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This room was filled with tractors when we bought the house,” says designer Heidi Smith about her elegant living room. She’s not exaggerating: The entire ground floor of the light-filled conversion in Westmount, Que., was a garage at the time. That’s because the building was actually the stables for a large turn-of-the-century mansion that was torn down in the 1940s. Having previously lived in a dark, formal home, Heidi craved wide-open spaces and a blank canvas that she could use to design a functional home for her family of six. That’s exactly what she got when she stumbled upon this rare find. “There were definite challenges,” she says with a laugh — the stable was a protected historical building, which meant that very little about the exterior could be changed, including small, awkwardly placed windows intended for horses. She carved the ground floor into a large entrance hall, open-concept kitchen, family room and formal living and dining spaces. With her experience and knack for clever design solutions, she also installed 200-year-old salvaged-pine flooring and built a graceful staircase from scratch. You’d never guess this was once an uninspiring, utilitarian space where animals lived.