Image: Style at Home
Learn how to maximize space in your condo with inspiration from Toronto's Schoolhouse suites.
Toronto designer Byron Patton is renowned for bringing life to prestigious spaces through brilliant design -- he combines the playful with the elegant, and design elements as diverse as chalk and cheese. His latest playground is Schoolhouse (by Empire Communities), a chic collection of 19 condo suites in a converted wing of Loretto College built in 1915 in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood. Each suite is named after a famous seat of higher learning -- The U of T, The Brown, the Berkeley, The Harvard, the Yale etc. Patton, who can claim triumphs in Toronto low and high-rise, rural, lakeside and corporate design, says there are many ways to maximize condo living through seamless, intelligent design.
Style at Home: Condo living seems to be a massive trend now. Not too long ago, condos seemed like compromises – what happened?
Byron Patton: It’s all about lifestyle and the demands of the boomer generation. Condos offer a carefree alternative for sophisticated living. The suite layouts are better, people travel more or have second homes and there are great services and amenities available in many buildings.
S@H: It’s interesting that condos often have nostalgic names and ultra modern interiors. You play with those concepts as well, in earthy wooden items amongst the ghost chairs.
BP: These carefully selected items add character and a lived-in look to the model. It’s easy to just buy props like glass vases, but these types of accessories add the patina and romance of another age. The layering of old and new makes the spaces look like home rather than a showroom.
S@H: What colour principals work well in condo spaces in general?
BP: Neutral is best for larger areas like the walls and the sectional sofa. Pale colours visually expand the spaces and your eye will also flow to the view rather than stopping on a stronger colour. I also paint the same neutral on the base, trim and doors to eliminate detail and grow the space -- I personally love pure crisp white. Keep stronger colours – any of the jewel tones - in smaller areas, like the bathroom, to create impact.
S@H: Schoolhouse suites look big, bright and airy; how did you use colour to manipulate the space?
BP: I feel that textures are more important in furnishings than colour. We always try to work with a neutral palette and then add colour accents in the art and accessories. The colour scheme at the Schoolhouse is brown, grey, tan and taupe and we used leather, silk, linen, velvet, chenille and cotton in textures. No matter how great that red sofa looks, you will be bored and tired with it in a few years. Neutrals are easy to live with in the long run. On that neutral sofa, you can use red pillows and next year change to eggplant. Textured neutrals provide a clean, elegant backdrop on which to layer other colours.
S@H: These days, entire furniture lines are being designed just for small condo spaces. What kind of qualities and features should they have?
BP: Furniture for smaller spaces have slimmer proportions and up-to-date technology that provides comfort within a smaller envelope. Sofa arms are narrower and designed with legs to float the mass off the floor; often furniture is "knock down" to allow for easy moving; tables extend easily to provide flexibility for entertaining; beds are lower to visually take less space in a room; furniture does double duty – your desk is also your dining table. Murphy beds and wall systems are also very popular in efficient condos.
S@H: You've included a wonderful sectional sofa with TV tables tucked underneath, but in general, you’ve kept the furnishings full sized.
BP: In a model, we are showing prospects ideas for furnishing the spaces. We have to be up-to-date, but not trendy. We have to be careful to show that, yes, you can bring your furniture and treasures with you and mix it up with some new pieces. The antique Louis Philippe cabinet is a good example where we are showing not only a good mix of styles, but also showing that you can bring your grandmother’s heirlooms with you to a modern space and it will look great!
S@H: If a client’s taste is traditional or country, would you advise that they do that in country and adjust to modern life in the city?
BP: No, not at all. Design of one’s home is very personal and we stress that we have to tune into what makes a house a home for the client and family. I feel that sometimes design becomes just too precious and designers dictate to clients. It’s the designer’s job to take the input from the client and work with their taste to create a backdrop for their likes and lifestyle. A Canadiana pine harvest table marries beautifully with Breuer cane and chrome chairs; a traditional Bergere chair looks great upholstered in natural linen. If a client wants a more traditional look, or is interested in a look that is more detailed, it doesn’t mean it has to be ornate.
Schoolhouse suites include one-bedroom plus den, two bedroom and two-bedroom plus den, and range in size from 1,032 to 2,092 square feet, with prices from $629,900 to more than $1.6 million. Schoolhouse Inspired Living in the Annex, 391 Brunswick Ave., Toronto, ON M5R 2Z2.