Work can get hectic for the husband-and-wife team behind Unitfive Design, but their home, well-stocked with art and designer furniture, helps slow things down
We don’t want to brag, but we loved the design and fabrication work of Lisa Santana and Kelvin Goddard, the husband-and-wife team behind Unitfive Design, before they worked on Drake’s opulent Bridle Path mansion. There’s a decent chance that you did, too. The gorgeous rose brass screen at Saks? That’s them. The hammered brass map of Canada from Canoe’s 2011 reno? They struck each blow. We also bestowed a DL Loves tag on them way back in 2014 for their Judy-inspired takeover of Comrag’s Dundas West dress boutique. If you travel (well, if you used to travel), you might’ve seen their work in hotels in Kuwait, Atlanta or Hong Kong. If you follow some of their collaborators, including Yabu Pushelberg, Burdifilek – well, you get the idea. Santana and Goddard are prolific and endlessly creative metalworkers, and we’re longtime fans.
Despite their busy schedule, the couple also found time to renovate their turn-of-the-twentieth-century row house. Here, we take a look at where the Unitfive designers rest, relax and, occasionally, get some work done, too.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Designlines: Can you tell our readers who you are? What’s your work about, and what are some of your recent projects or accomplishments?
Goddard and Santana: We design and build specialty metalwork, lighting, fixtures and commercial artwork. Recently, we fabricated starburst chandeliers for Drake’s huge Toronto mansion (a total of 30 were made; 14 now hang in the stairwell of Drake’s home), but one of our biggest accomplishments is that we continue to find inspiration after 25 years while dealing with the pitfalls of running our own business.
Designlines: What was it like working on Drake’s home? How did it compare to other projects you’ve worked on?
Goddard and Santana: Everything was larger than life. At first we were super excited to be working on a home belonging to someone in the limelight, but once on site, it was all about getting our work done to perfection. We’ve worked with Ferris Rafauli (principal of Ferris Rafauli Design and lead on this project) quite a bit in the past and understand his drive for beauty and flawless craftsmanship.
On site, we worked side-by-side with a very impressive group of craftsmen, including stone masons, the gentlemen who covered the walls with suede, and the Lobmeyr technicians who installed the massive Metropolitan Opera-esque chandelier. Everything was over-the-top and beautiful. For us, the sheer amount of work and dealing with literally thousands of parts for the various lighting stories was challenging, but it’s also nice to know that our lighting arrays will be around for a long, long time.
Designlines: What part of town is your home located in and how long have you lived there? How has it served you?
Goddard and Santana: We’ve lived in the Bloorcourt area together for 25 years in a 1912 rowhouse that we bought in its original state. We did a quick renovation in 1999 to upgrade it, and just recently completed a full-scale renovation. Metal shops, where we typically work, tend to be loud, so we pine for the quiet our home allows us.
What made you first fall in love with your home? Why did you decide to renovate it?
Goddard and Santana: We purchased our home while renting the house next door, and we’ve come to enjoy the diverse neighbourhood. After that first reno, we continued to gut the lower level, then built a sauna and a new front walk. Then we added plenty of conifers to the front and back gardens to make it feel like a mini forest.
Our latest reno was shaped by the need for light and open space with only a small footprint. We were inspired after a stay at the Four Seasons Toronto where the suite was one long space that contained the master bedroom, sitting room and a luxe bathroom. We thought, “Why can’t we have this relaxing encounter daily?“ So we removed some walls and transformed four small rooms into our own master suite. We wanted our home to be a place of relaxation, with luxury details that soften the rooms. We focused on layers of luxury, as our friend and occasional design adviser Mazen El-Abdallah calls it.
To do this, we upgraded all the lighting to soft LEDs and hid bands of lighting within crevices in the ceiling, in walls and behind bars of brass so that it glows. We brought in carpeting on the stairs and silk area rugs to define spaces and we had a leather master cover the handrails in hand-stitched leather. Doing that first reno by ourselves while running a business wasn’t easy! The latest reno was handled by a contractor – we suppose that with age comes wisdom.
Designlines: What are some of your favourite aspects of the home?
Goddard and Santana: The upper level is now incredibly bright and inviting. In our second renovation, we added skylights, a floor-to-ceiling window and found an extra two feet of ceiling height. The galley kitchen we had earlier worked well, so we kept it but changed all the finishes from dark to light. It used to have a ‘90s chocolate-brown-and-stainless vibe, but now it’s a bright white space softened with marble and brass accents, giving it a vintage Italian feel.
While entertaining, we typically have cocktails around the island or back deck, then sit for hours at the dining room table, sharing our lives over food and drink, as Lisa did growing up in a large Italian household. Also, the sitting room on the second floor is bright and warm – the perfect place to share an intimate cocktail.
We also installed heated stone floors in the bathroom and kitchen, which is a small luxury that goes a long way during winter. And for the warmer months, we built a deck with a built-in sofa where we can chill, read and nap.
Do you have a dedicated office or workspace in your home?
Goddard and Santana: We would have loved to fit in an office-type setting but just didn’t have the square footage, so Kelvin designed the house knowing we would do our work and his drawings at the dining table. Fortunately, we live only a few city blocks from where we work.
Designlines: Creativity and business wise, what strides were you able to make during the enforced time off? And what about personally?
Goddard and Santana: We’ve spent a lot of time drawing, designing and planning. For work, it was designing proposals for (hopefully) upcoming projects. For us, it was designing indulgences like backyard planters, a custom pizza oven and an outdoor sauna and lounge for our new little cabin on Lake Superior. Also this pandemic gave us more time for ourselves, including daily sauna sessions, yoga and exercise.
We’ve always been big cooks, too, so that didn’t change much. Cooking and dining forces us to slow down, turn off our work brains, set the table with candles, linens, plates and specialty items, and be a loving couple – not just a couple that works together. It’s routine, and it keeps us grounded. It takes work to separate those two lives, as it’s easy to not stop working. Our home is a place to rest, read, play, entertain and be calm and comforted.
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