Photos: Inside Erin Ireland’s Open and Airy Family Home
Food reporter Erin Ireland and her husband had the perfect renovation planned—and then along came baby.
Though the Mount Pleasant townhouse Erin Ireland and Darren Yada bought in 2015 was perfectly fine and functional, there was something about a cookie-cutter space that just didn’t sit well with the creative couple. (Yada is a managing partner for Rethink; Ireland is the founder of To Die for Fine Foods and a food reporter with a huge social media following.) The layout was ideal—a naturally lit open-concept kitchen is the focal point of the ground floor, with cozy bedrooms tucked away upstairs—but the overall design was builder-basic blah.
So despite the fact that the home was only three years old, the pair embarked on a renovation. “We wanted to truly love it,” says Ireland—something stylish but soothing that would act as a minimalist backdrop for the pair’s busy life. They enlisted the services of friends and family to elevate the space to dream-home status.
It started with the kitchen, naturally. Not only was it at the heart of the home, it was also essential for Ireland to have a functional workspace that was camera-ready: she shares video and photo dispatches of her culinary experiments daily and has plans for a plant-based-cooking show in the works. “I wanted a large, well-lit, open space perfect for food staging,” says Ireland.
So an old friend of Yada’s, Brett Mauer, ripped up the floorboards and ground down the imperfect concrete beneath, while concrete artist Brett Riekert poured the sides for the white countertops over the pre-existing brown melamine throughout the kitchen. (A much more Instagram-friendly backdrop, to say the least.) Ireland and her dad tackled the cupboards, replacing those above the stove with a single steel shelf, and refinishing those below the sink and counters with a natural pine plywood; the oven vent, they wrapped in iron. Twelve vertical feet of exposed iron shelving, built by Erin’s Uncle Russ, come complete with a ladder. The result? A modernist take on French country chic.
Blank slate established, they turned to long-time friend April Tidey to fill in the details: textiles, artwork, furniture and, ultimately, character. An oversized light fixture from NYC’s HomeStories steals the show and further blurs the boundary between kitchen and living room, while the exposed iron shelving unit—the result of Tidey’s design and Russ’s handiwork—adds textural interest. Simple white details, including ceramic dishes by local artist Janaki Larsen, are gorgeous display pieces that the couple also uses daily. “I don’t have room for two sets of things, so I’ve gotten rid of anything I don’t use,” says Ireland—even her grandmother’s vintage mixers are in regular rotation.
Against a subdued backdrop, one of the primary sources of texture and colour are plants, including a large piece of living wall art from neighbouring florist Greenstems, and an Urban Cultivator herb mini-fridge, which is tucked under a built-in desktop to the side of the kitchen. “I love it for the greens, but also as a visual element,” says Ireland. “It ultimately came down to wine fridge or microgreens—we went for microgreens.” A custom spruce coffee table and dining stools by North Shore artist Brent Comber (a previous Western Living Designers of the Year winner) round out the natural theme that runs through the main floor.
In the master bedroom, vintage bedside lamps from Scott Landon Antiques add subtle hints of warmth to the cool white palette. (Effie the rescue dog splits her time between snuggling up in the sheets and kicking back in her own Handsome Mountain dog bed.) Overhead hangs a replica of the HomeStories light fixture, a DIY copycat Tidey put together when nothing else seemed to satisfy.
When the couple kicked off their renovation, kid-friendly design wasn’t top of mind. But Ireland and Yada, who both grew up on the North Shore, welcomed their first-born, Roen, here in the city and suddenly found themselves appreciating their Mount Pleasant home for an entirely different set of reasons. “We go to Mama Mondays at the Juice Truck and we have a community centre within walking distance,” says Ireland.
Ireland got started on Roen’s room when she was seven months pregnant, turning to designer Karla Reyer for decor (and new mom advice). A crib and rocking chair from West Coast Kids are joined by a set of framed prints by Australian artist Alyson Pearson, souvenirs from a recent family trip to Melbourne; on the opposing wall, cactus wallpaper from Anewall pays homage to the ground floor’s botanical focus. But it’s the hand-knit sheep her mother made, tucked among a pile of pillows in Roen’s miniature teepee, that Erin counts as her favourite element of the room: “Elsewhere in our house, style was the first priority, but Roen’s room is definitely a lot cozier.”
Though it may not have been the original plan, Ireland and Yada have learned that they can raise a family without sacrificing their urban lifestyle. That being said, some smaller sacrifices may be on the way. “Our concrete table is currently wrapped in plastic,” laughs Ireland. “That piece was definitely a pre-baby decision.”