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Home is where the art is 

Blythe Church, Spencer Cantley and daughter Wren have carved out a mid-Century modern artists’ haven in the middle of Woodlawn.

click to enlarge Blythe Church, Spencer Cantley and daughter Wren sit pretty outside their home. - SCOTT BLACKBURN
  • Blythe Church, Spencer Cantley and daughter Wren sit pretty outside their home.
  • Scott Blackburn

Art store employee, crafter and entrepreneur Blythe Church and videographer, media specialist and musician Spencer Cantley have surrounded their adorable daughter Wren in colourful '50s and '60s kitsch. They describe their decor style as "mid-century modern blended with a dash of toy store," citing Mad Men, vintage decorating magazines and flea market finds as inspiration. The couple moved from their longtime neighbourhood in Halifax's north end, became first-time homeowners of an updated 1960s home in Woodlawn and quickly went to work undoing all the modern updates in order "to restore the house to its original state," says Church. Not easy with a new baby, but the couple has made a retro haven in eastern Dartmouth.

"The previous owners had modernized it, they replaced all of the closet doors with modern white doors, the door knobs were replaced throughout with shiny gold knobs, all of the woodwork was painted white," says Church. "While everything looked nice, it wasn't in keeping with our tastes."

The biggest task was a full refinish of the hardwood floors. Church and Cantley moved their belongings to the basement before sanding and staining like the dickens over Halloween weekend. Then they transformed their '80s-looking kitchen into a 1950s dream. "We didn't want it to end up looking too kitsch, so we chose a burgundy and pale blue colour palette as opposed to the stereotypical turquoise and red. New cabinets aren't in our budget right now so we had to make do by meticulously hand-painting all of the handles," Church says.

They removed the faux marble linoleum and replaced it with checkerboard lino tiles. The hoosier cabinet was thrifted. "We painted it, added a red line to each of the handles and lined it in oilcloth," says Church. "It's definitely the focal point of the room now."

The couple brightened Wren's room with fresh paint and added a shelf running along the ceiling to show off Church's collection of vintage toys and books. Vintage prints, curtains and quilts were hung on the walls.

"For the first time we've been able to display all of our collections throughout the house without it looking too crazy," Church says. "People used to come to visit us and say that it looked like we lived in a toy store. I can't believe that we've been able to do so much in the two years we've lived here."

Church---see her toys and felted vintage appliances at sewnbyblythe.com---is starting a new business creating baby blankets, toys and clothing from recycled materials, and has made a studio space in the basement. With a workspace containing stacks of sorbet-tinted thrifted wool blankets and a sewing machine, she calls it the "perfect studio space, with large windows overlooking the garden and lots of storage space."

The unfinished side of the basement has not been neglected---Church has set up her weaving loom and a dye kitchen with a stove and kitchen counter to dye wool.

Using their love of thrift and DIY, in a move that fits their budget and lifestyle, the couple has created a colourful and inspiring artists' paradise in Woodlawn.

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