Western Living Magazine
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Can a minimalist and a maximalist live (in the same space) happily ever after?
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 didnt have a single piece of art on his walls.
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 boundariesthe more colour, the more pattern, the more thingsthe 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 apartmenta design that would emulate the character of their neighbourhood and marry their distinctive tastesbut he had one condition: Anand couldnt enter the premises until it was completely finished.
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 funthat'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.
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'salso 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.
Enter the master bathroom, though, and you've 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 didnt 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've not going to use colour, you have to use contrast and texture to really make it striking, he says.
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.