Elaine Gaito’s Toronto home is the type of house you would have begged your parents to let you visit for a sleepover. With records replaying nonstop and a provocative art collection, Gaito and her partner, Mike Nelson (otherwise known as Gaito’s “handsome handyman” on Instagram), are the definition of cool parents.
“I really like for our home to be eclectic. I want it to provoke conversation,” Gaito tells Domino.
Having spent the better part of the past 15 years working for galleries and art organizations across the city, Gaito’s eclectic collection is an ever-evolving reflection of Toronto’s art scene. Bold portraits by local artists and contemporary pieces by close friends line every wall in the couple’s downtown rental, which the pair shares with Nelson’s two children, Anna and Rex.
“The heart of our house is the dining room, or ‘listening room.’ Mike has worked in the music business for 25-plus years and has an incredible collection of LPs, so we’re always having friends over for dinner. I’m also half Italian, so I’m genetically programmed to want to feed people,” she laughs.
No matter the occasion or reason, guests will inevitably end up in the dining room; sifting through the duo’s impeccably alphabetized vinyl collection as a portrait of Joni Mitchell watches in approval. Quirky ceramic figurines and textiles sourced from travels to Oaxaca can also be found peppered about.
“Our home features a lot of artwork by noted Toronto-based artists and friends—artists I’ve worked with and people I’m very proud to call friends. I feel like a lot of our artwork is reflective of our relationships,” she shares.
While Gaito certainly doesn’t adhere to any particular set of guidelines when it comes to decorating, one rule is nonnegotiable: “Fill your home with things that you love,” she suggests. “It might not necessarily make sense when you first see it or buy it, but eventually, you’ll create an internal sense of order in your home if you fill it with things that you truly love.”
Ahead, the Toronto native and avid collector talks all things art, music, and decorating—including her secrets for a well-styled vignette and every album she’s digging right now.
What’s the story behind your favorite piece of art?
There’s a piece over our dining room table that’s by a Canadian art collective that has since disbanded called the Royal Art Lodge. The piece is called “Poster Making” and it’s a picture of a girl with dark hair drawing out the words “fuck you” on a poster. A lot of the art work in our home is kind of sassy, or, as my step pups call it, “naughty.”
We’ve noticed that you have a lot of portraits. Is this something that’s developed organically?
I’ve definitely always gravitated toward portraits and depictions of the human form—particularly portraits of strong women that I really admire. I love that piece I have featuring Joni Mitchell by Mark Huntley and even the vintage poster I have of Raquel Welch in our bedroom. I saw it in a vintage shop and I was just drawn to it. I love the enigmatic expression on her face. She’s so gorgeous and strong, emerging like Aphrodite from the water.
What’s the secret to styling a good vignette?
Mix up your materials. Combine more earthy materials like clay and pottery and plant life. I also find that a balance of negative and positive space is always good when you’re building a vignette. Stick to odd numbers: the power of three. I find that it creates a more pleasing arrangement if you have an odd number of elements. And don’t be afraid to inject your vignette with personality. I love vintage pottery and very strange vintage finds. One of my favorite finds is this clay, paint-splattered figure of a reclining woman. We call her Swamp Lady. When I first saw her, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I must have you! I must bring you home!”
Obviously, music is a big part of your life together. What albums are you loving now?
I finally found a copy of All Things Must Pass by George Harrison. Previously, I was only finding copies of it for $150 or $200, but I finally found one for $40 at a vintage shop. I’m really enjoying that. The album that we always listen to that we’re obsessed with is Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney’s album Ram from 1971. That’s such a good album. We have also been loving Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets.
Want to steal her curated look for yourself? Here are five Toronto artists Gaito’s loving right now:
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