On most mornings, Hilary Book has breakfast in her sunny kitchen, looking out at her backyard. In the warmer months, she spends countless hours tending to the garden: planting, dividing, watering. The end result is a lovely collection of greenery that includes ferns, hostas, echinacea and beebalm. “I like the creative aspect of it,” says the founder of the litigation boutique Book Law. “When I’m weeding or watering or trying to figure out what to plant, I’m not thinking about work or any of the other things that normally crowd my brain.”
One summer during her undergrad, Hilary Book worked at a garden centre. That job ignited a passion for the art of gardening. Today, the litigator’s own well-tended garden is the perfect backdrop for gatherings with close friends.
About a decade ago, Book decided to move out of her loft in Kensington Market. “I still wanted to be in the city, in a walkable neighbourhood,” she says. But she hoped to find a place with more green space and “a little less concrete.”
Eventually, she discovered her current home: a 1,200-square-foot Victorian row house near Dundas and Dovercourt. Built in the 1880s, the place has plenty of character. Immediately, she was struck by the high ceilings, the decorative mouldings and the lush plant life in the backyard (which includes a towering silver maple). It was perfect.
Owning an almost-140-year-old structure, however, can be a challenge. Before Book could procure home insurance, she had to replace the 1960s-era galvanized steel plumbing system. And although she adores the traditional look and feel of the home, she’s had to make a few modest upgrades. “I’ve painted, redone the bathroom, put in a new patio and deck, and replaced the roof,” she says. “The sort of projects that will keep the house functional and looking good.”
Because Book’s office is located at Adelaide and University, she has come to see her leafy street — a short walk from the fashionable restaurants, bars and boutiques of Dundas West — as a sanctuary from the steel and concrete of downtown. “Mostly,” she says, “my home is a place where I can recharge, reflect and relax away from work.”
Today, Book still loves what initially drew her to the house: the vibrant neighbourhood, the way the trees diffuse the afternoon light, the plaster details and the garden. “I moved a fair amount as a kid and through university, and I never understood how people could become emotionally attached to real estate,” she says. “But I get it now. I’ve lived a lot of life while in this house. And I’ve made a lot of memories.”
Plaster medallions and other original 19th-century details captured Book’s heart when she first toured the home. “I grew up in new-ish houses in the suburbs,” she says, “so there’s something special to me about a house with some history.”
Pre-pandemic, Book didn’t like to work from home. Over the past few years, however, she’s gotten used to it: she now works out of her home office at least twice a week. “There is something nice about not having to get up early to be in the office by a certain time,” she says. “If I have an 8 a.m. call, chances are I’m doing it in my pyjamas.”
“I don’t like cooking on a regular basis, so my guests are subject to my experimentation when I entertain,” says Book. Her favourite dinner dishes include Thai flank steak with an herb salad and linguine with olives and capers. When it comes to dessert, she says, “I make a pretty good banana cake.”
Book’s piano, an instrument she took up in early childhood, has a place of honour in the dining room. “I like playing the piano to unwind,” she says. “I find it really comforting and relaxing.”
Book feels most at home when she’s surrounded by books, and her home offers this comfort at every turn. “I have a bit of everything: literary non-fiction, biography, art books, poetry, history,” she says. “But mostly, I own a lot of novels and murder mysteries.”
Book’s two-year-old Shih Tzu, Leora, is an unusually energetic lap dog. “Although she’s a lot of work, she brings a lot of joy to my life,” says Book. “We snuggle together in the mornings. She’s excited to see me every time I come home.”
Among Book’s prized possessions are the antique dishes she inherited from a great-aunt. “She never had her own children,” says Book. “When I was younger, I used to have sleepovers and play cards at her house. She always made me feel special, and these dishes are a happy memory of her.”