Shauntelle & Dave's Controlled Kitsch - Part 1

Shauntelle & Dave's Controlled Kitsch - Part 1

Abby Cook
Aug 18, 2010

Name: Dave & Shauntelle LeBlanc
Location: Toronto — Ontario, Canada
Size of Home: 1,500 square feet — 3 bedrooms
Years lived in: 5

As any Torontonian on the hunt for great furniture will tell you, the East End's Leslieville has got the goods. And if mid-century is what you're craving, Ethel — 20th Century Living will hit the spot. On a recent trip to the store, I learned that new owner Shauntelle LeBlanc takes as much care with her home as she does with her shop, and I was lucky enough to be invited there for a tour.

Before taking the plunge and becoming a small business owner last year, Shauntelle worked as an interior designer. Her husband Dave is no design slouch himself, writing weekly architecture columns for Canada's national paper, The Globe and Mail. For years, the two independently cultivated their love of all things vintage modern, from art and collectables to furniture and beyond. When they finally met, it was a match made in mid-century heaven.

Five years ago they brought their love of the period to a 1960s split-level home that they then artfully filled with pieces from the era. Luckily the place was in mostly original condition — great floor plan and all. While the footprint may be small compared to today's suburban homes, the modernist architecture allows for flow and function rarely achieved in new builds.

Stepping into their home, I am met by a leg-rub — courtesy of Isaac the cat — and a Sinatra tune playing from the living room. From the entry hallway, steps lead half a level down to the lower level lounge and bar (a.k.a., "The Showstopper" — revealed in Part 2 of the House Tour), or half a level up to the open living room and dining room, complete with a wall of western-facing windows overlooking their backyard.

The dining room boasts some of Shauntelle's beautiful German pottery, and an original pendant light which required a little TLC after they discovered it in the crawlspace. A half-wall separates the dining room from the kitchen, Dave and Shauntelle's single sore spot. It hasn't yet received the renovation of their dreams, but it does function well enough for the two to prepare meals — retro-style meatloaf on the night I visited — and ironically play 50s housewife from the cutout window overlooking the front door. "Honey, what can I fix you to drink?"

Heading back down the half-level from the living room takes you past the entry hallway to the front of the house and its three bedrooms and bathroom. When Dave and Shauntelle had to overhaul their 80s-style bathroom, they hunted far and wide for the right tiles and fixtures, and accessorized with a collection of vintage razors.

The first bedroom is used as Dave's study, complete with a reproduction Eames lounge chair. As Shauntelle told me, it's not all about the designer label. The piece had a lovely patina and was well crafted. Another part of the vintage allure for these two is that it's all eco-friendly. "These pieces have lasted 50 years," she said. "They will last another 50 years."

Part 2 of Shauntelle and Dave's Controlled Kitsch House Tour will feature her office, their bedroom, and their lower level lounge and bar.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Controlled Kitsch. We like to think of it as a place where Charles Eames could meet John Waters for a Mai Tai.

Inspiration: Shag art, the art of Vera Neumann and Mary Blair, The Friendly Atom, midcentury Canadian artwork and furniture, Polynesian Pop, swingin' jet-set life, Palm Springs everything, Toronto City Hall.

Favorite Element: How the house unfolds spatially; how it borrows space (i.e. the 'air' over the double-height foyer visually extends the living room); little touches like the pocket doors and the skinny window in the living room.

Biggest Challenge: The huge front and back yards: 21st century schedules with routine 9pm dinners don't permit the kind of intense maintenance these require. Sometimes it's all we can do to keep it all at bay.

What Friends Say: "It feels like a movie set." "Is it always cocktail hour in here?" Architect friends say: "Why can't they build small houses like this today??!"

Biggest Embarrassment: Early 80s-era kitchen with almond melamine cabinets and butcher-block laminate countertops. Sometimes, we're embarrassed by all the weeds in the backyard.

Proudest DIY: The Lower Level Lounge. This room already had a flagcrete fireplace and a countertop along one wall with a bar-fridge built into it, so it was just crying out to be a swellegant basement lounge. We added a sink with a groovy tile surround, a bar that was rescued from a demolished midcentury home, the orange vinyl sofa, and a turntable to play our 4,000 pieces of vinyl, which are housed in a converted closet. A garage sale down the block produced the Finnish orange ball fixture, which matches the original black one in our dining room.

Biggest Indulgence: Gutting the Dynasty-era brass-tacular bathroom for a luxe and period-specific one. Deadstock Bisazza glass tile, new Boomerang Formica and a vintage pink sink make for groovy daily ablutions.

Best Advice: Dave: "It's okay to make yourself happy with little projects like buying new light switches if the big reno projects are getting you down."
Shauntelle: "Don't be in a rush to furnish your place from top-to-bottom; wait until you find the right pieces, it's all about the thrill of the hunt."

Dream Sources: A fire engine red, round-cornered fridge from Elmira Stoveworks; a new Kerf kitchen, a new laundry pair in seafoam green…the services of a really talented landscape architect for free…Palm Springs on garbage night…


    • Sherwin Williams Suburban Modern paint palette seen in dining room and living room
    • Tropicana Cabana from Benjamin Moore (the most perfect turquoise paint colour EVER), seen in lower level lounge and hallway


    Eurolight for rewiring our four vintage sputnik light fixtures
    • Queen West Antiques Centre for vintage Womb chair and Saarinen coffee table base
    Ethel — 20th Century Living for bar in basement (bought before I took over the store last year from the original owners)
    ZigZag for desk in Dave's office
    G.U.F.F. (Good Used Furniture Finds) for Spanner sideboard in dining room
    Frontier Sales for front hall table
    • Craigslist for both sofas
    • Kijiji for small desk in Shauntelle's office
    Princess Perfect upholstery for cushions on side chairs in living room, webbing on dining chairs
    • Vienna Upholstery for reupholstery of blue sofa in living room and green Canadian Coconut chair in living room (otherwise known as the A.J. Donahue chair)
    Aristocrat lighting for custom lampshades on teak floorlamps in living room
    Olympia Tile for white mosaic tiles on the backbar sink surround to match the vintage tile on the bar
    Roman Bath Centre for bathtub and lo-flow Toto toilet
    M Modern Gallery for Shag art, Derek Yaniger art, Tim Biskup art, Chris Reccardi art
    Reprodepot fabric for side chair fabric and throw pillow fabric
    IKEA for bookshelves in both offices (they do bookshelves best!)
    • Value Village, estate sales & garage sales for pretty much everything else!

Don't miss more of Dave & Shauntelle's home in Shauntelle & Dave's Controlled Kitsch - Part 2.

Thanks, Dave & Shauntelle!

Images: Abby Cook

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