Grandma’s Furniture and a Lot of Pink Paint Made This Designer’s 1958 Rental Feel Like Home

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When Laura Collins looks around her Calgary house, she’ll often think: What would Grandmother Audey say? The 100-year-old pine hutch in the dining room, the floral Laura Ashley sofa in the studio, the rolling cart stocked with fabric samples—so many of the items in her family’s home once belonged to her grandmother, and Collins can still picture where they lived in Audey’s place. “She had a more traditional approach than I did; that being said, her taste was timeless and she was very careful not to be trendy,” says Collins. 

family on sofa
Paint, Ecru and Savannah Clay by Benjamin Moore; Sconces, Amazon with Custom Shades; Vintage 1970s Coffee Table.

The designer behind For Porter is no stranger to giving old things new life: Her 1958 bungalow is exhibit A. The space is technically a rental (Collins and her husband signed the lease sight unseen when they decided to leave Toronto and move west, closer to her parents), but she quickly found ways to put her stamp on it—one with a bit of an English-inspired flair. “My impulse was to take all of the character to the next level,” she says.

When she finally did see the space in person, it exceeded her expectations: The primary bathroom has pink terrazzo floors, a fluted glass wall greets you in the entry, and the rooms are chopped up in a way that makes entertaining interesting and intimate. Not to mention, the home’s layout was much more kid-friendly than their previous three-level Victorian. “There’s not that far to fall,” Collins says jokingly. But really, she means, “It suits our busy lifestyle.” 

pink bathroom
pink bathroom
Hand Towels, Homesense; Paint, Rosedale and Soulmate by Benjamin Moore; Mirror, Zara Home.

When the designer learned that their landlord’s only two renovation conditions were to avoid purple or black paint, she began scouring fan decks. The aforementioned terrazzo tile sent her down a pink spiral. She began with Benjamin Moore’s Rosedale on the wall paneling, and painted everything above the molding a slightly lighter hue called Soulmate

“There were so many years of dull, and it’s amazing when you get to a place where you say, ‘Eff it, I’m just going to paint the house pink,’” she says.

pink family room with stone fireplace
Rug, Loloi; Striped Chair Fabric, Maxwell; Green Ottoman and Scalloped Tray, Homesense; Custom Large Ottoman, For Porter; Paper Lantern, Amazon; Paint, Amaryllis by Benjamin Moore; Art (right corner) by Fernando Botero.

Collins swathed the sunken den in Benjamin Moore’s Amaryllis, while she chose a hue dubbed Savannah Clay for the library bookcases, an addition made by her handy father-in-law. She eventually carried the same terracotta-tinged color into the adjacent sitting room after mistakenly painting the walls a bubblegum version that was “way too sweet. There’s a fine line between having a colorful home and having a funhouse,” says the designer. Still, the place feels fun. And mostly, that’s for her kids. “Maybe I’ll have an era in the future that is more muted, but I wanted it to be a reflection of this stage of their lives,” she says. 

dark wood kitchen cabinets
dark wood kitchen cabinets
hutch next to dining table
Custom Pendant Lamp, For Porter; Paint, Oval Room Blue by Farrow & Ball.

She also made coat drop-offs a little more fun by swathing the mudroom in Farrow & Ball’s Citron, a job she tackled herself between nap times with an extension pole and a lot of patience. Around every corner there are clever built-in nooks and crannies—Collins suspects the original homeowner was a millworker—like the shoe cubby that lines the wall leading to the basement. 

yellow mudroom
Paint, Citron by Farrow & Ball; Baskets, IKEA; Art, Slim Aarons’s Kaufmann House #1.
shoes in wall rack

With a background in fashion design and marketing, textiles are the designer’s first love, and it’s one she hopes to pass down to her son and daughter. “I have a whole collection of different pillows that I circulate through the spaces. And I’ll actually do it with [the kids],” she shares. When it comes to soft furnishings, she’s a deal hunter (the Parsons chairs in the den were a $150 score); that way, she can splurge on fresh upholstery. “Part of why I’m very much a lover of English aesthetics is that they will take a piece they’ve had for literally hundreds of years in their family and just continuously reupholster it,” says Collins. 

shelves in kids room
Shelving and Bedding, IKEA: Rug, Etsy; Paint (on wall), Light Blue by Benjamin Moore; Paint (trim), Oval Room by Farrow & Ball
bedroom with green bench
Custom Bench, For Porter; Bedding, Homesense and Zara Home; Curtains, Amazon; Nightstand, Homesense; Dresser, West Elm; Bed, Urban Barn

While a maximalist at heart, Collins has been forced to pare back her belongings in the kitchen. A good chunk of the family’s serveware and coffee-making tools are still packed up in boxes from the move, mostly because there isn’t room in the cabinets, but also because she’s realized they can get by without them. “This kitchen has taught me, if anything, to minimize,” she explains. At least, as far as spatulas go—there’s always room for one (or two) more cushions.

Pink library shelves
Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.