Personalized Interiors

By: Maria Langstaff and Joelle Berlet
Photos by Tiffany Trinidad

South African-born Paula John, 25, is a Ryerson University graduate with a BA in Photography and a Masters in Documentary Media. These influences can be seen in the many pieces of artwork displayed throughout her Queen and Bathurst apartment. Photo collages and film reels grace her walls, and a mannequin proudly wears a dress made entirely of filmstrips, which she spent two weeks sewing together. It was a daunting task made no less easy by her two cats, Ziggy (the overweight teenager) and Jenny (the weight-watching senior), who decided they quite enjoyed battling over any unguarded strips of film.

John has been living in her apartment for a year and a half and chose it specifically for the lighting. No dark, dingy basement dwelling would do. Natural lighting, and lots of it, was a must.

One of the most sentimental pieces of art in John’s apartment is a wooden puzzle in the shape of South Africa, where her family is originally from. The puzzle is an exact replica of one that was a fixture in her childhood home growing up. When John saw it while on a trip, she snatched it up.

She has been building her portfolio at and, with several current works in progress, she dreams of opening up her own studio in the near future. 


Emma Thompson, 21, a third-year Fashion Communication student at Ryerson University, describes the design of her bedroom at Church and Wellesley as a “well-planned collage,” stemming from creativity that arrives at unexpected moments.

Drawing her inspiration from numerous, sometimes obscure sources, she says that, “It’s like a merger of two or more things I’ve come across, and somehow it just works – or you figure out how to make it work.”

She then asks, “Am I the only one who experiences that sudden mind explosion, where a whole bunch of things collide in my mind’s eye and that’s the only thing you can think of – and it has to be done, or at least sketched down for later?”

To build on the look-and-feel of her room, Thompson picks up pieces here and there to add into the mix. Many of her design ideas stem from an unlikely influence – her grandmother, from whom she has acquired everything from a treadle sewing machine to a 1920s cloche hat. Besides raiding Grandma’s antique shed to nurture her own collection, Thompson takes on more do-it-yourself projects than her hectic schedule allows.

“I enjoy that I can say I’ve made a lot of the things in this room when people ask, ‘Oh that’s neat; where’d you get it?’ I often forget how busy my schedule already is before I dive into my next project, so sometimes they sit on pause for a while.

“I would say that in my experience, you like something more that you’ve created than anything you could buy.”

“The antique dresser is from my grandma. An addition to her house was actually built around it. When my mother and grandma went to move it out of the room, they had to take off part of the door casement just to get the dresser out. You can tell it’s old because there are hardly any nails used in it; they would’ve used different knotches to make it all fit together.”

 “I bought the print at the Royal [Agricultural] Winter Fair. The thing about Audrey [Hepburn] is I think she was obviously quite the fashion icon, but there’s something about her character I’m attracted to – something that movie stars this day lack. She was a very feminine, respectable figure. She wasn’t so much of a sex symbol, just a very sharp lady.”

 “This [jewelry board] was a necessity. I’ve made many smaller versions, so to accommodate my large collection of jewelry, I just made it [extra] big. I like old stuff so I ‘podged’ old, old, old Life Magazine ads that I thought were funny.”


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