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How One Community United to Give a Charity a Stylish Facelift

Charity, they say, begins at home, though it it can be born anywhere where heart and soul prevail. Cue a recent project in The Annex -- home to Sheena's Place. With no available budget, we knew the only way was to depend on the generosity of others. Here's how with a dash of Scottish fairy dust and the generosity of our friends, we brought the space alive.
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Charity, they say, begins at home, though it it can be born anywhere where heart and soul prevail. Cue a recent project in The Annex, home to some of Toronto's most beautiful homes. Built as far back as the 1880s, many houses have been carved into multiple occupancies or commercial space. Some remain single-family abodes, whilst others have been reborn as learning facilities or centres for health care.

One particular Spadina mansion, home to Sheena's Place, came to our attention during The Sparkle Party at The Aga Khan Museum, a fundraiser that supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders.

Mingling with Deborah Berlin-Romalis, Executive Director of Sheena's Place, we learned about the facility's history. Set up by Lynn Carpenter in memory of her daughter Sheena, the hard-working charity receives no government funding. The house relies on revenue from events, individuals and corporations. "Remaining open is down to the goodwill of benefactors," Deborah explained. "Sheena's Place helps restore the dignity of those who attend groups and discussion -- it's an honour to make life easier for them in any way we can."

Leaving, we made a promise: we'd do something to help. Visiting the Spadina facility and chatting again with Deborah, we learned more. "We'd like to improve the main meeting room. During 20 years it's become run down and far from the welcoming environment it should be," she said. "For many who use Sheena's Place, it's the first room they see. If there's anything you could do to make it more comfortable, we'd be thrilled."

With no available budget, we knew the only way was to depend on the generosity of others. And so, phones in hand, we contacted a clutch of suppliers. To this day, their keenness to assist gives us goose bumps. Here's how, with a dash of Scottish fairy dust and the generosity of our friends, we brought the space alive.

Hammer Swing

The meeting room, whilst dated, was solid. Walls and ceiling were smooth and trim intact. First step? Tear away the bilious berber that had lain unchanged for years. Threadbare, it had to go.

Kentwood / Metropolitan

Beloved of those who appreciate quality hardwood and engineered flooring, Kentwood is a go-to manufacturer for many C&J projects, on and off screen. Distributed by Metropolitan Floors, it's a great product, so we were delighted when they agreed to donate all materials. Oftentimes, where charitable game plans are concerned, the biggest obstacle is the fear of someone saying no. Perhaps it's because we're Scottish (and therefore stubborn), but we've never been fearful of a negative response. We've worked with many charities and have learned from the best fund raisers. As our Scottish grannies might say: "If you don't ask, you don't get..."

We specified Cougar Rock and it was installed by Greg and Daniel from Taylor Carpet One in Huntsville, who gifted time and labour. Hell, they even booked a hotel -- at their expense -- so they could travel from Muskoka the night before to arrive early bells. Boasting a hard-wearing finish, Cougar Rock will look every bit as good in years to come as it does today.

Wood Trim Detailing

All our paneling materials (and associated decorating sundries) were supplied by Home Depot, a go-to resource for many assignments. Our carpenter, Graham, fashioned the panels using wood trim which, set below dado rail, he pinned to the wall, then painted white. The resultant effect alludes to the home's heritage provenance: a period when similar embellishments were commonplace.


Thanks to the kindness of Dimplex North America, we installed a brand-new (electric) hearth focal point, and efficient warming into the bargain. Electric heating technology has come a long way since the visually awkward faux flames of days gone by and Dimplex, as we see it, have long since championed this flaming evolution.

Temperature Control

Because the room serves as a meeting place for large gatherings, it was crucial we created a workable environment that could be cooled as required. We used a state-of-the-art window-hung air conditioning system and a glorious ceiling fan, gifted by Home Depot and The Fan Shoppe, respectively.

Wall Covering

We've embellished literally hundreds of rooms using Graham and Brown wallpaper. From mansions in Forest Hill, to New York townhouses, to terraced homes in London, we've decorated 'em all using G&B's finest. For Sheena's Place, we selected grey, lightly textured paper: the graphite stripes provide a luxurious backdrop for subsequent layers.

Urban Barn

Providing stylish, trendy and affordable products, Urban Barn made perfect sense and we were delighted to include their Infinity rug, Martel coffee table and console (upon which sits a flat screen TV kindly donated by 2001 Audio Video), Adrift lamps and their Fillmore leatherette chesterfields as the backbone to our new look. Additional chairs come via All Seating, who generously supplied stylish, stackable chairs made for high-traffic public space use.

It's Curtains For You

With ambitious drapery, it's good to bring in the pros. We engaged Amazing Window Fashions and their associated company, Workroom By Design, to craft our requirements. Both companies are amongst the best in the business and their drapery is sublime. These curtains, made with Robert Allen fabric. Their grey-on-cream scrolled pattern imbue proceedings with an elegant air. Positioned below a padded valance (in the same fabric as the drapery), the window treatment shrieks indulgence.


Successful accessories? We call 'em "successories": the final detailing that glosses a good scheme. From the resin shell on the coffee table to ceramics, battered nickel candle sconces and artwork, everything was donated by our favourite red-liveried store, Homesense.

Before signing off, we'd like to thank everyone, once again -- without each supplier's generosity, our mini miracle might not have happened. And we'd like to tip our hats to the team at Sheena's Place, each of whom strives to make a positive difference to the lives of others. We are forever humbled...

For further information, visit the Sheena's Place website.

A warm welcome awaits...

Before -- You do what you can with what you've got...


Before -- Time to roll out the old piano!

After -- The neutral colour scheme is restful and conducive to sharing and conversation.

The new fireplace is a warming and reassuring focal point.

The bay window perfectly dressed to complement this grand vintage building.

Fireplace detail...

Colin & Justin and the amazing team at Sheena's Place


'My Big Family Renovation'