Each Room in this Victorian’s Lovely, Notably the Plant-Filled Kitchen & Balcony

Lifestyle

Name: Michelle Martel, my husband Jim Wilson, and our 1-year old rescue dog, Atticus
Location: Montreal, Canada
Size: 1900 square feet
Type of Home: 1904 Victorian Home (attached on both sides)
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

Designer Michelle Martel and her husband lived in the suburbs of Montreal for 20 years, where they raised their kids next to parks, large lawns, gardens and more. Her husband had already been commuting into the city for 20 years, and once the children started going to school in the city, the daily commute became too hard. “It was time for a change and a fresh start!” explains Michelle. “My husband and I both lived in the city before we got married so we decided to downsize and move back to the city; it was a full circle moment.”

At first, the couple was on the hunt for a “move-in ready” home. “After two failed inspections we decided to look for a ‘fixer upper’ and just go for it,” admits Michelle. “My husband actually found this house online: a 1904 Victorian in a ‘walk everywhere’ neighborhood we loved. The high ceilings, plaster moldings, and original doors and baseboards were what we fell in love with immediately.”

“I scheduled a visit, which my husband could not attend, and saw the house with my real estate agent. To be honest, I was not impressed at all. To see the house in person was a huge shock. It needed so much work and it was much smaller than we realized. The location however was phenomenal, so without my husband seeing it in person, we put up an offer on that very day and the house was ours a few days later. That was the beginning of a two and a half year renovation journey to create the home of our dreams.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: As an interior designer, I am constantly evolving and growing, which makes it hard to identify with one style. If I had to describe my style in one word, I would say “eclectic”. What is important to me when creating a space is to bring it to life and to make it as livable, comfortable, and soothing as it can be. Especially now as we are spending so much time at home due to the pandemic, home should feel like a beautiful, safe “landing pad”. I see so many beautiful spaces online and in magazines and books, and the ones that inspire me the most are the ones that look and feel so welcoming and soothing. A gorgeous sofa that is not comfortable does not make for great design. You should want to lie down on it, with a warm blanket and take a nap if you need to; that’s great design to me. Better yet, when one of your guests falls asleep on your sofa after a great dinner, that is the ultimate compliment.

Inspiration: I love sentimental objects—a birthday card, a pretty gift box, or a photograph—those elements bring warmth, purpose, and a sense of history to any space. I tell my clients to use the good china every day, to bring out the pretty tablecloths, and to light up those candles with dinner even on weekdays. Why wait for company to come over to enjoy your nice things?

Favorite Element: Our home is filled with original elements that remind us of the history of this Old Victorian. The 12-foot ceilings, the plaster moldings, the doors are all features we fell in love with and still appreciate today.  If I had to pick one element as my favorite it would have to be the high ceilings. Our home is a row house, so it is long and narrow, but the ceilings give a sense of airiness we truly love.

Biggest Challenge: Well, when you take on a massive renovation of an old Victorian, you must be prepared for some surprises and we got quite a few in this project. Within a few weeks we realized we had to change the electrical in the entire house within a year. Our home insurance company was clear, we had to do it that quickly. After living in the house for just six months, we packed up the entire house and moved out to start removing the asbestos, replacing the electrical, and renovate the entire main floor in just three months. We remodeled the kitchen, powder room, and replaced the hardwood floors. It was very intense but well worth it.

Proudest DIY: I know my strengths and weaknesses, and DIY is not part of my repertoire. That being said, a few years ago we needed a piece of artwork for our previous house and I thought I would try painting one and that piece is hanging in our home today.

Biggest Indulgence: It is hands down the bathtub in the master bath. It is a showstopper and was well worth it as it is the first thing you see as you walk into the bathroom. No regrets.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? When we purchased our home, there was a room off our master bedroom that was a “sunroom.” The previous owners did not insulate the room so we could not use it at all as it was freezing in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. We decided to convert it into an office for my husband and what a great decision that turned out to be! We finished the renovation in February, just a few weeks before the pandemic hit. He has been working from home since so his office is a great addition.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? At the top of the list would have to be our “Frame” TV from Samsung. Our television is in our living room, which we use every day as a lounging room, TV room, and reading room. I wanted a gallery wall, so I incorporated the “Frame TV” on that wall and built from there. We love it! The other favorite items we purchased are the bookshelves for the living room. We initially thought we would get custom built-ins to surround the fireplace, but I wanted to do something a little more unexpected. Those beautiful free-standing shelves bring an element of surprise and complement the Victorian fireplace in a fun way.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Our home is by no means small, but we did downsize so we had to come up with storage ideas. Victorian homes generally have little or no storage, so we had to figure out ways to keep our house in order without breaking the bank. Going vertical was the way to go so we bought a huge armoire to put in the entrance, since we do not have a closet for our coats etc. Baskets are my favorite way to keep loose items, mail, hats, scarfs etc. in one place and organized. Most of all, do not keep anything you do not use anymore. Just donate what is still good and throw out the rest.

What is your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Above all your home should be comfortable and feel like a sanctuary. That sounds basic, but I often have clients tell me that they bought a sofa because it was gorgeous with total disregard for its level of comfort or lack thereof. Also: a friend of mind uses her good china and silverware every single day. She was saying how there is no point in waiting for guests to come over. Just use it every day!

PAINT & COLORS:

  • Entryway — Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace” Pearl Finish
  • Living Room — Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace” Peal Finish
  • Dining Room, Living Room, Kitchen — Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace” Pearl Finish
  • First Floor Powder Room — Benjamin Moore “Blue Note” Pearl Finish
  • Second Floor hallway, Bathrooms, Master Bedroom, My Office — Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace” Pearl Finish
  • Master Bedroom Accent Wall — Benjamin Moore “Blue Note” Pearl finish
  • Jim’s Office — Benjamin Moore “River Blue” semi-gloss finish

ENTRANCE & HALLWAY

LIVING ROOM

DINING ROOM

KITCHEN

HALLWAY BATHROOM

MAIN BATHROOM

MAIN BEDROOM

JIM’S OFFICE

MICHELLE’S OFFICE

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