When interior designer Ben Leavitt and his partner, Vishal Anand, decided to move in together, designing their new combined home might have been the challenge of Leavitt’s career. “Vish has professed since the day I met him that he is a staunch minimalist,” says Leavitt. “When I met him, he didn’t have a single piece of art on his walls.”
Large-scale African photographs on the walls offer contrast in place of colour. Throughout the room, designer Ben Leavitt (walking) mixes old and new with a 200-year-old dowry chest, a terracotta warrior replica from a museum in Xian, a Martha Sturdy resin-poured coffee table and a custom yellow Bensen Park lounge chair, where partner Vishal Anand relaxes with a book. (Photo by Ema Peter)
A life-sized polka-dot deer sculpture, reclaimed fire hydrant, African masks, taxidermy: these were the hallmarks of Leavitt’s last apartment (featured back in our summer 2017 issue). “With my job, I’m constantly inspired,” says the designer and president of Vancouver’s PlaidFox Studio. “So I want my home to push my boundaries—the more colour, the more pattern, the more things—the better.”
When they found their dream home in historic Gastown (a bright and spacious two-bedroom with a palatial rooftop deck), Leavitt committed to renovating the apartment—a design that would emulate the character of their neighbourhood and marry their distinctive tastes—but he had one condition: Anand couldn’t enter the premises until it was completely finished.
In the entranceway, a modern Kelly Wearstler sconce adds a touch of glam without detracting from the bold wall covering: a blown-up vintage photograph of Joshua Tree National Park. (Photo by Ema Peter)
“When Vish saw the entranceway, he just about died,” recalls Leavitt of the big reveal. The designer had blown up a vintage photograph of Joshua Tree National Park and turned it into a vinyl covering that wraps around the entire area. “I wanted people to come into the home and the first thing they see is something unexpected and fun—that’s our combined personality,” says Leavitt.
In the main living space, Leavitt injects colour, but in moderation: a futuristic-looking Bensen wingback in yellow pops next to a deep-set feather-filled felt sofa in classic navy blue. The resin-poured coffee table from Martha Sturdy and the asymmetrical Andrew Neyer light fixture function almost like modern sculptures and live next to an actual sculpture: Leavitt’s prized seven-foot-tall
terracotta warrior. (Piano movers actually walked the thousand-pound replica on a dolly, through traffic, from Leavitt’s old apartment just across the street.) “Although at first this room seems ultra-modern, if you look at each of the individual pieces, they are all from different time periods and from different countries,” says Leavitt. “It’s a modern take on an eclectic global home.”
A B&B Italia bookshelf (or is it a vertical fern garden?) acts as a very West Coast divider between the main living area and the home office. Also on the shelves: curated knickknacks from the couple’s travels. “The trick with curation is to make sure every item matters,” says the designer. (Photo by Ema Peter)
For the master bedroom, more so than any other room, Leavitt wanted to lean into the Gastown loft vibe. The room’s plain drywalled walls were covered in tumbled salvaged brick, painted white. White cabinetry and a full-length mirror help brighten up the nearly windowless room, but there’s also a half-wall of Benjamin Moore’s Dollar Bill Green paint, which is the same dark green you’ll see on many neighbourhood storefronts. Frosted globe sconces reminded Leavitt of the street lanterns outside, while a graphic Douglas Coupland Poutine artwork nods to the takeout joints in the ’hood.
Photo by Ema Peter
Enter the master bathroom, though, and you’re about as far away from Leavitt’s wild and eclectic comfort zone as you can get. Designed mostly for Anand, it was loosely inspired by Japanese onsens: sleek and modern, with a dark colour palette. “As hard as it was for me, I actually didn’t use one drop of colour in this space,” says Leavitt. He replaced a “horrifying vision of terracotta, creams and caramels” with large-format concrete tile, matte black fixtures and honed marble countertops in black and white. A detailed charcoal drawing from Paper Collective adds another layer of visual interest. “If you’re not going to use colour, you have to use contrast and texture to really make it striking,” he says.
Photo by Ema Peter
Although it was a learning curve for Leavitt to design a space that was so pared down, he ended up loving the monochromatic bathroom as much as his partner ended up loving the entranceway. “It was a smart move to keep Vish away during renovations, but the longer that he lives in the house and the longer he spends with me, the more he sometimes says, ‘Do you think we should add a bit more colour?’ or ‘Do you think we should do this?’ He’s on board for the evolution of our home as much as I am.”
In each room Leavitt tried to add a little bit of Gastown: the Edison bulb light fixture fit the industrial bill. The room was already asymmetrical, so Leavitt pushed it even further with a quirky millwork design and an asymmetrically hung mirror. The living room has skylights and ample windows, so the designer opted for a dark, smoky blue for the wall. (Photo by Ema Peter)Leavitt’s 50-piece-plus mask collection was the primary focus of his last apartment, but now just his favourites have been selected for the couple’s guest room to pair with woven rattan grasscloth wallpaper, a Norman of Copenhagen Knot chair and petrified, wood stump side tables from Indonesia. (Photo by Ema Peter)