Toronto-based textile designer Virginia Johnson's 12-year career has seen her craft great success from a distinctive style - playful prints that lend well to the breezy fashions and accessories on which they appear. Recently, she augmented her limited line of furnishings for the home with a new garden collection including hand-painted ceramic stools as well as pots and vases sporting some of her signature patterning in a rustic antique finish. "It really excites me to move beyond the world of clothes," Johnson says of her latest venture. "It just feels like a natural extension to move into lifestyle." Having cut her teeth as an accessory designer for Helmut Lang and an illustrator for Kate Spade, Johnson cites the "level of excellence" she witnessed while working for both companies as a major influence on her own business, from her made-in-Canada ethos to her idea of brand evolution. Johnson's recent expansion into e-commerce is a reflection of the latter: She shuttered her store on Toronto's Ossington Avenue, out of which she sold her wares, to move to a space better suited to the next phase of her career: a multidisciplinary studio serving her growing repertoire. -O.P.P.
Designer Virginia Johnson's idea of heaven is a little cottage in Venice Beach, where she and her family have stayed. " I love California, the landscape and the air." says Johnson from her Toronto boutique. "I sketched a lot of flowers and cacti and, while at the L.A. Zoo, flamingos." Johnson attributes her love of the outdoors to summers spent by the pool at her grandmother's house in Oakville, Ontario.
BY PETER SALTSMAN
Virginia Johnson and Louis Trochatos have very different taste: she’s a textiles designer with a bright, busy aesthetic; he’s a tech entrepreneur who prefers clean lines and a neutral palette. But they both love art—the pair met in a painting class in the mid-aughts, and they’ve spent the past decade supporting each other’s creative pursuits, from ambitious oil works to Lego-building marathons with their son and daughter (ages five and three, respectively). Their house, a remodelled 1920s red-brick near Dundas and Ossington, is their biggest joint project. They bought the place seven years ago and tore everything out: walls, floors, all but the exterior brick (and some of that, too, so they could reposition the windows). Then, with help from Louis’s sister Litsa Trochatos, they tailored the space to suit both of their sensibilities. Louis got the big white box he wanted, devoid of dividing walls or frou-frou moldings, and Virginia got her punches of colour and texture—every room is bursting with throw cushions, flowery fabrics and quirky thrift store finds. The result is an elegant home that’s relaxed enough for family movie nights, poker tournaments (Louis has a casino-calibre table in the basement) and board game sessions on the living room floor. And the art projects never stop: the third storey, a light-filled studio where the couple often works from home, is packed with enough easels, paints, glitter and glue to keep the whole family feeling inspired.