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Aleem Kassam of Kalu Interiors brings seaside serenity to this West coast renovation.
The magic words: ocean view. For Aleem Kassam, principal at Vancouver-based Kalu Interiors, that stunning seascape was the star of this Yaletown condo. But the interior? Not so much. “The building itself was built in 1997, and it was pretty much in original condition—dark and dated,” says the designer.
For his client, a Calgarian in pursuit of the perfect coastal pad, Kassam and his team transformed the condo into a bright, airy and relaxed home. This took creativity when it came to materials, layout, and even the electrical: here’s how he did it.
No matter how organized you are, everyone has the impulse to drop everything the second they get home—and Kassam ensured that his client had space for that. The new built-in cabinet and counter at the condo’s entrance is a catch-all for keys, wallets, shoes and jackets (the custom millwork includes closet storage). “This provides not only accessibility, but better storage, because every square inch is much-needed in condo living downtown,” says the designer.
“Lighting is one of the things that peeves me in condos, because there is never enough,” says Kassam. “We are cognizant of incorporating high and low levels and accent lighting in everything that we do.” In the kitchen, motion-activated LED lighting illuminates a path so the client can easily make his way around in the dark. (Midnight snack, anyone?)
The goal: hanging a pendant light in the middle of the dining table. The problem: the actual wiring for that light was off-centre. To fix this, Kassam created a canopy box for the wires, which allowed him to use the existing electrical but put the light exactly where he wanted it.
The full-height windows provide a beautiful view, but no obvious place to put a screen (and hey, the outdoors may be great, but so is Succession). “Sometimes the best place to put the TV is really front and centre, and it becomes the showpiece—that really what we wanted to move away from,” says Kassam. Instead, the designer opted for custom millwork and put the television on a swivel, so it can be tucked away. Open shelving for personal items and cabinets for tucking away other electronics make the TV just another part of the wall, instead of an eyesore.
That millwork wall is a great example of using both storage that displays special objects and storage that hides more unsightly ones. “Having only floating shelves is not very practical,” says Kassam, “and your eye has nowhere to rest from a visual standpoint.”
It’s common sense that outdoor furniture needs to be resistant to the elements, but according to Kassam, folks who live near the ocean should also think about their indoor furniture. “There does tend to be more salt in the air, and when you have windows and patio doors open, weather is an issue to be concerned about,” he says. He’s found that natural materials deteriorate faster, so chose longer-lasting synthetic materials instead.
“This was probably the tallest client we’ve ever had,” quips Kassam. The resident of this seaside condo is six-and-a-half feet tall, and the Kalu team factored this into every step of the design process. “We heightened cabinets, heightened countertops, raised ceilings, and were careful of where we did ceiling drops—for example, above the countertop was fine,” says the designer. “Those types of details and functionalities were key in the way that we approached things.”
In the kitchen, the Kalu team put a white oak canopy above the island. “A lot of people think that if you add something to the ceiling, you’re enclosing it or making it more claustrophobic, but it’s the opposite,” says Kassam. “When you apply a treatment to your ceiling, you are challenging the person to bring their eyeline up.”
Even though Kassam and his team opened up the kitchen during this renovation, it’s still a condo—so they used a few tricks to make sure that the space looked as large and airy as possible. “Matte white upper cabinets give the illusion that it’s all open,” says Kassam.
Double vanities can be useful, but only if they’re needed—and while this home’s guest bathroom originally had a double vanity, Kassam and his client decided that it was taking up valuable space. The single sink now leaves a ton of countertop real estate, and a custom medicine cabinet behind the mirror means there’s still plenty of storage.
Confession time: this design trick wasn’t intentional. The smoked glass mirror above the headboard was meant as simply an interesting visual element, but guests in the space often think that it’s a window. “They thought it was a full corner unit,” says Kassam.
The smoked glass above the bed repeats in the smoked glass in the shower. The kitchen Dekton countertop material is the same as the bathroom Dekton countertop material, and there’s a warm, neutral palette of white oak, black and white throughout the space.
Kassam and his client wanted to lean on the seaside theme, but not in the kitschy anchor wall art way. Instead, there’s little “nods to nautical,” according to the designer—for example, the matte black cabinet pulls mimic a cleat hitch (the metal cleat on the dock that boaters use to tie up their crafts).
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