In Refinery29’s Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennials. Today, product designer Bret Williams shows us how she turned her converted Toronto loft into a chilled-out city retreat.
If we were to summarize the vibe of Bret Williams’ Toronto warehouse loft in two words, they would be: modern and warm. While the two adjectives may initially seem paradoxical — modern often brings to mind harsh lines and stark colours, after all — somehow Williams makes it work.
“I tried to make it as timeless and cozy as possible,” she says of her stunning and bright two-storey space in Toronto’s Mystic Pointe neighbourhood, which she purchased over a year-and-a-half-ago for $550,000. (That’s a $2,900 monthly mortgage.) Williams knew the high-ceiling loft, which was originally a distillery, would need some upgrades and renos, but chose to lean into its history when bringing her own vibrant personality into it.
First up, that meant a little DIY. Williams enlisted her dad to help her maximize space in the two-bathroom, one bedroom 1,000 square foot space. Like the daybed they built under the stairs, which acts as a tucked-away reading nook with storage underneath. Williams has also taken her design skills to other areas of the apartment, offsetting the unit’s stark lines with natural shapes: like the reno’d rounded arch that leads into her upstairs closet and the repurposed Ikea sideboard with wooden ball legs.
Her colour scheme incorporates grey, cream, and beige neutrals, and is accented with the slightest of warm tones: a light blue cushion in the living room, a flash of green via a faux olive tree above her stairway ("I couldn’t be bothered to water something at that height," she says), and light wood accents. It’s a style Williams, a product designer for a Toronto-based home goods company, affectionately refers to as “Warm Scandinavian.”
Some of this warmth is thanks to the lighting. Because — in addition to the two-storey windows — Williams does have great light fixtures. Which makes sense, considering it’s kind of her business to. In addition to her 9 to 5, Williams owns lighting company Huey. From a wooden sconce to illuminate her reading nook, to the spa-esque lighting in her main bath, to her own company’s fixture at the entrance to her den, Williams’ space is awash in A+ bulbs.
The most sentimental piece in the designer’s home is a painting of a city street by her grandfather, artist Ivan Sarossy, that hangs in her den. Williams doesn’t know the exact inspiration behind the piece; truthfully the still life looks like it could be in Morocco, Mexico, or even somewhere in Toronto on a warm day, but it doesn’t really matter. “When he passed we got to choose a piece from his collection and this one just spoke to me,” she says.
A statement powder room also spoke to her. Opening the door to Williams’ spare bath is like stepping into Victorian-era London. The blue-walled and white-tiled space features framed paintings of very sophisticated looking dogs while a painting of a rolling countryside adds some whimsy. “I wanted to really just have fun with it,” Williams says of the space. “It’s kind of like Sherlock Holmes vibes.”
Far from elementary, we’d say.