Capturing the Glow of Domestic Life

Man on top of mountain

Every room is a canvas in Grace Afonso’s home. Though she’s had six houses, this one in the Strathcona neighbourhood appears to be the best fit yet.

The country drive, the dinner table, baking, the tea set waiting for guests; my paintings are about people and families.”

Afonso moved to the Strathcona neighbourhood less than a year ago. Downsizing from a suburban Oakville home, she gave away or repurposed furniture to fit into 1,200 square feet.

First the narrow house was painted front to back, a receptive white called Wevet by Farrow & Ball. The wood floors in the dining room and living room got a unifying coat of paint called Cornforth White, also by Farrow & Ball. Though the brand is notably pricey, she likes the paint for its chalky finish on walls, and finds its superior coverage means using less paint.

Those calming neutral colours become the backdrop or canvas for her carefully considered furniture and painterly vignettes on top of display cases, tables and a mantel in the dining room.

The dining room is the first room you enter off the front hall, where a set of Ikea glass fronted cases is used to store books and art objects, baskets and boxes. The cases face a mantel on the opposite wall, painted white, that holds a parade of white candles. The still life simplicity of the arrangement is reminiscent of a Morandi painting.

The big, wooden dining room table is an art hub. On one side is what Afonso describes as her Matisse couch, covered in a colourful textile.

With storage space at a premium, Afonso puts two big wooden cabinets to work for books and collections in the living room and uses the landing at the bottom of the stairs to store her paintings.

The kitchen, like most of the house, had recently been renovated. But once again, the Farrow & Ball bucket came out to change the cabinets to a medium grey called Worsted. Though a table for two handles quick meals, it is often moved to the side to make way for Afonso’s easel.

Because she paints from observation, the winter months are best for still life painting from vignettes Afonso sets up in the house.

In warmer weather, she moves outside to capture the Ontario countryside with a sensitive and sometimes stripped down vision of rural life.

Though she works part time as a registered nurse at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, she strives to paint four days a week. Her Instagram account showcases her oil paintings of domestic scenes and has led to representation at Mad & Noisy Gallery in Creemore, Butter Gallery in Collingwood and the in2artgallery in Oakville.

One of Afonso’s early paintings, called “Peppercorn Squash,” makes an appearance in her light-filled bedroom. The space is generous, but seems even more spacious with her spare and curated decorating style, honed during the six years she worked staging houses for sale in Oakville. The bedroom pieces are a mix of HomeSense, Pottery Barn and Ikea. To give Ikea pieces a fresh look, like the sofa in her bedroom, Afonso gets new slipcovers made by Bemz. The online company  stocks a wide array of fabrics and legs for a big selection of Ikea furniture.

The other bedroom on the second floor has just enough room for a single bed from Restoration Hardware, a desk that has been painted and repainted over many years, and a comfy chair and stool. One of her paintings, Spring Fields, adds to the artist’s garret vibe.

While there are more finishing touches to do on the house, and a painting studio to be completed in the backyard, Afonso is thrilled to be settled in a neighbourhood she loves. It’s close to Victoria Park, where she used to play tennis, and not that far from Sir John A. Macdonald high school, where she learned to love art.

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