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A tired 80s loft becomes one womans Crosstown dream home.
In 1982, this Beatty Street condo was converted into a loft. And then, for 33 years, nothing else changed—until Shana Lum, a dentist working in Yaletown, fell in love.
“I saw the place and fell hard for the beams, the bricks and the stairs,” says Lum. “I had such a clear idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like.” She reached out to designer Sophie Burke to help her realize the space’sfull potential.
Though the condo had great bones, they were obscured by seriously ’80s kitchen cabinets (you know the ones—white laminate, white oak handles), dated track lighting and tired plumbing fixtures. “There was carpet everywhere,” says Burke, sounding a little haunted, like she’s remembering a nightmare. “Even on the iron spiral staircase.”
The goal: to create a clean, crisp, sophisticated space that embraced the industrial vibe. “Shana knew exactly what she wanted, so that made things easy,” Burke says. The first step in bringing this Crosstown condo into the 21st century was to rip up the dreaded carpet. In its place went warm, wide-plank oak floorboards, which instantly updated the space—and the staircase was transformed from eyesore to sculptural focal point. The wood-burning fireplace was swapped out for a corner gas unit, and a salvaged timber beam was installed as a mantel; those dated track lights were replaced with a modern equivalent, and little Caravaggio pendants were strung up above the kitchen peninsula. The exposed timber decking, ceiling and brick walls were left as is. “We wanted the existing architectural elements to have a chance to speak for themselves,” the designer explains.
They chose a neutral palette (creams, whites, greys and smoky blues) that wouldn’t compete with the warm wood and brick elements, and incorporated cozy textures throughout to add some visual interest: a nubby wool rug and woven baskets on the floor, handcrafted pottery on the credenza. Extruded drywall panels (freshened up with some soft white paint) on one wall add a subtle layered effect to the space.
Because the space was so long and skinny, there wasn’t much Burke could change about the shape of the kitchen, but a fresh set of grey millwork cabinets with inset handles makes it feel brand new. Plumbing fixtures from the upstairs bathroom are exposed through the kitchen ceiling (from installing a soaker tub where a simple shower existed previously upstairs), but it works with the industrial vibe.
Lum loves mid-century Danish furniture—she brought a vintage Danish dining table and chairs from her previous home, which Burke reupholstered—so more pieces were added to match that aesthetic, like a Bensen L-shaped sofa in heathered grey fabric and the classic Tulip tables found in the living room and bedside. “I like modern furniture, but I wanted to incorporate that into this space, which isn’t really modern at all,” says Lum.
In any small space, good organization is key, but for Lum, great storage was an essential from day one. “We wanted to take into account the fact that she likes to live a minimalist life,” notes Burke. “She wanted everything to have a place it could be tucked away.” Burke built a custom desk area with a whole wall of built-in storage, and reconfigured the closets for maximum effect.
It was a big job to drag this loft into the modern era, but Lum is living here happily, her vision now a reality. “I didn’t have to accept someone else’s design choice or anything,” she says. “It’s all me.”
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