Video: Condo makeover
Video: Condo makeover
Tour this chic and stylish condo.
Downsizers trade their house in the sticks for the prettiest pared-down condo in the city – and they don’t miss their old digs one bit.
With their enviable nooks and crannies, most suburban houses can handle the extras. You know, the useless bits that gobble up space: the family china passed down through the ages or a dusty treadmill dying a slow death. Shove them into a corner and no one is the wiser. But in a condo, space is a coveted commodity. Every item must count and every design decision must be carefully executed, as it is in Janice and Colin Dreyer’s 1,600-square-foot abode. Located on the fourth floor of a new-build boutique high-rise in Vancouver, the unit is vastly different from their previous home, which was nearly double the size. The couple, a pair of empty nesters in their 60s, knows about “stuff” first-hand. For 30 years, they lived on the outskirts of the city – first in Cloverdale, where they raised three children, and then in their last house in South Surrey for 10 years – slowly accumulating a lifetime of belongings. And it’s been a relief to finally purge. “I got rid of almost all of it,” says Janice, who confidently announces: “Honestly, I don't miss a thing.”
The couple didn’t have to search far to find the right person to decorate the condo. Their daughter is designer Karla Dreyer, who heads up an eponymous firm in Vancouver. In addition to providing interior services, Karla offers beautifying help virtually with her e-decor program. But for her parents’ home, she worked in the flesh, fast and furiously passionate, over a three-month period. “They really wanted it done quickly because they were excited to start their third act in life,” says Karla. The bones of the space served as inspiration. “The windows – there are a ton of them – and the white-tiled floors really lent themselves to decorating in a light, airy way,” says Karla. The springtime palette of pretty pastels makes the condo sparkle with youthful freshness. “Pastels can come off as juvenile, so the trick is to incorporate them in a sophisticated fashion,” says the designer, who tempered them with glam gold accents and a bright white shell. “I love how the soft colours evoke a joyful vibe.”
Clearly they have also influenced the occupants, who are adjusting brilliantly to city life. Says Janice, “Living with less is great.” Should a bout of nostalgia hit, however, she can always visit a selection of precious pieces she salvaged from the suburbs. “I did take out a storage unit for small items I was unsure about,” says Janice. None of them have made it back into the condo.
When Janice and Colin Dreyer purchased their new condo, they knew exactly who to turn to for decorating help: their designer daughter Karla. In the living area, she decided to incorporate gold touches and coral accents for a decidedly youthful feel. “My parents are pretty stylish, so the decor represents them well,” says Karla, who believes design shouldn’t subscribe to ageism.
Janice loves birds, so Karla went with an avian theme, expressed here in one area of the condo via the wallpaper featuring hummingbirds in flight, the brass sculptures on the chest and the witty painting by local talent Zoë Pawlak.
"I’m used to having lots of wall space, so dealing with all the windows was tricky,” says Karla. But this spot was perfect for the dining area, allowing the couple to take in the sights over a meal. The Tulip-style table paired with mismatched chairs is fun.
Accommodating the 63-inch TV (a must for Dad) meant Karla had to get crafty because it dominated the room. “It’s a monster,” she says with a laugh. “The living area only has one wall, so I had to place the television there. I camouflaged its looming presence with some pretty wallpaper, which I think worked out well.”
Layered in champagne hues and captivating textures, such as the faux-fur throw and the cushy velvet headboard, the master bedroom is inviting and luxurious.
The home office, situated in the solarium just off the master bedroom, is simple yet perfectly functional.
Whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles.
A DIY-inclined couple turns an 800-square-foot two-bedroom bungalow into the perfect home for their young family.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson transformed the secondhand piano by covering it in grey paint, casually accessorizing it like the rest of the living room and softening its bench with a faux-sheepskin throw.
The whitewashed living room features a charming mix of furniture styles. “I brought softness into the space with the upholstered pieces, while keeping a farmhouse vibe with the antique rocking chairs,” says Amanda.
Homeowners Jason and Amanda Robinson hang out in the bright living room with their sons, Ethan (left) and Aidan.
While blue hues rock this farmhouse, Amanda also popped in some pink tones as contrast.
A fun DIY project or easily picked up at a gardening centre, terrariums are a great way to keep your home green in small ways.
