dramatic effect that characterizes Virginie's style — in business, design and even entertaining, which she loves to do. "My house is entertainment central," says Virginie, who calls herself queen of the last minute. "On Friday night, I'll call everyone I know until I find someone who can come over," she says. Which leaves us with only one question: How do we get on this woman's speed-dial?rnrnRepeat one colour throughout to create a cohesive lookrnrnThe mid-century end chairs in the dining room are from Virginie’s grandmother, who was an interior designer. The side chairs from a big-box store are perfect for the kids — easy to wipe down — and stylish. Virginie opts for small votive candles and individual flower stems in low vases instead of a large centrepiece, to foster conversation and allow for easy eye contact across the table.rnrnSide chairs, HomeSense.

dining-table-setting-lace-tablecloth-feminine-dining-roomPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Choose practical carpet for a dining room

Virginie loves how area rugs define a dining room and help with acoustics, but they’re impractical with young children. She solved the problem with modular carpet tiles in pink. “You can just pick up one square and give it a clean,” she says. She was going to order the chandelier in brushed nickel first, then she opted for black; finally she settled on gold. (It’s nice to know even the pros have second thoughts!)rnrnCarpet tiles, Flor. Chandelier, Universal Great Lighting. Artwork, Harold Town.

dining-room-feminine-lace-chandelier-dining-table-settingPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Shed unneccessary spending

Virginie limited the tile in the master bathroom to the shower. It was a budget-friendly choice that allowed her to splurge on other things, like the stand-alone tub and herringbone floors. rnrnVanity, tub, faucets, Ginger's. Light, Elte. Floors, AA Floors.

bathroom-bathtub-soaker-contemporary-ensuitePhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Hang art in an open concept kitchen

Virginie’s new open concept kitchen opens to the den on one side and the dining room on the other, allowing her to be a part of the party while she prepares dishes.rnrn“This is what I call my ‘un-kitchen,’” says Virginie. “It was a bit of a fantasy from a company called Bulthaup, which makes such subtle kitchens.” It was a splurge, but in the open concept space, Virginie really wanted the room to blend in. “I didn’t want the whole house to be dominated by an industrial stove and sink.” She opted against an eat-at island because she prefers to serve sit-down meals for the family. Art hung with suction cups on the glass backsplash can be moved around when the fancy strikes her.rnrnCabinets, countertop, Bulthaup.

open-concept-kitchen-contemporary-white-cabinetryPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Create contrast between walls and art

Orange disks by artist Nil Yalter stand out in the master bedroom against the moody blue walls. rnrnPaint, Evening Dove, Benjamin Moore. Bed, EQ3. Wall sconces, Restoration Hardware. Bed linens, HomeSense. rnrnGet a video tour of Virginie Martocq's home here.

bedroom-bed-pillows-dark-wall-paint-wooden-headboardPhoto, Roberto Caruso.


Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.