Western Living Magazine
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WL Architects of the Year 2022: Measured Architecture
A stunning staircase, eclectic artwork and treasures from around the world punctuate an industrial and modern Yaletown space.
It seems impossible to imagine this Yaletown loft without its signature double staircase. The symmetry, the bold contrast of black iron railings against a pristine white wall—it’s a striking element that sets the tone for the whole space. But it wasn’t, in fact, part of the original design at all; rather, it’s just one part of a huge renovation done by Jamie Hamilton and Greer Nelson of Oliver Simon Design, the duo tasked with remodeling this once-dated 1,200-square-foot ’80s condo for a newlywed couple.
In the original layout, there was just one set of stairs that led to the loft sleeping area; across the suite, a makeshift office had been assembled precariously on the ledge above the solarium, with only a wobbly ladder to access it. Meanwhile, on the main floor, “it was really, really dark,” recalls Nelson. “The layout of the previous kitchen really made it feel like a cave.”
Right away, the designers knew they would need to open things up. “We wanted to make it brighter and take advantage of the high ceilings,” explains Hamilton. That meant starting from scratch with the bathroom and kitchen, coating the walls in a fresh layer of Benjamin Moore’s Oxford White and creating smart storage solutions to keep the space uncluttered. A full dining table was eschewed in favour of simple countertop seating, a washer and dryer set is hidden seamlessly behind panels, and the island that sits behind the sofa has double-sided cabinets.
And not only does the new double staircase (built with the help of contractor PGC Enterprises) add great visual balance to the space, it also created an opportunity to sneak in an extra closet—an invisible door with a touch latch offers easy access beneath the left-hand stairs, where the couple stores the stroller for their new baby.
For the finishes and details, Nelson and Hamilton took inspiration from the homeowners’ travels. They had just returned from a year-long around-the-world honeymoon, and “they had pictures and some treasures they’d picked up along the way that we wanted to incorporate,” explains Hamilton. One of those pieces was a 30-inch-wide golden Moroccan platter, which the designers mounted overtop of a light to create a custom sconce with a beautiful golden glow. In the bedroom, blown-up photos from their trip hang modestly from antique coat hangers on a drapery rod. “We didn’t want to just put them in frames,” explains Hamilton. “This was an inexpensive, interesting way of putting them up.”
These aren’t the only ways the duo got creative with the art and decor. Nelson and Hamilton sourced a sushi-restaurant curtain from a vintage shop (a reference to the couple’s time in Japan) and hung it front and centre where the twin staircases meet. In the living room, a bus route scroll, a collection of masks, a large unframed canvas by painter Janine M. Ray (“They gave us a deal because it wasn’t stretched or framed,” says Hamilton) and a paint-by-numbers clown picture collected from a vintage shop are displayed together to create an eclectic feature wall. “The white walls gave us the perfect template to work with,” says Nelson. “And with a big, open space like that, you can kind of go crazy.”
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