Durable slate tiles define the entryway in this open-concept space. Practical items in natural tones like the bench, mirror and coat rack are artfully arranged so everything looks pulled together.
The kitchen epitomizes Amanda’s love of pale backdrops punctuated with colour and natural tones. “I made the shelves out of wooden boards from our barn and left them unpainted to contrast all the white and to complement the butcher block counters,” she says. Mismatched hardware picks up on the hits of blue throughout the home.
With their young sons and pets (Weimaraner Tessie and cat Nimble) in mind, Amanda chose tongue-and-groove pine planks for the floors, ceilings and walls. “I didn’t want new drywall with two little boys and pets running around,” she says. “It was the best design decision I ever made.”
Amanda knew she wanted a light and bright space and conceived the decor with colour in mind. “This is still a really small house, so I stuck to a neutral palette for the base: white and cream with natural wood tones throughout,” she says.
Amanda and Jason knocked down walls to create an eat-in area that features a free-standing stove surrounded by stone-veneered walls and a thrift-store dining table and chairs proudly bearing a mismatched paint job. “I painted everything grey and then decided to paint all the chairs blue but got sidetracked after one,” says Amanda. “It’s fun and quirky as is, and the boys take turns sitting in the blue chair at dinnertime.”
“The walls in Aidan’s bedroom were in good shape, so we painted them and added pine planks to the ceiling,” says Amanda. “I like the masculine look of the unpainted wood.” The new blue dressers share the space with a thrift-store wicker chair, a yellow-painted hand-me-down stool and rope-hung shelves Amanda crafted from barnboard.
“Ethan wanted everything in his room swimming pool turquoise.” They settled on a seafoam blue that’s more soothing for a bedroom and then incorporated coordinating accents in every room – even on the front door. “If you keep the big things neutral and then add accents in a single shade, it makes everything seem effortlessly connected,” says Amanda.
A bright screen door frame hints at the pops of blue to be found inside the house. Amanda refinished a hand-me-down pine table in grey paint and repurposed it as an easy-to-access storage unit for firewood. Antique Canadian Pacific Railway lanterns found in the barn and on Kijiji layer in more colour and reference the surrounding rustic landscape.
After a fresh coat of paint and some carefully placed furniture, the Robinsons are set to make this newly decorated farmhouse their home.
Homeowner Amanda Robinson used blue paint throughout her home to liven up the soothing neutral palette and provide a link from room to room. Here are her three favourite shades.
Take a tour of Debbie Travis's gorgeous Tuscan paradise.
Debbie Travis takes on the renovation challenge of a lifetime to create the perfect vacation property for hosting ladies' getaways.
Converting an ancient Tuscan farm on a UNESCO World Heritage Site into a dream home with modern amenities comes with its challenges (piles of permits, a litany of limitations and language barriers to boot), even for an icon who’s built her celebrity around tackling tough renos. When homeowner and decorating guru Debbie Travis bought the rundown 100- acre Italian property, she was beginning a new chapter in her life. She was ready to devote her time, energy and just about every waking thought to transforming the 13th-century-watchtower-turned-farm into a luxury vacation retreat for women of all ages. Accommodating up to 24 guests, Debbie Travis’s Tuscan Girls’ Getaway is a place for visitors to connect and escape the everyday. “It’s been a labour of love,” says Debbie of the project that’s consumed her for five years. “Every square inch of this space has a story – often a painful one.”
The juxtaposition of old and new is a theme carried through the whole property, from the simple contemporary furnishings indoors and out to the bright and near-neon accents that bring freshness to the antique setting. But only a splash of colour was needed: “I wanted the natural elements of stone and metal to shine, and it’s so vibrant outside year-round, thanks to the Tuscan blue sky and verdant surroundings,” says Debbie.
Indeed, the site’s 900 olive trees (some of which are 800 years old) stay green all year long, and from them, Debbie extracts high-quality olive oil that’s sold online. She’s still perfecting the wine that comes from the grapes in her vineyards, and she uses her lavender harvest to produce body and essential oils. “It started as a hobby farm but has since become quite a passion,” she says. But this farm – and Debbie’s new chapter – is really about creating a retreat in which like-minded women from all over the world can recharge. And in such a storied home, in this perfectly pastoral setting, under the hot Tuscan sun, guests invariably find themselves beginning their own new chapters.
