Classic & contemporary 
comfortPublished on May 7, 2017

  • Comfortable elegance on the sofas from MY Home
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • The grand space allows for comfy, leather club chairs in a secondary
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Artful display on the coffee table from MY Home
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • A built-in cabinet unit holds two wine fridges within the seating area.
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Designer Jennifer McGahan with commissioned art by Lee Anne LaForge in the background.
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

Sometimes, the wow factor of a particular aspect of a home can seal the deal when deciding to buy. This was the case for Jean Spicer and her husband Mike Beun when they purchased a custom stone home on two acres in the quiet countryside of Dunrobin.

An open-plan kitchen combined within an imposing great room was a major entertaining attraction for Jean, while the 10-car heated garage for all his outdoor toys was a must-have for Mike. However, the 5,100 square feet of luxury space was designed for the lifestyle of a professional hockey player, not a family with a young teenage son.

The solution was to brainstorm with interior designer Jennifer McGahan who has a classic approach to style. She worked for a year on the 20x40-foot space with 12-foot 
ceilings that was previously a party/games room with a nightclub atmosphere, to create a comfortable family room with contemporary elegance.


The move was a big change for Jean and Mike, who had lived for many years in a restored farmhouse with only 1,800 square feet of living space. “We were going to build a new home on our waterfront property, but this house was the reason we didn’t. It just had everything we wanted,” says Jean.

“It was really the kitchen that attracted me first. I knew the entertaining space would be great for hosting a thanksgiving buffet for over 30 people – and we wouldn’t have to eat in a barn anymore,” she laughs, noting that this annual event was often held in their very-comfortably renovated barn. “But the family room layout was so impractical, with the focus on a sunken area filled with a pool table and a 100-inch TV screen overhead.”

After living in the home for a while, Jean struggled with the functionality and flow of the great room area, which actually echoed. The all-white décor was stark, and the awkward position of the fireplace made it difficult to access. She admits that giving control of the space over to Jennifer was hard, but she’s glad she did. “Jen added some key elements that we would never have thought of, which totally changed the room.”

These elements included creating two seating areas to break up and balance the big, open space, and installing a counter and bar between the kitchen and family room. The 12-foot unit has the same granite counter as the long kitchen island, and Jennifer designed it with built-in cabinets and two wine fridges for convenient storage and entertaining.

The biggest structural change was to move the fireplace location from the left side of the room to the far end. Now, a 12- foot wide, floor-to-ceiling gas fireplace in deco-concrete is the new focal feature. All credit goes to Mike, who owns Woodlawn Home Comfort, that specializes in heating and cooling systems, as he created the design with panels that look like oversized tiles. The 100-inch TV screen now sits above the mantel, but it no longer dominates the room.


Jennifer explains that size and proportion are critical to decorating a big space. “The scale of furnishings is very important in a large room, and this one needed oversized sofas and club chairs that are big enough in scale to make them inviting. The lamps also had to be tall to suit the high ceilings.”

The white walls were painted in a neutral grey, with a similar tone repeated in the furnishings, as well as the stain on the refinished, radiant-heat oak floors. “It’s a soothing and serene colour palette,” says Jennifer who added custom drapes, rugs and cushions with a lilac accent colour to warm up the space. She notes that the texture in the fabrics also helps to prevent the light-filled room from looking overly modern and cold.

As the furniture pieces and grey palette are quite masculine, Jennifer says the room needed the sparkle of accessories. Her unique designer touch was to commission custom artwork to fit the wall space and complement the décor. “I gave fabric from the draperies and pillows, the paint colour and the wall size to the artist Lee Anne LaForge, and she had carte blanche to create whatever she wanted.” The result is a beautiful abstract painting that captures the grey and lilac tones of the décor and perfectly accents the room.

As Jennifer tells her clients, “You often decorate the way you dress and you should look like you belong in your space.” This advice resonates with Jean who suits up in business attire for work as an investment advisor. She agrees with Jennifer’s less-is-more design philosophy which suggests that, “A simple, elegant style lets you relax and puts your mind at ease.”

Jane Whiting

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