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Lucky in London

When Grant Gilvesy looked at a 1950s Cape Coder on a tree-lined street in London, Ont.’s Old North, there was no looking back. “I would never live in any other neighbourhood in London,” says Gilvesy, who heads two design firms in the city. “It has so much character, it’s walking distance to downtown and very centrally located.”

It didn’t hurt that the Cape Cod style is one of Gilvesy’s favourites.


But despite everything the 1950s-built house had going for it, there were “massive changes” ahead. The long list of improvements included a new roof and replacing windows and doors; cedar siding; painting; and landscaping. And that was just the outside! Indoors, Gilvesy opened up the main floor to help solidify the home’s overall open concept; completely updated the kitchen and bathrooms; and redid floors, doors, trim, lighting and plumbing.

Fortunately, his firms together take a holistic approach to a property. Indeed, their shared slogan is “cohesive design inside and out.” Grant Gilvesy Design focuses on interiors, while In Bloom Design covers all aspects of landscaping.

The three-bedroom home sits on a double lot, a rare find in the quiet Old North, where the diverse population includes young families, single professionals and active retirees. “The house had amazing bones,” says Gilvesy, “and it was a perfect fit for my needs.”

If you can’t improve upon perfection, there’s nothing to stop you from tweaking it. Among Gilvesy’s most ambitious tweaks to the 1,700-square-foot space was the removal of two walls. They were separating the kitchen from the dining area and the dining area from the family room. As Gilvesy recalls, “It had no flow and felt very chopped up.”

When it came time to furnish the three-bedroom, two-bath home, which the designer acquired about three and a half years ago, eclecticism was the guiding principle. “I don’t collect one thing in particular,” he says. “However, I do like antiques and like to mix really good pieces into every room. I don’t like a space to feel as if you’d set up a showroom in someone’s home.”

Although even an experienced chef would be pleased with the kitchen—with its ample light, quality appliances and generous counter space—Gilvesy confesses that he doesn’t cook: “I tend to meet my friends for dinner out.” But he hastens to add: “A future goal of mine is to entertain more.”

For now, though, his workload leaves little time for hours-long dinner parties and other at-home gatherings. No matter, contends Gilvesy: the important thing is to be happy in your space. “I believe your home is an extension of you,” he reflects. “I don’t think people realize how much a space can affect their mood.”

Which is why, he insists, choosing an interior designer should not be left to chance. “You have to click,” he says. “Check out their work; see what they have done; interview them and make sure you feel totally comfortable about working with them and the direction they’re headed. Designing someone’s personal space is a privilege.”

Gilvesy likes to practise what he preaches: “When I go into someone’s space, I first look at the period and style of the home and then listen to the client’s needs and wants. I try to find a balance between the two. It is extremely important to respect the home itself, to see it as the canvas on which the client paints.”

Whether his own canvas or someone else’s, Gilvesy takes his design charge very seriously. After all, he points out, “I tend to do things to last forever!” But never mind, he adds, if you’ve settled into an entire house for life or a studio apartment you’ll vacate in a matter of months, “it’s important to take time and make your space feel right to you—even if it’s a temporary space.”