Sarah Richardson's open plan house lets her experiment with space and flow
With her hit shows on HGTV Canada and U.S., including Sarah’s House and Sarah’s Cottage, her furniture and paint lines and her consulting firm, Sarah Richardson’s life is consumed by renovations
Here, she discusses the joys of designing her own home.
Designing an Open Plan Home
I was immediately drawn to our house in Toronto as soon as I walked in the door. Built in 1966, it has a modern shape, with giant window walls – one that rises from the basement to the top of the first floor ceiling. It has incredible flow within an open plan that has no wasted space: we don’t have hallways. Most rooms have been gutted as I’ve experimented, but now it needs costly basics: new windows and a new roof.
Sarah Richardson's Favourite Things
I like soulful objects so I chose my furniture carefully. I decorate with what makes me happy, not necessarily what corresponds with the architecture.
My favourite room is the living room. I gained new appreciation for it in the first weeks after I gave birth to my daughter, when I spent more time at home. It was a cold March, but the warm sun moved beautifully through each room as the hours passed. That is an achievement of good architecture – a thoughtful approach to how it will be lived in.
My favourite piece of furniture is the daybed here. Daybeds are an underappreciated staple. When entertaining, guests can perch themselves on both sides. When you steal 20 minutes on a Saturday afternoon you can put your feet up with a magazine. They’re comfortable for kids to hang onto as you sit reading them books, and they have sculptural beauty. My daybed is covered in two types of cream velvet. With kids, I‘ve had a few accidents, but just like the cream linen on my sofa, it’s washable. The velvet cushion covers get softer each time in the washing machine.
I like the room’s hardwood floor, and used lower-grade wood – called number one common, tavern or rustic grade – which means shorter pieces but more character, with knot holes and differentiation in colour. And the floor was sanded on site, not pre-finished, which offers a better quality finish.
Living in Colour
My house is vividly painted. I repainted it before choosing my new designer paint collection for Para feeling that, if I’m going to tell people to embrace colour, I’d better do it myself. I was a little terrified, but I’m thrilled with the results; it’s fun and exciting.
My husband loves colour, and after having two kids, my take on colour has changed: a young family should show that youthfulness, and not be too serious. My bedroom is shocking pink and chartreuse green, the den is orange and turquoise, and the living room is robin’s egg blue and kelly green.
I like the stacking effect achieved when seeing how different colours play against each other from one room to the next. Even in an open plan, I use lots of colours. Each room should have its own personality. You go into rooms for different reasons and want to feel differently when there. In a den you may want to unwind, whereas a dining room should stimulate conversation and be exciting for guests.
Richardson's Island Cottage
I’m passionate about cooking; it’s a great outlet, even when we’re at our island cottage where propane runs the stove, fridge and lights, and solar electricity powers everything else. It was my husband’s 40th birthday recently: I had 37 people for lunch and 19 for dinner, and I cooked both meals at the cottage. Being off the grid was a necessity more than a choice. It would have cost $100,000 to receive hydroelectricity. But by embracing it, it became a fantastic way to live.
The island’s views are spectacular and rugged with natural beauty – rocks, water and sky. The lifestyle offers everything that you need and nothing that you don’t. It’s not about accessibility to manufactured entertainment; it’s about enjoying the company of family and friends, and truly enjoying the weather, whatever it brings.