Photography: Janis Nicolay
A freshly minted condo in downtown Vancouver gives its expat owners a home base that’s close to the action but feels worlds away from everything.
In Vancouver, few places feel more magnetic than Yaletown. Dotted with buzz-worthy eateries and chic boutiques, with its storied brick warehouses and walkways set off by shiny, new glass-wrapped condos, the neighbourhood bustles with life. Certainly, that was the draw for Mia Romanova and Roberto Liu, inveterate world travellers, most often based in Beijing, who fell in love with Vancouver – and its proximity to world-class snowboarding – and bought this 1,700-square-foot Yaletown condo two years ago.
What’s more intriguing here is that within this lively postal code, Mia and local designer Kathleen Lin were able to craft a tranquil sanctuary for the couple, a peaceful aerie high above the hustle and bustle of the city.
Since the condo was brand new, Kathleen’s directive was predominantly decorative. “When I first met with Mia, she said she wanted a Scandinavian look, but as I started seeing her inspiration pictures, I realized she wanted something more boho,” Kathleen says. “Condos can be really stark and lack warmth, so I worked on making the spaces organic and natural with a feminine, romantic flair – boho-driven, but in a polished way.” Kathleen cozied up the bright, open spaces with piles of pale wood. “With all the wood we brought in, I joke that it’s like a forest in here,” Kathleen says. Liberal hits of wicker and rattan, plus nubby jute rugs, round out the quiet, textural palette. Injecting style and personality was only half the battle. Because the home is open-concept and the look borders on minimalist, more storage was essential. “I came up with these clever, discreet solutions for storage,” Kathleen says, pointing out the master bedroom’s platform bed-window seat installation, multi-purpose storage furniture and the petite front hall zone she created. Today, the charming home away from home lets the nomadic couple enjoy impressive views of their adopted city and a front-row seat on Yaletown from an oasis of calm in the sky.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | DESIGN, Kathleen Lin Design; BUILDER, Onni; DINING TABLE, BENCH, RH; CHANDELIER, The Cross Design; SMALL GLASS BOTTLES, Blossom & Vine Floral Co.; WHITE CLUB CHAIR, WOVEN ARMCHAIR (background), CB2.
A breezy open-concept design and wall-to-wall windows mean the serene and earthy condo is drenched in natural light all day long. Designer Kathleen Lin was brought on board after homeowners Mia Romanova and Roberto Liu had chosen finishes for the newly built unit. The goals of the design project became to soften the look of the architecture and create an interior that reflected the young couple’s passion for travel and snowboarding.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | CANED DINING CHAIRS, Rejuvenation; RUG, EQ3; CHANDELIER, The Cross Design; SMALL GLASS BOTTLES, Blossom & Vine Floral Co.; CUSTOM SHELVES, Kathleen Lin Design; FLOOR LAMP (in corner), Wayfair; LARGE RUG, EQ3; SMALL RUG (under ottoman), CF Interiors; WALL PAINT, Oxford White CC-30, Benjamin Moore.
The living room feels almost like a separate room, thanks to elements like the simple slatted divider by the front door and the sectional’s high back and pillows that clearly define the space. With their black frames, the caned dining chairs echo the wall-mounted shelves in the living room beyond. The gnarled trunk and mossy base of the giant potted tree trick visitors into believing it’s real – in fact, Kathleen glue-gunned faux leaves to real dried branches. “For the dining table, they entertain a lot of people, so we needed an extension table, and I wanted reclaimed wood – a piece that’s very organic to stand out between the two living areas,” Kathleen says. “And that quartz chandelier is a showstopper!” Throughout the main living space, casual rugs define each zone and quietly inject texture and warmth. By bookending the large, dark TV with tidy wall-mounted shelves, Kathleen made it feel more integrated in the white space. The units, which have iron frames and whitewashed wood shelves, also provide spots to display collectibles – like Mia’s quirky crystal-topped Trolls – in an orderly and intentional way, letting the overall space remain fairly minimalist. “These are the personal accents that make a space individual,” Kathleen says.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | SECTIONAL, MIRROR, The Cross Design; OTTOMAN, Kathleen Lin Design; OTTOMAN FABRIC, Anne Starr; WHITE TRAY, CB2; LIDDED COPPER CANDLE JAR, Anthropologie; WHITE VASE, CB2; WHITE COASTERS, Nineteen Ten; CABINET, West Elm.
