LOVE FOR TORONTO’S FAMOUS LANDMARK INSPIRES DECORATIVE TRANSFORMATION
CASA LOMA, TORONTO - “I just want to help our castle.” With that simple declaration, Paula Farruggio, owner of SPF Design Inc. of Bolton, Ontario approached Casa Loma last fall with an extraordinary offer – to harness the talent of artists and craftsmen within the design industry, under the tutelage of SPF Design, to restore and upgrade select interior spaces in Casa Loma.
“The castle was a favourite childhood haunt of mine and I have brought my own children here on many occasions – Casa Loma visits are a well established family tradition. When I read about the exterior restoration work the City was undertaking, I felt there might be a way I could help Casa Loma with their interior restoration and decorative needs.”
The timing was fortuitous. Casa Loma had recently entered into an agreement with Lush Art & Entertainment to produce a film on the life of Sir Henry Pellatt which would be screened daily at the castle. The location of the screening was to be the Billiard/Smoking Rooms on the main floor and modest funds had been set aside to upgrade these spaces. SPF Design’s proposal opened up a much grander opportunity for these two rooms. Through donations and sponsorships, the Billiard Room and Smoking Room would be completely transformed to better reflect Edwardian style design and the decorative tastes of the original owners, the Pellatts.
When Sir Henry and Lady Mary were forced to vacate their castle home in 1924, large portions of the West Wing of the building were incomplete. The impact of WW1 on the construction industry, combined with Pellatt’s financial problems, had put a stop to Casa Loma’s luxurious vision. The Billiard and Smoking Rooms had been finished only with a coat of lime paint over plaster or concrete to make them habitable.
Between 1927 – 29, Casa Loma was converted to a luxury apartment hotel. During this period many unsympathetic changes were made to the interior of the building. Among them was the application of a roughly textured plaster to all unfinished walls and ceilings in the Front Vestibule, Great Hall, Mezzanine, Second Floor corridor and the Smoking and Billiard Rooms. These areas were then painted with a uniform coat of oil based paint.
No architectural or decorative plaster detailing, millwork or decorative finishes as found throughout the rest of the home were added to complete the rooms. The final result was not in keeping with the Edwardian vision of Casa Loma.
Working closely with Casa Loma’s Curator, Joan Crosbie, SPF Design set about restoring the grandeur to these two rooms. Inspiration for the design of the rooms was drawn from the pre-existing Pellatt-era rooms (including the Library, Dining Room, Serving Room and the Oak Room), a thorough knowledge of the Pellatts’ taste and a knowledge of Edwardian era design in general.
In both rooms, samples of the hotel-era plaster were removed to confirm the existence of lime paint underneath. The textured plaster was covered by numerous layers of new plaster to create an even and uniformly textured wall surface. It was then painted with lime paint.
In the Smoking Room, the original brick fireplace which had been hidden beneath hotel-era plaster was revealed and the brick restored. An original alcove to the south of the fireplace was uncovered, having been concealed for nearly 80 years by a faux radiator grille. The barrel vault, which defines the ceiling of the Smoking Room, now features a fresco depicting a pastoral landscape reflecting Sir Henry Pellatt’s interest in hunting. The recessed portions of the ceiling flanking the barrel vault were coffered. The room was completed with the installation of cornice moldings and baseboards.
Two recent private donations to Casa Loma have found a new home in the refinished Smoking Room. Gracing the mantle is a splendid mid-Victorian black slate clock embellished with green marble and gilt detailing. Once belonging to Sir Henry’s parents, it was given as a gift by Sir Henry to his favourite niece, Mary Pellatt, who passed away in Sechelt, BC in December 2005. She kindly specified that the clock be returned to Casa Loma upon her death. Illuminating the entire room is a magnificent early 20th century carriage lamp generously donated to the castle by Professor Conchita Tan Willmann, Phd.
The Billiard Room received a similar finish of plaster and lime paint, and frescos of the Pellatt and Pellatt/Dodgson coat of arms highlight the ceiling. New radiator grilles replaced inappropriate 1950's era grilles and a molded cornice and baseboards were introduced into the room for the first time.
The velvet and paisley drapery, inspired by late 19th and early 20th century designs, introduces an air of intimacy and civility that would have been most appropriate for rooms which were to be enjoyed by Sir Pellatt and his gentleman guests.
In addition to transforming the Billiard and Smoking Rooms it should also be noted that SPF Design Inc. has generously assisted Casa Loma with mechanical, accessibility, and decorative upgrades to the two main floor washrooms servicing both day time visitors and evening clientele.
“We are thrilled with what SPF Design Inc. has achieved in a very compressed time period,” said Virginia Cooper, Chief Executive Officer of Casa Loma. “Paula Farruggio’s commitment to authenticity, artistic detail and overall quality standards never wavered.”
Casa Loma and SPF Design Inc. hope to continue their relationship on a project-by- project basis to fully restore areas of the property requiring SPF’s specialized attention. “We hope to create an “apprenticeship” program working with community colleges, guilds and industry associations to provide learning opportunities for students to assist us in future work at Casa Loma,” said Ms. Farruggio. “And we will continue to actively solicit sponsorship from the industry to help achieve Casa Loma's objectives.
Pride of association with this wonderful landmark is an easy sell."
"The Kiwanis Club of Casa Loma is very grateful for SPF's sponsorship of this major undertaking and for the other product sponsors they have brought to the table," said Richard Wozenilek, Chair of the Casa Loma Board of Trustees.
Contact: Lou Seiler
Director of Marketing, Casa Loma .
(416) 923-1171 Ext. 212