How a frumpy Thornhill home became an indoor garden

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Wendy Lau and Kwan Chan met in 2009, when they were both helping to run a summer camp. Four years later, they got married and moved into a house in Vaughan. Kwan’s mother lived with them for a while. When she died in 2017, they felt drained and in need of a fresh start, so they started looking for a new home in Thornhill, where they have lots of family and friends.

Their search led them to a four-bedroom house near Steeles and Bayview that looked like the set of The Golden Girls, complete with blush-pink carpeting and wood-panelled walls. If it hadn’t been for the sunroom, with its striking wood beams and wraparound views of the lush backyard, they might have moved on. But they saw potential.

They knocked down walls to brighten up the space and ripped out the basement sauna. Wendy and Kwan are big entertainers: Kwan is a Baptist pastor, so they often host their church’s youth group in their home, and dinner with family means upwards of 20 guests. “I didn’t want people to have to worry about where to put a coaster,” Wendy says. The kitchen counters are white quartz, which doesn’t stain as easily as marble. A profusion of plants (there are about 75 of them) add warmth and intimacy.

Wendy is a flight attendant, and the interior design is inspired by her travels. She usually spends her layovers rifling through vintage shops. She’s also a minor Instagram celebrity, with more than 32,000 followers, and she’s borrowed plenty of design ideas from her influencer friends.

Wendy has lost track of exactly how many plants are in the house. Her favourites are named after characters from Friends. The myrtle tree beside the sink is called Harmonica, after Monica Geller. She DIYed the copper ladder with some pipes from Home Depot, and three of Kwan’s favourite Bible scriptures are framed above their tan leather sofa, from Article:

 

Wendy bought a stencil online and used a water-based Sharpie to create this wall pattern:

 

Wendy’s basket wall includes pieces from Thailand, Niagara and Saskatoon:

 

The fireplace was originally red brick, but Wendy opted for a “German smear.” The technique is meant to mimic the whitewashed look of old cottages and castles in Germany:

 

For an affordable gallery wall in the powder room, Wendy cut images from a calendar and framed them:

 

The geometric wallpaper, from Etsy, draws the eye up to the high ceilings: