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An Indie Songbird’s Cathedral of Light and Sound

Juno-winning musician Martina Sorbara and her design-savvy sister hit all the right notes in a Bloorcourt reno

By Alexandra Caufin
Photography by Naomi Finlay

Arriving at Hepbourne Hall Lofts is not unlike pulling up to a classic college dorm. A conservative brick entrance leads to a series of narrow hallways, complete with endless single doors lining each side. Stepping into Martina Sorbara’s wide-open, first-floor unit, however, brings a definite moment of awe. It’s an all-too appropriate response, given that the 1910 Bloorcourt building once served as a church rectory before it was converted into condos in 1990.

When Martina, lead singer of indie band Dragonette, first saw the 210-metre space in 2015, she loved the arched windows and lofty ceilings (some as high as four metres). But non-starters were aplenty: bathrooms weighed down by dated granite, oppressive cherry millwork in the living room and a cooped-up kitchen set on a platform three steps up. And while most approach a reno with a detailed checklist, for Martina, the path was a little more…abstract.

“It was more of a shape, or a tone or a flavour we were looking for,” explains Ginger Sorbara, the musician’s sister and design visionary behind this six-month transformation. Most of all, Martina wanted a space built full-tilt for creativity.

Carrara marble from Ciot clads the island and backsplash. Chevron flooring from Stone Tile; millwork by Barlow Cabinetworks; stools from DesignRepublic.

Ginger’s first order of business: level the kitchen’s space-cutting podium and accompanying half-walls. Since both sisters abhor what they call the “kitchen on steroids” look, the fridge and countertop appliances are sheltered in an off-to-the-side bureau with a lacquered buttercup finish. Upper cupboards were also nixed, while a down-draft stovetop negates the visual obstruction of a range hood – all choices that make the windows the focal point and the 2.5-metre marble island a spot built for activity over aesthetics.

Built-in shelves around the fireplace lighten the living room’s visual load. Painting by Massimo Guerrera; pouf and rug from West Elm.

The key to calming the space, says Ginger, was aligning all the various doorways and cutouts of the original layout and tossing out visual clutter, including a divider surrounding the spiral staircase and oversized cabinets around the fireplace. The bronze-railed central stair, which leads to Martina’s below-ground studio and parking spot, is now an open-air curiosity, while the fireplace is framed by understated built-ins.

As for the brightest part of the home, a sunken living room with arched multi-pane windows and walkout to the private patio, Martina dedicated it entirely to a space for self-expression – whether that be sampling for a new single, knitting blankets or sculpting ceramic at her crafting table. This less-streamlined area stands apart from the others – one in which texture and personality thrive. The sense of eclecticism is on full display in items ranging from a rattan peacock chair and a vintage ladder, to her grandmother’s dressing room bench and a column Martina somehow nabbed from the neighbour across the street. The result is exactly the flavour she was craving all along.

Because, as she says, “Why not give the most beautiful room in the house to the thing that makes me the happiest?” That would be the artist’s long list of creative pursuits, to which she can now add: fashioning a beautiful home.

Evidence of Martina’s creativity is all around: Her handmade pin cushion; a gifted hanging planter; her own unfired ceramic “beads” drying on a window ledge; painting of her “artifacts” by Christopher Page; sculpting and painting tools in the craft room.

This article has been revised since it was first published in Issue 4, 2017, in which it erroneously credited Ginger Sorbara as an architect. The text has since been revised and Designlines apologizes for the error.