By Adrienne Dyer | Photography by Jeffrey Bosdet
When faced with the dilemma of buying a new condo versus renovating an older one, a Victoria couple proved that out-of-date can become spectacular in the hands of an innovative designer.
When making their purchase, the couple focused on square footage, location and a well-organized strata committee, then brought in designer Ines Hanl, owner of The Sky Is The Limit Interior Design Concepts, to turn the tired 1970s condo into their dream home. With dashes of 1920s industrial elements and 1950s retro, this cool condo features an all-white art gallery vibe with fun splashes of colour and texture, a style Hanl describes as “very sensual, in a modern way. To enter the suite is like “stepping through the closet into Narnia.”
The Condo Conundrum: Buy New or Renovate Old?
In the Victoria condo market, new does not necessarily mean better. True, new builds are move-in ready, and offer amenities like attractive common areas and beautiful landscaping. But the major tradeoffs are square footage and minimal choice in design and finishing materials. Hanl says it’s easy to spend $400 to 500K for a cramped, two-bedroom unit with minimal storage and a master bedroom with barely a foot of space to spare at the end of the bed.
By contrast, older buildings offer a full range of choices in location (downtown living isn’t for everyone) and more spacious layouts for significantly lower cost, which leaves room in the budget to make the space your own.
When you renovate an older condo, you can add all the touches you want, like the very creative custom cabinetry that adds flow throughout the entire home. True, you’ll need to work within the confines of your strata bylaws, with careful consideration for making the renovation as painless as possible for your neighbours. You may also encounter structural limitations, like hidden conduits in the walls and ceilings, as happened with this project. But there is still plenty of scope for creativity.
The Cool Concept
At 1,500 square feet, this generously sized 1970s condo features a wall of windows in the living room, offering views of natural spaces outside. That connection to nature is very important to the homeowners, but the original layout didn’t allow them to see those views from the tiny galley kitchen or cramped front entrance.
The elongated living room was roomy but disproportionately large compared to the under-sized dining space. And the entire home lacked adequate lighting, a common problem in condos new and old, says Hanl.
The first order of business was to remove partition walls, opening up the kitchen as much as the existing hidden venting allowed so the homeowner could indulge her love of cooking. New steel structural posts between the kitchen and dining area add architectural interest in keeping with the home’s Yaletown-esque industrial vibe.
Hanl expanded the kitchen into the former dining area, then converted part of the living room into a new dining area cleverly defined by a dropped beam hidden inside a bulkhead. The new ceiling feature also houses a grid of pot lights in place of a chandelier. Finishes like high-gloss cabinetry and glass backsplash tiles reflect light and increase the overall feeling of spaciousness.
And the coolest feature of all? “I had this tractor wheel hanging at my local blacksmith for years and years and hoped I could utilize it someday,” says Hanl. “We turned it into their bar table!”
The diminutive “His” bathroom/guest bath was cramped for Hanl’s tall client. But the designer carved out some elbow room by adding a new pocket door, and by recessing the shower into the wall. She was also able to redirect some of the venting to raise the ceiling by a few centimetres — a small change that made a huge difference. Floor-to-ceiling wall tiles, a large mirror and frameless shower glass further increase the space via a little visual magic.
“The most jarring element of this condo was the sharply angled wall in the bedroom,” says Hanl. She describes a triangular room where, from the bed, the homeowners had a direct view of the toilet at the end of a hallway flanked by closets — hardly restful! Hanl’s ingenious solution was to convert the old hallway and closets into a private dressing space, and then add a closet to square off the room’s angles. The homeowners now access the ensuite bath through the new closet area, giving them extra storage without taking away from the spaciousness of the room.
What the owners love best about their new home is the openness. Colour. Balance. A continuous theme throughout the house. It’s a space this couple plans to call home for many years to come.
Contractor: Rob Parsons, Parsons Construction
Millwork and custom furniture (bed, side tables): Splinters Millworks
Counter: Colonial Countertops
Plumbing fixtures and all door hardware: Victoria Speciality Hardware
Tiles: Decora Tile
Blacksmith: Crescent Moon Forge
Light fixtures: Illuminations
Furniture: Roche Bobois, Gabriel Ross
Carpet tile in office: FLOR\
Laminate flooring: Finishing Store
Appliances: Lansdowne Appliance