• February 11, 2020

GATSBY-ERA HERITAGE LOFT IN GASTOWN

When homeowners Chris and Michael asked us to redesign their recently purchased two-storey heritage loft in Gastown—with vintage brick, original wood floors and iron beams—we thought they were going to ask for the modern Vancouver special: something Scandinavian, minimalist, probablywhite and restrained. Instead this global duo (Chris hails from Australia, while Michael is from South Africa) could not have surprised us more. They wanted a home that was dark, moody, swanky and that unequivocally channeled old New York. These two were adventurous and playful and their new home was going to reflect that.  

Hosting big dinner parties for large groups was a top priority for these avid entertainers, so one of the first things we did was rip out the existing galley kitchen and replace it with a long 12-foot banquette that could seat everybody. We upholstered the whole bench in a deep blue velvet, and found the perfect black terrazzo table and quilted leather antique-style chairs to go with it. Not only is the banquette going to be a timeless, functional seating area for all their party needs, but we were able to stealthily conceal existing pipes and unsightly electrical wires that couldn’t be moved because of the heritage brick. 

There were no tears shed for the old kitchen. When the condo was first refurbished, the developers had installed poor quality cabinets and countertops that were a ghastly combo of faux wood and white melamine. We decided that the pocket-like space underneath the mezzanine would be the ideal spot to build the new, darker, moodier kitchen the homeowners wanted. 

To create this effect we went with Benjamin Moore’s Wolf Grey on traditional-style shaker cabinets, along with countertops in a leather-finished dark grey quartz, a slab-like white carrera marble for the backsplash, brushed bronze hardware and a black sill granite sink that looks positively sumptuous in matte black. To make the space feel larger, all the appliances are disguised behind the cabinetry. We thought filling clear candy jars with blue, white and turquoise jelly beans was a fun way to add another pop of colour (and who doesn’t love a sweet treat while they prep dinner?).

Throughout the home we used darker, moodier paint tones to change the vibe from a modern loft to something more grounded in the past. When we finished the kitchen the clients actually wanted it to be even darker, so we just repainted some of the walls a darker shade and it made an immediate difference. So if you want to make a change to your space, but you’re renting or don’t want to do a whole renovation, altering the paint colour is the first thing you can do to give your home a complete change.

Of course the space isn’t all dark and broody, our clients wanted an injection of youthfulness and fun, too. The kitchen’s Gray Malin photograph of the kangaroo in the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Hotel is a playful addition (and also an homage to homeowner Chris’s Aussie roots). Just like the fun white and black-line confetti wallpaper off the kitchen, (from Drop it Mod), which also complements the homeowner’s classic black baby grand.

In the living room, the structure of the space meant the TV was going to be asymmetrical no matter what, so we decided to really emphasize the height of the ceilings with a large gallery wall of artwork that stretches up the two-storey apartment’s full 18 feet. We chose photography from a group of artists featuring everything from beaches to animals to abstracts—things that had a fun story, or featured bright colours, for a hit of something unexpected. 

The traditional chesterfield in velvet turquoise was something wild the homeowners fell in love with and had to have in the apartment. We paired it with an antique mirror coffee table, and accent chairs in tweed suit fabric with luxe gold legs so that nothing was 100 percent matching in era or style, but the overall feel in the living room is curated, global and fun. 

One of the biggest challenges with an open-concept loft space is creating different zones throughout the home so that you don’t always feel like you’re in the same room. Downstairs was very tall and bright, therefore the bedroom was going to be dark and cozy. This second-storey bedroom is open to the main floor, so we designed a traditional millwork wall behind the bed and spray-painted it a deep turquoise green called Shenandoah from Benjamin Moore. Fitting in a king-size bed meant we were tight on space, so we opted for small side tables and hung up art deco-style pendant lights in ribbed glass (which cover the walls in gorgeous cascades of light at night). 

Ample bedroom storage was a high priority, so we built a custom wall of cabinets with some faux panels so that they could get the space they wanted with a streamlined moulding look that felt a bit more refined than using closets. 

We gutted both bathrooms but kept the original floors, which adds warmth and looks so unlike any other bathroom you’d see in Vancouver. A bathroom is really about juggling functionality and aesthetics, so we wanted them to be functional, but they also needed to have that luxe hotel feel. In the master bath, we mixed a modern blast of striped Mara Mara marble with ribbed glass sconces, dark navy cabinetry and gold burnished fixtures and hardware. In the downstairs bathroom we installed a super modern wall of dark turquoise 3D tiles, but everything else in the space is sophisticated and classic. 

The lighting is definitely the jewelry of this home. In the kitchen, you’ll see a hanging teardrop sconce from Arteriors, near the entrance is a curled brass sconce from Visual Comfort and in the living room is the real showstopper, a fluted glass and antique brass chandelier we had custom made to replicate the one hanging in the Hotel Georgia’s art-deco-inspired lobby. It’s really important that people look beyond the function of lighting in their home and view their lighting as art. A sculptural or dramatic lighting fixture is a low-risk experiment, and in this home, without these lighting choices the home wouldn’t look nearly as interesting or feel so connected to the past. Lighting is the perfect place to let your personality show. 

What we love most about this home and each of its defined spaces, is the mix of old and new. Antique wood floors, ancient timber beams, iron beams and heritage brick are so interesting and unique to this space. And going with a classic look with the millwork and furniture really makes the house feel less modern Vancouver and much more vintage New York. The homeowners loved how we married pieces that are fun and modern with elements that are luxe and art deco, and when we finished the renovation, the only thing they wanted to change in their funky global loft was the chesterfield—they wished they would have ordered it in pink! 

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