Afiya Francisco Toronto, Ontario Kitchen – Open Concept

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It doesn’t matter how pretty a space is if it doesn’t function well for a family. Before style expert Afiya Francisco and her husband, Aaron Chown, set out to renovate their 245-square-foot Toronto kitchen, they had hoped that their new home would be able to welcome and entertain a large extended family and group of friends. 

That’s now entirely possible, thanks to the best decision the couple made during their renovation: the decision to remove a load-bearing wall that divided the home’s narrow hallway and the kitchen. That original wall not only reduced the usable footprint of the kitchen area, but it also closed off and isolated the space, Afiya explains.

“The original kitchen was sweet but the wall [that we removed] made it feel very much separated and compartmentalized from the rest of the house,” she says. “We didn’t want to be separated from everyone while we entertained.” By removing the wall, it “really opened up the whole space and made the [main] floor feel much brighter and airier,” she says. Plus, “the floor change between the space drove me nuts,” so the couple was able to go with one flooring surface for the entire space once the wall was removed. 

Opening up the space also allowed for the addition of a roomy, custom-built kitchen island. The center island now gives Afiya the space to set everything out when she’s cooking (necessary because “I’m one of those people that it’s like a hurricane … so you have the things that you need”), and it also serves as a gathering place for an essential family tradition: snack time!

Even more than dinner, sharing snacks with their 12- and 9-year-old sons is “like our kind of check in with each other,” says Afiya, who works as a television and fashion personality and runs her own blog, The Style House. “One thing that I love — and this is a new routine for us — is that we have taken to doing an after-school snack. Aaron and I try to not have anything booked at that time,” she says. The family then gathers around the island for snacks and a chance to catch up and talk. “It’s become a really cool thing for us.”

It was a smooth process to have the wall removed, create a temporary wall, and have a support beam added, says Afiya, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t moments of pause. Although they didn’t live in the home during the renovation, “there were times you’d walk in, and you’d get that feeling like ‘there’s no going back now.’ There’s that moment of cold-blooded fear when a wall comes down,” she says.

But that one change made all the difference. “One hundred percent I would take down that wall again,” she says. It might be cliché to talk about a kitchen as a gathering space, Afiya says, but that was exactly what they wanted. It was a siloed room before, she says, but removing the wall and adding the island “just makes the kitchen feel more a part of the house.”

See Afiya’s Full Reno Diary

Dana McMahan


Freelance writer Dana McMahan is a chronic adventurer, serial learner, and whiskey enthusiast based in Louisville, Kentucky.

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