In 2008, Leila Rafi bought a one-bedroom condo in Yorkville. Right away, the second-year associate on Bay Street fell in love with the neighbourhood’s fashion boutiques, lively bars and high-end restaurants. For more than a decade, she had no inclination to move. Then the pandemic hit—and suddenly, the place felt a bit cramped. “When COVID happened, I realized how small it was,” says Rafi, now a partner at McMillan LLP. Ultimately, she decided to find a new home.
Amid the frenzied housing market, Rafi went looking for a larger unit with a nice outdoor space. Although she came across a loft in Rosedale that was perfect, the neighbourhood was a bit too residential for her taste. And it didn’t have an elevator, which would’ve made it uncomfortable for her parents to visit. “I’m really close to my parents,” she says. “I didn’t want them to have to go up and down 80 steps.”
Rafi is a long-time resident of Yorkville. You’ll often find the Bay Street partner browsing the latest fashions at boutiques like TNT and George C. or having post-work drinks at Alobar or Trattoria Nervosa. Like many of her neighbours, she prefers to go out on weeknights. “I love Mondays to Thursdays,” she says. “It’s all locals.”
In January 2022, Rafi toured a spacious two-bedroom condo on the fourth floor of Yorkville Lane, the bustling residential and retail complex in the neighbourhood she’d come to adore. “I loved the space,” she recalls. “It felt big and airy.” The building had an elevator, ideal for her parents. And, perhaps best of all, the unit came with a large terrace. Soon after making an offer, the place was hers. Rafi toasted the deal with friends at Blu Ristorante on Avenue Road, a favourite local haunt.
Over the next few months, Rafi embarked on a large-scale renovation of the condo. She replaced the dark floors with pale engineered hardwood, overhauled the kitchen, installed white motorized shades and swapped out the original interior doors for modern ones. Then she set about making the space her own, in accordance with an aesthetic philosophy that she describes as “elegant with a bling twist.” To cultivate an aura of elegance, she filled the unit with modern furniture and a carefully curated selection of contemporary art. For the bling twist, she hired a painter to add black- and gold-leaf accents to the walls, doors and other surfaces.
Once the renovation was complete, she hosted no fewer than three housewarming parties. Rafi’s friends immediately saw her unique character in every aspect of the home: the location, the interior design, the colour palette. “I love fancy things and bright colours,” she admits. “My home is the perfect illustration of my personality.”
Lounge in style
“If I’m home and no one’s over, I will usually be reading in the living room in my fancy Herman Miller chair,” says Rafi. This Eames lounge chair is a mid-century design classic.
Rafi’s gold-plated zebra dining set is one of many animal-print accents throughout the home. “I bought the entire set from the former owner of my old place,” she says.
The great outdoors
The terrace is accessible through the living room of Rafi’s condo. The outdoor space is an ideal spot to entertain friends.
La vie en rose
Rafi outfitted the powder room with rose-print wallpaper that she found on Etsy. “I’ve always loved red,” she says. “But I didn’t want the colour in the main part of the home, so this was the perfect compromise.”
By the book
Despite growing up in a Persian household and loving Persian food, Rafi didn’t learn how to cook dishes like Tahchin Morgh, a traditional rice-and-chicken pie, until she was stuck at home during the pandemic. “I worked through two Persian cookbooks that had been given to me years before,” she says. “Now, I have people over and I cook them Persian food.”
A toast to the host
After hosting three well-attended housewarming parties, Rafi was left with several cases of leftover champagne. “They were great parties,” she says.
After losing a friend to cancer in 2015, Rafi became an avid fundraiser, having now raised about $120,000 to combat the disease. “I do the Princess Margaret Walk to Conquer Cancer every year,” she says. This piece, hanging in her bedroom, originally appeared in a book created by a local artist to raise money for cancer research.
Rafi named her Scottish Straight cat Herman, but she lovingly refers to him as Hermie, after a common mispronunciation of Hermès, one of her favourite Yorkville shops. “I find it hilarious how his face is full of expression,” she says. “He loves watching what’s happening outside the window in the dining room like a hawk and sleeping next to me with his own mini pillow at night.” Hanging above Rafi is a Chanel-themed artwork by Toronto artist Briony Douglas. “I love the stories that I’ve read about Coco Chanel. She was fiercely independent, unique and not afraid to be different. I identify with that.”