The big, plush sectional feels like a warm hug in the airy main living space. The top of the ottoman comes off to reveal storage. Windows throughout the home are outfitted with built-in blinds for privacy without putting a damper on the natural light.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
In all of about three square feet, Kathleen created a “front hall” zone by installing a narrow divider wall, low-key cabinet and eye-catching mirror. “I knew I needed to create a little storage here with a landing area for dropping keys, mail, etc., but also provide separation between this and the TV-living area,” Kathleen says. “The wood slats keep it open, letting light come through, and the material ties in with the rest of the home’s finishes.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay | WOODEN SOFA AND MATTRESS, Anthropologie; PILLOWS, Nineteen Ten, The Cross Design, The Citizenry, CB2; THROW, The Cross; COFFEE TABLE, Crate and Barrel; LOW RATTAN OTTOMAN, Amber Interiors; SQUARE WHITE SIDE TABLE, CF Interiors; WHITE PENDANT LIGHTS, Article; SWING, Pop & Scott; RUG, CF Interiors; EATING COUNTER CONSTRUCTION, Union Wood; BARSTOOLS, West Elm; STRING LIGHTS, Canadian Tire; WHITE SIDE TABLE, The Cross Design; WOVEN FLOOR LAMP, Mobilia.
Located in the outer corner of the main living space, this second sitting area has the feel of an aerie tucked away high above the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Riffing on the fact that it’s surrounded by windows and sweeping city views, Kathleen decorated it like a cozy, well-appointed veranda.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
The sofa, tables and side chairs all have a light, open design and are made of indoor-outdoor materials like wicker and worn wood.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
“They love to entertain, and sometimes the guys might be watching TV, so Mia wanted a separate area for lounging – but not necessarily a formal and informal space,” Kathleen says. “We knew we were doing the coffee bar here, so we extended that into a lounge area that’s laid out to be conversational, with the chairs across from the daybed and lots of extra ottomans.” Installing a wooden eating counter at the window and running retro-style string lights across the ceiling brings a fun café feel to the sitting area.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
Large, enveloping woven bar-stools and a beverage fridge that faces the living and dining rooms turn the kitchen peninsula into a great spot for guests to hang out when Roberto or Mia are cooking. Opting for a white marble backsplash and finishing the upper cabinets in glossy white, as opposed to the darker oak lower cabinets, keeps the kitchen light and bright. Wrapping the peninsula that divides the kitchen and dining area in a seamless waterfall counter built of richly veined marble helped downplay its ample size.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | STOOLS, CB2; TALL GLASS VASE, Blossom & Vine Floral Co.; LONG SLIM PULLS, Bradford Hardware; BLACK AND WHITE SALT AND PEPPER MILLS, Vancouver Special; COPPER PLANT HOLDER, Blossom & Vine Floral Co.
Pairing cool finishes (the marble and gleaming white laminate uppers) with warm oak cabinetry balances the tones in the kitchen. Drawers offer ease of access; as do the long, slim pulls that are understated and mod.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | CHAIR, Style in Form; TALL LANTERNS, CB2; WHITE SIDE TABLE, CF Interiors; RUG, The Home Depot; THROW PILLOWS, The Cross Design.
The indoor-outdoor feel of the condo is extended to a sunroom off the master bedroom thanks to garden-like furnishings like the lanterns and woven armchair. The space is ideal for yoga with the Coast Mountains providing a peaceful backdrop to Vancouver’s downtown.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | CONSOLE, FLOOR LAMP, The Cross Design; MIRROR, CB2; CUSTOM OTTOMAN, Kathleen Lin Design; FABRIC ON OTTOMAN, Cisco Textiles.
A barely-there glass console table by the window in the master bedroom provides a convenient spot to do hair and makeup without eating up floor space. “Because the room is one large wall-to-wall window, we did a really quiet design so the view stands out,” Kathleen says.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | SHELF by Cedar & Craft Co, Etsy; PLANTS, Blossom & Vine Floral Co.; STRING LIGHTS, Amazon.
