The enigmatic, bird-mask-wearing artist takes us through his antique-filled home
You may have seen birdO’s murals around the city – his 11-storey Deer Park piece and Scarborough basketball court husky are difficult to miss – but it’s unlikely that you’ve seen his face. Despite being well known for his artwork, the secretive Toronto-based artist wears a mask to avoid being recognized while he works. Like his moniker, birdO’s work is playful and irreverent, featuring surreal, larger-than-life animals that have captured the imagination of city-dwellers around the world, including in China, Puerto Rico and Jordan. One his latest works, a rooftop parking lot mural in Yorkville, was later caught in miniature for Romeo’s Gin. Below, we get a peek at the elusive artist’s Trinity-Bellwoods home.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Designlines: Who lives with you?
birdO: I live with my partner, Vanessa, who works from home in the health and wellness sphere. We share our space with two of the most rambunctious dogs in Toronto, Chloe and Pinky.
Designlines: What part of town is your home located and how long have you lived there?
birdO: We live in the Queen West-Trinity Bellwoods area. Our home has served many purposes over the years: as a place to host summer dinners or movie nights on our deck, a work-from-home space, and a surprisingly serene getaway from city life. It feels quite tucked away once you are inside – like a vortex of sorts.
Designlines: What made you first fall in love with your home? Have you done any work to it since moving in?
birdO: Our home is a loft-style apartment with exposed brick and a very spacious outdoor area, which is hard to turn down in the city. We have yet to make any drastic changes, but we would love to paint the kitchen cabinets and reno the washroom. Just small updates — we love the overall character.
Designlines: What are some of your favourite aspects of the home?
birdO: The hardwood floors, built-in library wall, and original wooden banisters make the space feel homey. Two floors and ample outdoor living space is more than enough for our little family. We also love the location; Trinity Bellwoods is just a stone’s throw away. Or a stick’s throw, as Chloe would have it.
Designlines: How did your relationship with your home change during the pandemic?
birdO: My international projects were put on hold during the pandemic, so I now divide my time between our house and my studio in Parkdale. Having the ability to do concept work from my computer can make it difficult for me to unplug when at home. Admittedly, I am a workaholic, so the challenge during Covid hasn’t been remaining inspired, but slowing down and appreciating the extra time with my pack.
Designlines: With home-time now more important than ever, are there further changes you would like to make to your living environment?
birdO: Vanessa is a creature of her environment. Despite not having any major plans to renovate, we are always changing the furnishings around us, organically. While adhering to the restrictions in Ontario this year, we’re patiently waiting for our opportunity to resume antiquing in Collingwood.
Designlines: Creativity and business-wise, what strides were you able to make during the enforced time off?
birdO: In typical artist fashion, my big new strides are top secret! Despite the early warnings to adhere to two simple pandemic rules – don’t cut your bangs, and don’t get a puppy – Vanessa did both. But I’m happy to say that she looks gorgeous and Pinky is peeing outside in the park, so I figure we’re rolling.