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In Liberty Village, Two Stylish Renters Think Inside the Box

How a young couple transformed their snug Liberty Village apartment into an enviable retreat

By Sara Cunningham
Photography by Daniel Hildreth

When renters Brandi Lynne and Justin Aguilar moved into a 69 square metre apartment in Liberty Village – an oblong concrete box, and their first shared space together – it was clear that some of their earlier decorating habits would have to go.

Before they moved in, the newly engaged couple lived on opposite coasts. Justin worked for a tech company in San Francisco, while Brandi, a social media and content strategist, freelanced here in Toronto. After closing the long-distance gap, they began merging styles, eliminating duplicate items to save space.

“A lot of the original furniture pieces we had were black and white (the typical “minimal Scandinavian” aesthetic) and left the concrete space feeling a bit too sterile and lifeless,” they say. 

Luckily, they were able to sell a few black and white furnishings in order to invest in their first big-ticket item: a cognac-coloured leather sofa from CB2. That, along with a vintage rattan chair (pictured below), warmed up the living room. Other than the sofa, they held off on buying other large furnishings, afraid of cutting off sunlight from the west-facing window.

“We’re dreaming of the day we can integrate [a dining table] into our space and host dinner parties,” they laugh. “But for now, our solution is eating out at our favourite restaurants or — let’s get real — on the couch.” 

Along with the sofa and the speckled Ikea rug, this DIY coffee table anchors the room. The white linear base is made from Justin’s Montana wire shelves, purchased on the west coast (and sadly, not yet available in Canada). For her part, Brandi salvaged the glass top from a cumbersome Ikea table. The result? A low-profile storage hack and a stylish place to display books, Japanese magazines and ceramic vessels.

Plus, the table is an object of envy whenever they have guests. “We get asked about it all the time,” says Brandi.

Touring the apartment, which doesn’t take long, shows how small things can make a small space. For example, the duo are pros at arranging curated vignettes (shown to advantage on their respective Instagram feeds: @brandilynnesm and @justinaguilar), including a ceramic flower vase, bronze mirror and designy candle. They make the Ikea PS television stand fell, well, not Ikea.

Most of their favourite decorative pieces come from the serene west end boutique Souvenir. When is comes to clutter, however, they swear by woven baskets. “They’re multi-purpose. You can move them anywhere and use them as a catch-all for really anything and everything.”

Next to the seating area, a simple leaning shelf boasts two Aura mirrors from Danish brand New Works, which were won through an Instagram contest (because love means tagging each other in the comments). The elevated planter, while attractive, is also the only sure way to keep Smudge, their 18-year-old cat, from tearing up the foliage.


As renters, creating a sense of place is a top priority. “Since many apartments are temporary spaces, integrating furniture or objects that hold sentimental value or tell stories really helps to bring a sense of comfort and belonging.” 

“This also holds true for investment pieces,” they add. “like a couch or cozy reading chair. These can make you feel comfortable in any space you choose to call home in the future.” Add a camera-loving cat, a few plants and Ikea hacks, and you’ve got yourself one sweet rental.


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