Creating change in a space isn’t always about knocking down the most walls… it’s about knocking down the right walls. If you look at the blueprints, interior designer Ally Watson (principal of 1807 Design) didn’t actually do much to change this 1,120-square-foot East Vancouver duplex. And yet, with her strategic choices and a few coats of crisp white paint, the space has undergone a 180-degree transformation.

The sofa is from CF Interiors. Photo by Janis Nicolay

The clients were friends of friends who had purchased a high-ceilinged, totally dated unit and were in desperate need of a makeover. The walls were bright orange; the cabinets, dark and heavy. “They’re a vibrant young couple, and they just wanted the space to reflect their personalities,” says Watson. “The goal was to give it a more contemporary, bright open feel.”

As it turns out it just took one small demolition to get that open-vibe: Watson knocked out a Juliet balcony to connect the upper floor visually to the rest of the home, and the impact was powerful and immediate. “We wanted more light to come in to the bedroom, but to make that living room feel more open as well,” she explains. A custom metal-and-glass railing keeps the sight-lines flowing between floors. But when privacy is needed, custom drapery from Tiffany Interiors closes in the upper floor.

Thoughtful details keep the white-wood-and-black palette from being too minimalist or sparse. In fact, some accessories and fixtures skew traditional—the Birch Lane Albeton candle-style chandelier, the shaker cabinets from Swede, the brass drawer pulls from Richelieu. “These things ground the space and add in that transitional farmhouse aesthetic,” says Watson.

The coffee table here is from CF Interiors; the chair in the corner is from Crate and Barrel. Hanging over it all is a Savoy House Middelton chandelier. Photo by Janis Nicolay
A textured rug and pillows add warmth. Photo by Janis Nicolay
In the powder room, Benjamin Moore Kendal Charcoal paint creates an intimate vibe. The vessel sink is by Kohler; the mirror is Mercury Row; the wall-mounted faucet is by Delta. Photo by Janis Nicolay

The homeowners are frequent travellers to Mexico, and wanted to nod to their favourite travel destination (“without making it a fiesta,” laughs Watson). The references, instead, come through organic textures and handmade touch-weavings that hang on the living room wall, rattan stools at the foot of the bed, a coffee table from CF Interiors with a hand-sewn look, Mexican blankets (in neutral hues) draped over the sofa.

The kitchen mixes modern and traditional touches. Over the island, Mitzi pendant lights provide illumination. The counter stools are from CB2. A Silas dining table from Moe’s Home is surrounded by CF Interiors Lewis Windsor chairs. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Cabinetry is by Swede. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
A Delta faucet and Kohler sink pair perfectly in the farmhouse-inspired kitchen. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Artisan backsplash tiles from Centura add texture to the kitchen. The counterops are Cosentino Silestone; cabinet knobs and pulls are from Richelieu. Photo by Janis Nicolay.

Somehow, the south-of-the-border elements blend beautifully with the farmhouse-y vibes here. Crisp white shiplap installed by Gilmli Wood and Steel Co. lines the bedroom; in the kitchen, pretty textured Centura subway tiles frame a deep farm-style sink by Kohler. Plank oak flooring from Divine Floor runs throughout, adding warmth underfoot.

In the original home design, the island was narrow and barely functional. The replacement (topped with Cosentino Silestone) offers room to comfortably seat several woven stools from CB2. Along the wall, Watson designed what she calls a “hutch”—a built in display are for the couple’s treasures, plus an under-counter wine fridge.

The custom stair railing was done by Jam Fab. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
There’s a mix of tile in this beautiful bathroom: Mallorca tile from Centura lines the shower, while Pietro tile (also from Centura) is on the floor. Photo by Janis Nicolay

The primary bathroom features more beautiful tile, modest white squares (also from Centura) with a slightly handmade texture. The powder room, meanwhile, was finished with a coat of Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal black and kitted out with a quartz countertop and Kohler vessel sink.

All told, these thoughtful details (and that one strategic wall removal) have turned a dreary, dated duplex into a rich, textured dream home: a space more special than the sum of its parts.

The tongue-and-groove feature wall in the loft bedroom is by Gimli Wood and Steel Co. Photo by Janis Nicolay.
Custom drapery from Tiffany Interiors closes off the bedroom from the rest of the home when it’s time to catch some shut-eye. Photo by Janis Nicolay