Less Is More

A custom-built home in a central neighbourhood is all Michelle Kohl and her family need.

Photography Curtis Trent

When Michelle Kohl was a child, she would sit at her kitchen table and sketch out plans for her ideal home whenever her family would move. “I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t take any of my advice,” she laughs. But that didn’t deter her – she continued to dream up house plans and eventually launched her own interior design studio, Michelle Kohl Interiors. And, in October 2016, she moved into an infill home in Cloverdale that had been custom-built – from the plumbing fixtures to the burnt-cedar exterior – based on her very own drawings.

“I’ve lived in a lot of different houses over the years and, each time I redesign it for how I would like it to be, dreaming that I could renovate it,” Kohl says. “I’ve always had a drawer full of house plans that I’ve been moving around for years and years. After living in so many houses I know how I like to live, how I like things to flow. I like things pretty simple and minimal.”

Kohl’s opportunity to use her plans came when her family of four moved from Calgary to Edmonton. Her husband found a lot in Cloverdale on which they could build a custom home, and they hired Ace Lange Homes to turn her drawings into reality. “When you’re building a house from scratch, you get everything you want within a budget,” Kohl says. “Our builder did an excellent job and allowed me to pick everything that went in and didn’t send me to specific suppliers, so I was able to shop around for everything. I was able to take control of the purchasing. By doing a lot of work in advance and spending time researching, I saved money.”

When it came time to furnish her family’s home, Kohl was inspired by two California homes. “Architectural Digest had this spread on [photographer] Kelly Klein’s house in Palm Beach,” Kohl recalls. “It’s a lot of warm wood and white and grey, very neutral. And then there was one on fashion designer Jenni Kayne’s Beverly Hills home that had the same sort of look with natural materials and concrete; it was a very minimal look. Both houses were similar and I loved them and wanted to incorporate those looks.”

Similarly, the colours of Kohl’s home are distinctly white and black, and a concrete fireplace wall anchors the main floor. Kohl and her father decorated a structural element using a concrete underlay that would normally be used on flooring. The wood accents come out in the kitchen, where custom-cut wood paneling fits over the cabinetry and laser-cut balsa wood designs sit on the interior sides of the windows for privacy. In the front entrance, a black burnt-fir wall (made and installed by her father) opens into a living room and office with black accents. “It was important to me to have black window frames, because I think it’s really beautiful and it really frames the view, and it’s unique,” Kohl says. “A lot of people are afraid to have the colour black in their room, but I think it really grounds it and it draws your eye to that area.”

In the kitchen, there are no upper cabinets in favour of having large windows to let in sunlight and look out onto the backyard. It preserves the minimalist look with bright white walls. In the master bedroom is intricate black and white wallpaper from Glasgow’s Timorous Beasties that adds some personality to the space without any clutter. In lieu of any dressers, Kohl opted for a discreet white shelving unit with lots of drawers and storage. Though the basement is finished, it’s also kept sparse, with PVC-free, vinyl-type flooring acting as a gym floor for her children to use. Kohl enjoys clean, functional space over piles of unnecessary stuff. “Keeping the colours and the decor simple and neutral work well for us, it’s very calming,” Kohl says. “It feels good all year round. I feel really good in this space.”

House: Builder – Ace Lange Homes; windows – Ply Gem; flooring – Diving Flooring

Living Room: Champlain safari chairs – Blue Gum Design; daybed and couch -Halstead Sofa and Mattress Makers; coffee table – Reside Home Furnishings; homemade art with vintage images – Etsy

Kitchen: Urchin light – Pottery Barn; cabinets – Ikea; wood coverings and floating shelves – Gem Cabinets; window coverings – Made by Sloan; bar stools – Article; table and chairs – Kijiji

Office: shelves – IKEA; desk – West Elm; light – CB2

Bedroom: wallpaper – Timorous Beasties; shelving – IKEA

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