This ancient-guard-tower- cum-women’s-retreat sits on 100 acres of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, Italy. on it, you’ll find a lavender field, a veggie garden, an olive orchard, a vineyard, multiple dining areas, an infinity pool, a bocce court, a yoga area, a firepit and 200-year-old pomegranate trees that yield enough juice to freeze for winter.
“We pick lemons here every morning,” says homeowner Debbie Travis of the potted trees on this terrace, which is outfitted with modern citrus-green- accented chairs to match.
From searching sprawling avant-garde design shows to trawling Europe’s biggest antiques markets, shopping for materials was a highlight for Debbie (pictured). “I’d drive to spots in France, Italy and England and load up my truck,” she says. One of her favourite sites is L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in France, where an entire town transforms into an antiques market twice annually. “I drove 11 hours to get there,” says Debbie. “When I saw it, it took my breath away.”
Debbie found these cool director’s chairs at an antiques market. She echoed their simple sacking fabric on the headboard and toss cushions in one of the guest rooms.
The semi-industrial kitchen, where cooking classes take place, boasts two dishwashers and a range customized with eight elements, a grill and a pasta cooker. In addition to the oversized appliance, Debbie insisted on a 16.5-foot-long island countertop, despite being warned it would look ridiculous. But when it arrived, she hated it. So, amid curses from her kitchen designer, Debbie had it replaced with a 13-foot- long one. It took 20 people to carry in the second slab of volcanic rock, which, at the last minute, was dropped and smashed. As they say, third time’s the charm.
Debbie considered absolutely everything, right down to the smallest details, from choosing the tiny air vent grates to opting for stone window lintels instead of wooden ones. “Even deciding on the thickness of the terracotta tiles for the windowsills – I nearly died,” she says with a laugh. Hits of pink brighten the vintage chair and bistro table. “I never touch a natural patina,” says Debbie of their distressed finishes. “Nobody can recreate that, not even me.”
For the dramatic stairs, Debbie used the same hot-rolled steel as she did on the kitchen floor of her former home in Montreal. “It stays cool in the heat and has a lovely grey tone,” she says. Set two inches from the wall and lined with strip lighting, the contemporary staircase seems to hover by the original stone wall to stunning effect.
The guest rooms are wrapped in a serene white and grey envelope, but each features a bold accent hue carried from the headboard to the bedding (here, it’s denim blue).
In one petite bathroom, a pair of ruffled sinks by Italian designer Paola Navone is set in a floating slab of live-edge olive wood. Each guest room and ensuite is totally different (“Visitors always have fun checking each other’s out,” says Debbie), but all the mirrors are the same: they look normal but have built-in defoggers and lights that, when turned on, create the perfect setting to apply makeup (“they’re so great, guests have even arranged to have them delivered to their own homes after visiting,” she says).
In Debbie’s master bathroom, a sleek tub and faucet are paired with antique wood details and old-world-look cement tiles. “When each is used with restraint, old looks spectacular juxtaposed with new,” she says.
Partial walls divide guest rooms from their ensuite bathrooms, lending the illusion of more space and allowing full views of the stunning ceilings. “They’re like art,” says Debbie. after visiting a ton of lighting shows, she worked with an expert to design her own modern, minimal touch lights, which are adhered to the bedroom walls as reading lamps.
Add coastal flair to your bedroom by following these simple steps.
Designer Shea McGee shares her top tips for adding coastal flair to your bedroom
With ocean views and an abundance of natural light, this master bedroom dictated its own design direction: cozy coastal. Here’s how designer Shea McGee of Studio McGee infused the space with a beach-inspired aesthetic.
1 Stick with calming tones like blues, greens and greys for the walls.
2 Don’t select anything too theme-y – add seaside style with textiles instead.
3 Choose furniture that’s light and airy. Think pale woods, glass and metal, and nothing too bulky.
4 Mix subtle patterns to keep things interesting without overwhelming the room.
5 Use linen fabrics for a relaxed look that doesn’t feel too formal or stuffy.
6 Incorporate organic elements like plants, branches and faux coral as a nod to the coast.
7 Hang drapery right to the ceiling to give extra softness to the space.
8 Layer your windows with woven shades for a dose of texture.