Image: Donna Griffith | Designer: Michael Penney
A painter turns to a decorator to personalize her 175-year-old house in Quinte West, Ont.
At the end of a curved, tree-lined driveway stands a fetching Regency-style farmhouse. The stone dwelling looks no less stately today than it did when it was built in the 1840s. The eastern Ontario landscape stretches out in all directions, and the solitude negates any suggestion of city life. For artist Katherine Wortel and her husband, Rudy, nothing could be better.
When the Toronto couple made the move in March 2012, Katherine’s eye for colour and appreciation of the home’s patina made her an ideal steward. To personalize it while respecting its history, she turned to Michael Penney, decorator and owner of Whitby, Ont.– based homeware shop Penney & Co. “He has a reputation for making tradition look fresh,” says Katherine.
Penney took cues from Katherine for his recommendations. “As a painter, she understands tones and light,” he explains. “Her artwork often served as the inspiration for a room’s colour scheme.” In the guest room, for example, the lilacs and yellows in her painting found their way into the bedding.
For furnishings, Penney reviewed the couple’s belongings. “Why buy new things when you can change the presentation of existing pieces instead?” he reasons. To honour the home’s architecture, the decorator retained a note of gentility, but he also introduced textures familiar to the rural location. In the entry hall, for instance, the couple’s own antique table plays against new basketry. “Humble materials warm up the space and keep it from looking like a museum,” he says.
The result is a home that’s true to both its history and its inhabitants, and that’s what makes it a true work of art.
SUNNY SIDE UP
Where a woodshed once stood, the homeowners erected a sunroom. Materials salvaged from the original structure, such as the rough-hewn ceiling beams, lend cozy character, while potted greenery echoes the verdant surroundings.
SERENITY IN STONE
The Regency-style farmhouse, built in 1843, sits on 60 hectares. Its cutting garden and three organic vegetable gardens aren’t just beautiful; they also represent homeowner Katherine Wortel’s favourite pastimes.
In the sunlit entryway, antique sconces and a gold-leaf-framed mirror are tempered with playful floor coverings, while basketry lends texture. Katherine inherited the table from her maternal grandmother. “The space says an artist lives here,” says Penney.
This residence has strong creative ties. Before Katherine, another artist lived in the house, and she’s the one to credit for the bold hand-painted pattern on the kitchen floor. The built-in cabinetry, also painted, looks old but is custom. “Kitchens with character feel more inviting,” says Penney.
GUEST ROOM GARRET
Katherine’s artwork, mismatched iron beds and a painted washstand that belonged to her paternal grandmother give the room its studio elegance. The rug and the art inspired the room’s palette. “The lilac whispers, while the saffron takes centre stage,” says Penney.
PLAY WITH COLOUR
Painting antique furniture can feel like a no-no, but it shouldn’t. “Colour gives it personality,” says Penney of the now zingy guest room washstand. “In older homes, opt for historical hues; they’re less literal and somewhat opaque.”