For Sebastien and Sheila Centner, entertaining is both work and play
“My parents always threw great parties, so I’ve always wanted to do the same,” says Sebastien Centner, whose life is dedicated to making sure everyone has a good time, whether through his restaurant and event company, Eatertainment, or at his home. The war-time bungalow in North York, which he purchased 12 years ago, is surrounded by tall cedars and oak trees.
Creating the backyard was a multi-year process. The first space tackled was the dining area. Working with Par-Bro Design Build, Mr. Centner’s vision was to have a rectangular design inspired by his parents’ home in France. The company convinced him that’s not what he needed. “The Par-Bro guys led me upstairs to my bedroom, and showed me from above why my plan wasn’t the best idea,” says Mr. Centner. He was advised that the backyard would benefit from a triangle shape creating multiple sight lines, which is what the plan became. The first phase of the renovation began in 2004.
Looking out through the main-floor french doors, the backyard’s dining area is an elegant focal point. With a combination of Brussels interlock bricks and flat grey stones from Owen Sound, Ont., the dining area and raised planting bed were set at an angle to the back of the house. A teak dining table with matching slat chairs comfortably accommodates 10; it was sourced from Rockwood Teak. Two cream cantilevered umbrellas installed this year are from Deck & Dock.
“I had the same umbrellas installed at my restaurant, and realized they would be better for the backyard,” says Mr. Centner, who regularly scours the city for furniture and dining accessories. This helps with the events he creates for clients such as BMW, Hugo Boss, Red Bull, Playboy and Manulife Financial. This summer’s tabletop looks like fine crystal, but is actually acrylic tableware, from Angus & Company, with black and white pillows from Ikea.
The perimeter of the backyard is green foliage, interspersed with white and orange blossoms, with a grassy area to one side. “One summer we were inspired by the orange of Hermes, while this year it’s more about classic black and white Chanel,” explains his wife, Sheila, the gardener in the family.
The next phase was the pool area, completed in 2005. The interlock brick and stone were continued around the oval pool and deck area, creating several lounging areas and accented with white impatiens in black resin containers.
The Centners were smitten with outdoor furniture by Dedon, a German company. Mr. Centner eventually decided to design his own outdoor furniture: his In the Round collection. Two prototypes grace the backyard: a 48-inch circular club chair that is perfect for reading and a seven-foot circular bed, a favourite nap area for guests. Both are upholstered in cream weather-resistant fabrics and dressed with cotton toss pillows. “I wanted a European feel to the backyard — relaxed, classic and comfortable,” says Mr. Centner.
Pillows and chair pads are stored in the garage, which has a roll-up door into the backyard, a convenience during construction and now for entertaining. A linen curtain across the garage opening creates a serving area, with a hidden fridge filled with plenty of wine, prosecco, beer and water as well as a freezer chock full of freezies.
The third area completed in 2006 was the bar, with well-stocked fridge, sink and icemaker. Last year saw the addition of a built-in stainless steel barbecue, with stone and wood prep area that includes another mini fridge for kid-friendly beverages and storage space for outdoor accessories.
The Centner family regularly entertains and hopes their family and friends know the door only opens inward at their house. “I’m happy when someone comes over and I can provide them with their favourite drink or food,” says Mr. Centner. “I love to entertain.”
The backyard’s renown has spread — friends have nicknamed it Spoke Club North– with the setting becoming a location for TV and film productions, including a pilot series featuring Mr. Centner and Eatertainment. Mr. Centner would still love to install a hot tub, but his wife says no. “It would remind me too much of the hot tub on The Bachelor!” she laughs.
Published in The National Post, August 9, 2008