All glitter, colour and talismanic intrigue, crystals live large in this condo’s decorating theme – from this charming mountain-themed display shelf in the master bedroom to the ensuite bath to the living room. Mia collects crystals, plus kitschy retrofitted Troll dolls with crystal hair. “Because the crystals are all different, small sizes, they would get lost on a larger shelf,” Kathleen says. “This mountain-shaped shelf reflects Mia and Roberto’s love for nature, and its small cubbies nicely house some of Mia’s crystals.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay | DRUM TABLE by Made Goods, The Cross Design; CUSTOM TUB TRAY, FAUX PLANT ARRANGEMENT, Kathleen Lin Design; FAUCET, Kohler.
Kathleen’s goal for the ensuite bathroom was to warm up the builder- boring look. “Mia and Roberto don’t love the finish, but it was brand new, so it would have been a shame to rip it out,” Kathleen says. She layered in organic texture by hanging a quirky plant over the freestanding tub, a whitewashed drum table finished in nubby liana wood and a live-edge wood tub tray.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | BED STRUCTURE, J&S Reclaimed Wood Furniture; BEDDING, The Cross Design and Parachute; WALL PAINT, Charcoal Slate PM-8, Benjamin Moore; MACRAME CURTAIN by Carla Simple Living, Etsy; CEILING LIGHTS, Inform Interiors; BOLSTER PILLOW, The Citizenry; “NAMASTAY” ART, Etsy.
Kathleen’s clever design for the master bedroom’s built-in unit, which incorporates the bed platform and headboard plus a window seat, was inspired by multi-purpose Japanese furniture. A lid on the bench seating opens to access a storage cubby, the foot of the bed holds a row of soft-closed drawers, and USB and electrical outlets are discreetly located on both sides of the headboard. “The master gets a lot of light, so I wanted to add depth with the deep charcoal feature wall,” Kathleen says. “And I didn’t want the bed to blend in too much – I wanted something dramatic.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay | BED, Pottery Barn; DESK, Ikea; CHAIR, CB2; BEDSIDE TABLE, The Cross Design; TABLE LAMP, Anthropologie; CUSTOM CANOPY FRAME, J&S Reclaimed Wood Furniture; CANOPY FABRIC, Rokko Sarees & Fabrics; FLOATING SHELVES, Union Wood.
The ethereal bed canopy was Kathleen’s answer to bringing Mia’s personality into this guest room, which also doubles as her office. “I wanted it to reflect Mia’s tastes,” she says. “She practises yoga and loves things like crystals, so I wanted to create something that would add a Zen, airy and whimsical feel.” A small, white, leggy desk and chair inject function without imposing on the space.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | SHELVES, CB2; SCONCE, Rejuvenation; grey and white PLANTER, The Cross Design; GLOBE, Wayfair; PLANT (in footed planter), Blossom & Vine Floral Co.; DESK, Structube; CHAIR, CB2.
Outfitted with a statement-making walnut-veneered desk and retro-chic swivel chair, the condo’s third bedroom is designed as Roberto’s office, but also incorporates a graceful daybed that folds open into a queen-size bed for even more guests. Shelves in Roberto’s office take a page from the globetrotting couple’s lifestyle, displaying snowboarder artwork, shapely petrified wood bookends and a tiny globe. A wall-mounted desk lamp echoes the swivel chair’s ’70s style. While succulents can be a hardy plant option suited to frequent travellers, Kathleen made a number of faux plant arrangements for this home so they’ll last forever!
Photography: Janis Nicolay | DAYBED, CB2; MURAL, Anewall; GREY PILLOW, The Cross Design; PATTERNED PILLOW, THROW, John Robshaw; RUG, EQ3; CEILING LIGHT, Rejuvenation.
A dreamy mural of a mountainside cloaked in cloud that fills the wall behind the daybed in Roberto’s office is an allusion to the pair’s passion for snowboarding. “They didn’t have a huge art collection, so I took the opportunity to do the wallpaper mural that pays homage to the mountains, which they love,” Kathleen says. “It has even more impact than a large canvas would have.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay
Bright idea! Shallow bookshelves custom-made from whitewashed oak swing open to reveal laundry machines.
This built-in makes great use of space by concealing the laundry area while also displaying the couple’s books.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | DESIGN, Kathleen Lin; BUILDER, J&S Reclaimed Wood Furniture.