By Alison Garwood-Jones
Photo by Naomi Finlay
When painter Howard Podeswa and textile artist Joy Walker first went house-hunting 20 years ago, they chose a century-old dive near Bloor and Bathurst. The crumbling chimney was the tip-off that they were about to encounter a disaster zone. “The floors in several of the rooms were compacted dirt and we found bones in the downstairs toilet,” says Podeswa. “Chicken … we think,” deadpans Walker. The couple didn’t want to show the house to their children until after the reno. "They were little at the time – we didn’t want to scare them."
While many would have walked away, the artists saw potential. "My artwork is very much about pattern and repetition," says Walker, a studio advisor at Harbourfront’s Textile Studio and a board member of Open Studio. "I think it's a way of creating order out of chaos. Any pattern in textiles has an underlying grid system." This may explain why the renovation began with the removal of a rabbit warren of walls on the first floor. Next, what was once a cramped, covered porch off the kitchen became a dining area. Golden hardwood now runs the entire length of the ground floor. For the final unifying stroke, the walls were painted gallery white.
The reconfiguration allowed the couple to realize their dream of a large, airy space for their family and their many beautiful things. The look, lively yet uncluttered, is a tribute to their shared sensibility. Like Walker, Podeswa seeks hidden order in his artwork. Pointing to one of his abstracts, a deconstruction of Rembrandt's Night Watch, he says, "This is all about plotting points along a grid and finding the structure in that original painting."
Small hits of colour and a rotating collection of artwork are strategically placed amidst neutral arrangements of modern furniture. The eye is led, both vertically and horizontally, through the space, beginning with the candy-striped runner on the stairs (six inexpensive Ikea rugs sewn together) and ending at the back of the house, where orange Eames chairs surround a teak dining table. Clearly, it pays to study the masters.