Imagine if you could return home after a long day of work to your very own Wonderland.
For Kobo’s Executive and Legal Assistant, Bridget van Voorden, literary classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll are more than just books, they are the ultimate inspiration for her bookish home décor.
She fell in love with the stories as a child, and trinkets collected through the years soon became conversation-pieces that she couldn’t resist placing throughout her home.
When I ask Bridget why and how she first fell in love with Alice, you can feel the story of her own life piecing together, “It was in this house as a little girl listening to an LP of the story, likely the Disney version, with giant headphones,” she says. “For me, Alice is a metaphor for growing up. Alice is trying to find herself. She is not a princess. She is an independent firecracker who goes on adventures. There is no prince, she doesn’t need rescuing.” From Bridget’s commanding presence, part-Alice, part Queen of Hearts, you can imagine that maybe her grandmother saw a bit of Alice in her when they drank tea together, mad tea party-style,
“Collecting memorabilia started as a teenager, and it took on a life of its own,”recalls Bridget. “Friends have given me gifts over the years. It’s at the point now where someone sees something remotely Alice-y and thinks of me. And I couldn’t be happier. Even my mom carried a Queen of Hearts card from my wedding centerpiece as a reminder of me.”
Stepping into the 1918 Toronto East carpenter house that she and her husband, Cory, bought from her parents in 2015, is like going down a rabbit hole into a dimension filled with Alice-themed art and collector’s items.
From the front door itself hangs a framed picture of a keyhole that hints at the otherworldly wonders inside. The first piece of Alice art that catches your eye once you’ve entered is a yard-sale painting that Cory, who works in animation, used as a background on which to paint his own Alice scene. The effect is both surreal and quirky.
“While we were dating, I wanted to create something that combined Bridget’s love of Alice with my love of Kaiju [a Japanese film genre featuring giant monsters],” says Cory. “With that ‘Alice in Kaijuland’ was born. I even used a picture of Bridget as a little girl for reference.”
While there is much evidence of the sweet side of Alice throughout the house -- you can often catch Bridget reading on her grandmother’s turquoise chair upstairs while sipping on tea procured from one of her Alice tins -- her cat Dinah (named after Alice’s) lounges in the living room under In the Death of Happily Ever After, a framed photograph by artist Alice Zilberberg, which depicts a tormented version of Alice.
“Alice certainly has its dark-side” Bridget says, “Which falls precisely in line with my deep affection for genre films. Did my love of the creepier, twisted side of things come from my love of Wonderland? I’d like to think so. There are outright moments of violence in the story: the Queen of Hearts running about exclaiming “Off with her head!”; the Walrus and the Carpenter trick young oysters to trust them, and then eat them; there’s the Jabberwocky and Humpty Dumpty’s death; the Duchess’ violent handling of a baby. But there’s just as much beauty as there is darkness.”
It’s from the living room that you get the greatest glimpse of the bookcase that houses everything from Wonderland-themed cookbooks, to plush characters (Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat) to an extensive foreign language collection of the book itself. One of the most eye-catching items is a large Spanish version of the book, Alicia, with illustrations by Rébecca Dantremer. Its beauty is rivaled only by a surrealist print of Salvador Dali’s Down The Rabbit Hole showcased near the entryway. The kitchen is a topsy-turvy swirl of Alice-themed dishtowels, teapots, coasters and even a three-tiered pastry tray, all of which give you the sense that if you nibble on something in there you would shrink or double in size. Not to be forgotten, the adjoining powder room even has a melting clock.
If you follow the direction of the framed rabbit at the foot of their staircase leading up to the bedroom, you’re in for one last treat. Although Alice can be seen as a symbol for independence, she was also a huge part of the theme of Bridget and Cory’s 2014 wedding.
True to form, on the bedroom dresser you can spot a couple of vintage teacups stacked on top of each other with flowers and playing cards that they used as their wedding pieces. Even the couple’s wedding cake toppers are Funko Pop figurines of Alice and RoboCop (Cory’s favourite) an unlikely pair that nonetheless look great together. It is reminiscent of the pairing of both high and low art throughout the house, blending together to create something altogether charming.
Of their home decor, Cory admits that “As someone who works in animation and comes from a background in illustration, the various and strange character designs in Alice appeal to me.”
Although the giant clock downstairs above the kitchen entryway may indicate that it’s time to go, you get the sense that both the house and its inhabitants have many adventures left in store for them. I, for one, can’t wait for my next visit to Wonderland.