The entrance of the road to Natasha Koifman’s elegant midtown abode blends into the greenery: Ubers and delivery vehicles are frequently thwarted by the address.
Just three houses are to be found down this secret street.
Tucked in behind epic shrubbery you will find His and Hers black Porsche convertibles snuggled up to Koifman’s oversized front door. Indeed, the public relations honcho, who is always dressed all in black, from her kohl-rimmed eyes on down, is aware that when she opens said door the scale exaggerates her petite stature.
It has been 15 years since Koifman launched her eponymous firm, NKPR. And it has been seven years since she bought this house in the Casa Loma neighbourhood.
“It was originally the coach house, or maybe the stable, attached to the Benvenuto,” she says of the former mansion on the site of the current Benvenuto condominiums.
The main house was built by architect Stanford White for Simeon Janes in 1888, and it was also owned by William Mackenzie before it was demolished in 1924 in the name of progress and apartment buildings. Koifman’s house was spared.
At more than 3,000 square feet, with ceilings well over 10 feet high, it somehow manages to be grand and cocoon-like at the same time.
‘My retreat’, ‘my sanctuary’
Indeed, Koifman uses words such as “my retreat,” and “my sanctuary” to explain how the house grounds her within a hectic schedule shuttling between Toronto and her place in New York’s SoHo district. When she moved in here, she painted the walls white and left the hardwood chocolate brown. All of her furniture is very low-slung, once again exaggerating contrasts to the more than 10-foot ceilings.
“I’m obsessed with Flexform furniture,” she says of the brand of chic, sprawling sectional sofas in the living room and family room, which she purchased at Italinteriors. “It is so easy to slip the cover off and change the colour and mood.”
Not that Koifman goes for much colour. In addition to her commitment to Johnny Cash’s favourite hue in clothing, the house is black, brown, grey and white. The tables tend to be acrylic and float within the space; there is even a very glam Lucite backgammon set.
Koifman has a profusion of womb-styled chairs: both the literal classic by Eero Saarinen for Knoll in the family room, and two versions of the Stingray rocking chair by Swiss furniture designer Thomas Pedersen, in the study and the bedroom, both of which are like minimalist cradles for adults.
Koifman, who was born in Kiev and raised in Rome and then Edmonton before coming to Toronto, insists she is an introvert at heart.
“I throw these huge parties,” she says, referring to her annual bash before the Toronto International Film Festival, where 350 or so shiny people fill the main floor and the enormous backyard with an elaborate cabana setup that could double as a Miami poolside nightclub for a film set. “And I enjoy greeting everyone, but then I go to bed upstairs and let the party go on.”
She did a major renovation on the back of the house, opening up the kitchen and family room into one enormous space that opens onto a window wall overlooking the pool.
‘Lipstick and rouge’
“The rest was lipstick and rouge,” she says of the decorating, which she did with Connie Braemer Designs. To switch things up on the regular, she calls on her good pal, interior designer Diego Burdi of Burdifilek.
“He comes in and moves things around on tabletops and it just looks amazing. It takes him 10 minutes and voila, refreshed. He also has encouraged me to incorporate small pops of colour,” she says.
As to flowers, the inimitable event designer and floral star Caspar Haydar zips in weekly to refresh the living art. “He somehow magically makes peonies last the whole week!”
Koifman’s boyfriend, Anthony Mantella (he of the His Porsche), moved into the space with her last year. With a passion for driving race cars and anything that has speed, Mantella grew up on construction sites as part of Mantella & Sons, a company his grandfather started that owns real estate across the west end of the city. Koifman credits Mantella with helping to bring her out of her shell and enjoy the space differently. He even gets her to stay later at her own parties.
“It is so nice to have someone support you,” she says. “Hosting with someone, collaborating with a partner, everything is not all on you.”
His support is quite literal: for this Toronto Storeys shoot, Mantella has donned a hunky black T adorned with the logo for Artists for Peace and Justice, the organization founded by Oscar-winning filmmaker and screenwriter Paul Haggis. Koifman is the Canadian chair of the organization, and sits on the American advisory board. With her NKPR team, Koifman hosts its annual fundraising gala, which is traditionally held on the opening weekend of TIFF, attracting a very glittering crowd of Hollywood royalty.
The NKPR lineup over time has included clients ranging from Mulberry to TD and Scotiabank, Green Shield Canada, the Thompson Hotel in Toronto, and other notable brands like Swarovski, Links of London, Estée Lauder and Kiehl’s. Koifman has also launched a talent wing to manage strategic partnerships for artists and high-profile personalities such as David Drebin, George Stroumboulopoulos, Sophie Elgort and Drena De Niro.
Words have resonance for Koifman, who is partial to truth-telling aphorisms and adages. She has a Peter Tunney Gratitude painting in the hall, and another that reads LOVE in her study.
The letter play extends to words she uses about herself. Koifman is often profiled, and she writes herself for publication. She understands that to represent brands she has to be sharpest on the core values of her own personal brand. In a series of articles she wrote for the Women of Influence site, Koifman explains that knowing thyself is key to getting people to hire you. To wit, she shares her own tagline, or motto, which is “I am true to myself and everything is possible.”
Her home is very much a demonstration of her passions and beliefs, and has a duality of mood, operating on several levels.
Chiefly, it manages to be both retreat and public space.
Perhaps it is her photography choices that reveal the most about the inner Natasha. In her living room is a shot of Marilyn Monroe from “Last Sitting,” which was six weeks before her death. Taken by Bert Stern, the image has been X-ed out by the star herself, indicating she didn’t want it used. And yet the piece is all the more raw for the fact it is now blown up and on display. That is a push-pull that speaks to Koifman.
Facing Monroe is an Ellen von Unwerth image of Victoria Beckham. “She was super-successful as a Spice Girl,” says Koifman, “then became a highly respected fashion designer, and she has the amazing family she is totally dedicated to. She is the image to me that says you can have it all.”
Peeking into her closets would instill envy in any human with a pulse. The rooms were featured in Coveteur, but things have changed slightly since Mantella took over one of the walk-ins. Koifman’s turf upstairs is splendid with black treasures. Glittering ballgowns are arrayed on a spare bed, as if for Cinderella to choose and pick. The accessories room makes one hyperventilate.
But right when the lily is gilded Koifman switches back to a moment of confessional intimacy. Her son has just taken the bar exam, having finished law school at Syracuse University and moved back to town. It hardly seems possible she could have a son at that stage of blossoming, as Koifman is well aware. The fact she bore him at age 18 has always been central to her personal and public narrative, and it once again provides exaggerated contrast.
“Having my child young has been the biggest contributing factor to any success I might have had,” she says. “He is my compass, the reason I made good decisions. Because I couldn’t make mistakes.”
The other thing Koifman grows dewy over are her dogs. KoD and Grady are labs, black natch. Grady is the older brother; KoD is a more recent and spryer addition to the family, brought in to soothe Grady, who was stricken by the death of Koifman’s last pup. As the relative millennial (if you were to do the dog year math), KoD of course has his own hashtag (#koddog).
Ever the networker and connector, Koifman carefully presents every aspect of her life and somehow manages to make the spin authentic. But one can still resent her for those closets.