From bachelor pad to pretty pied-à-terre, this Vancouver aerie sees a whole new lease on life.

In the 1990s, the economy may have been facing a downturn, but those buildings were still going up. As those new developments settled into themselves over the following years, this homeowner (today president of a tech company) jumped at the opportunity to snap up the penthouse in one of them—its cityscape and walkability the right mix of ingredients for his perfect bachelor pad.

Before long, a girlfriend would move in and, soon, that girlfriend became a fiancée. When the happy couple married, they eventually decamped to the suburbs to raise a family—but never let go of their original nesting place. Throughout the years, their two-bedroom-and-den soldiered on as a rental and—when it wasn’t occupied—an occasional weekend stopover when they popped into the city.

Fast-forward almost 20 years and, while the couple’s children are now nearly grown, they themselves still haven’t outgrown their love for their little downtown perch. So, finding themselves with more time on their hands, they took the chance to breathe new life into their old space. But years of renters’ paint, layers of wallpaper and a green bathtub had all taken a serious decorating toll. They turned to Sydney Carlaw of Purity Design to help reimagine the penthouse’s second act—and she immediately understood their connection to it. “They had so many cherished memories here, so they wanted the space to still reflect them,” she says. “But they also envisioned something that would be a wholesale difference from their large Craftsman home in the suburbs.” Her solution? A light and airy contemporary palette injected with warmth.

Designer Sydney Carlaw (pictured here) replaced a solid wall with a sliding glass one. The black frame adds a dramatic element into the bright and airy space.

READ MOREPhotos from Sydney Carlaw’s Converted-Barn Office

The home’s ceilings were low and there were a few too many walls chopping up the layout, but Carlaw immediately saw potential thanks to the hallmarks of the ’90s condo style—an abundance of space, in this case set over an expansive 1,600 square feet. “You really don’t see big condos anymore,” she says. So Carlaw immediately set about removing barriers to open up the floor plan. While it was tempting to eliminate a wall that separated a tiny nook off the kitchen, she knew that a flex space would add resale value. To help incorporate the bump-out off the great room, she replaced the solid wall with sliding black metal-framed glass doors. Now the multipurpose room can be closed off and used as a pint-sized sleeping space or opened up and enjoyed as a sunny nook visible from the kitchen. “People are drawn in here to read a book or, conversely, use it as a place to crash,” says Carlaw. Additionally, two half walls that were dividing the living room came down, and the front entry was made wider for increased visual impact.

Grey wallpaper features a subtle pattern to bring some visual texture into the sleek room. A wall-mounted lamp is a stylish alternative to a desk light.

Other ways that lighten the palette and create an all-around airiness abound. Open shelving in the kitchen complements white cabinetry and quartz countertops for a crisp, streamlined space punctuated by a quartz Calacatta marble backsplash that stretches to the ceiling. Engineered oak floors throughout inject warmth and timelessness but add a contemporary vibe in a lighter shade. Another visual trick to create the illusion of space: the drop-down ceiling was removed to create one flush ceiling dotted with pot lights for an overall minimal aesthetic. It clears the visual clutter; “good lighting is always key,” says Carlaw.

The kitchen features custom cabinetry and a quartz Calacatta marble backsplash that stretches to the ceiling. Guests enjoy the bright and sunny dining room, which is wrapped in 180 degrees of window; outside awaits the 1,000-square-foot deck.

The biggest eyesore in the space was an outdated corner fireplace. Carlaw removed the bulky unit and swapped it out for a linear floor-to-ceiling hearth “wall” clad in the same quartz Calacatta marble. It’s now a dramatic focal point that sets a sophisticated, elegant tone. “This couple is used to travelling and to beautiful things,” says Carlaw. The trick was finding materials that they would fall in love with, but the materials also couldn’t be over-the-top or precious as the space also needed to accommodate renters.

The light and airy palette weaves throughout and imbues the flat with a graceful, understated luxury. Quartz Calacatta marble above the bar and on the master bath floor dovetails the elements together. Neutral-toned herringbone tile in the first bath with black and gold accents lends a modern yet classic scheme, while textiles and furniture stay in a consistent thread of white and grey throughout. The newly opened-up floor plan—the beneficiary of copious amounts of sun—now welcomes a fresh new chapter. Except the homeowners are so blissfully happy with their new-old place that any future renters might have a hard time booking in around them.

In the master bedroom, Carlaw installed chair rail on the wall behind the headboard in a rectangular pattern to add depth and texture. Carlaw expanded the entryway to accommodate a new closet, which helps open up the space visually and provides much-needed storage to keep everything tidy.