A modern glass apartment on the waterfront becomes a showcase for a globetrotter’s keepsakes.
What do you do when a home’s biggest feature is also its biggest limitation? In one modern two-bed, two-bath condo in English Bay, a 360-degree view proved to be both a blessing and a curse. “For an art lover, this was a huge challenge in terms of space,” explains The Cross Design’s Erin Chow. She and fellow designer Megan Baker had to find ways to showcase and accessibly store the globe-trotting homeowner’s amassed collection of artwork and antiques—in a home with floor-to-ceiling windows in every room but the powder room. (There’s even a window in the dressing room.)
Additionally, a large wall of glass stretches end to end in the expansive living area, a room designed to have a long and narrow footprint to take full advantage of the ocean view. The slender profile also posed a challenge for the designers: “We knew right away that a conventional seating area was not going to work here,” says Chow.
In place of the standard town hall gathering of chairs and sofas around a television, the pair created a menagerie of small, uniquely tailored seating areas throughout the space. From the modern tête-à-tête of chaise longues to the bold bluebird sofa and the French antique screen that greets visitors on the way in, this great room of reading nooks played perfectly into the homeowner’s desire for an art gallery-like oasis where she could sit and appreciate her curios.
“We had some great discussions about the way a museum or gallery would feel—full of stories, memories and treasures that can be individually appreciated,” says Baker. The duo meticulously edited the homeowner’s collection, grouping like items together to minimize distraction and make each piece stand out on its own. A 30-foot hallway library houses favourite novels and rare books, and a cherished cake-plate collection lives on the shelves of the kitchen. Small touches of the unique can be spotted everywhere—even a wrought-iron dining table surprises with its creeping tree-root base.
The goal was to make sure the space was packed with personality, and Chow says the woman of the house wanted “beautiful colour, pattern and texture to enjoy at every corner.” The designers took that to heart, blanketing the home’s master suite, powder room and den in textured, pattern-rich wallpaper. Different ceiling heights throughout the home create boundaries for these decorative splashes: in the master bedroom, Parisian moulding and trompe l’oeil blocks span the ceiling, while a panel of oversized purple blooms climbs up the adjoining fireplace. “The bedroom wallpaper was an attempt at getting old-world architectural detail to contrast with this new Vancouver condo architecture that we see as normal,” says Chow. Adding a bit of interest and whimsy, the trompe l’oeil blocks are also intentionally mismatched in all directions—a request their wallpaper installer called at least three times to confirm.
In the kitchen, a swirling, mural-like ceiling proves to be one of the most striking features of the home: above the white-lacquered and grey oak cupboards floats a moody pattern of grey clouds, a reference to the homeowner’s nostalgic memories of time spent looking up at the sky and daydreaming.
Even with all the patterned wallpaper, special collections and objets d’art, there’s nothing about the space that feels too loud or overwhelming, and that’s largely due to the neutral colour palette. Working off a base of whites and greys, the designers used tints of blue to both pop and soothe—from the bold over-dyed rug near the entrance to the soft blue-lilac bedroom accessories. Vintage pieces, like the wrought-iron gate behind the soaker tub, are also somehow at home in this new, modern apartment thanks in part to subtle accent colours specific to antiques: shades of white, rust and wood.
Quirky treasures can be found all over the apartment and are a mix of the owner’s own collection and the designers’ selection—the pair got to know her so well. “It was a blast to collect accessories for her over time and then open them up in a space,” shared Baker. “Everything we did here was inspired by her whimsical point of view and her sense of adventure.”