BY NESSA PULLMAN | PHOTOS BY GEOFF HOBSON
Most condo renovations go as far as switching out cabinets and updating light fixtures — but when two ready-to-settle-down homeowners decided to stay in their condo rather than buy a house, they were determined to do what was needed to create their forever home. They reached out to local design-build firm MAC Renovations to tackle the challenge.
“The building was created in the early 90s,” says Blaise McDonald, project manager at MAC. “The place was tired, the homeowners were ready to bring it up to speed to match their taste and lifestyle.”
The first order of business was addressing the awkward zoning. The original layout had the kitchen confined behind the fireplace and the dining room isolated in a separate room away from the working areas.
“It’s a small condo,” says Azucena Saavedra, interior designer at MAC. “And having all those unnecessary walls made it feel even smaller.”
McDonald knew that removing the wall that supported the fireplace would be a huge challenge — and relocating it would be another. After removal, the team had to find a place to store the ventilation, whose location was fixed because of the condo’s fire-stopping regulations. Through collaborative thinking, the homeowners and the construction team came up with the idea to install the stovetop on the new island, and use the existing ventilation output to run the new hood fan.
“It was a big challenge rewiring the ventilation to accommodate the stovetop instead of the fireplace,” says McDonald. “But it was a clever fix.”
The scheme was near perfect except for one piece: storing the ventilation and electrical which ran down from the ceiling. Instead of having a plain beam take centre stage in the space, Saavedra designed a floor-to-ceiling storage unit in Burma Teakwood to disguise the structural requirement and add in a decorative focal point.
Rustic Meets Modern
“The homeowners wanted a modern design with rustic masculine elements — and wood. Lots of wood,” Saavedra says with a laugh. “One of the first materials the homeowners purchased was the acacia wood flooring that runs throughout the entire condo. The homeowners were already planning to incorporate most of their existing furniture — which happened to be 90 per cent wood — when they made the purchase.
“At first I was concerned,” says Saavedra. “Mixing several woods can easily overwhelm a space — especially one of this size.”
The designer worked around this by applying off-white wall paint throughout and adding in a mix of white millwork to help balance the rich tones. She then compared various woods and stains to see what would flow together.
“We had to bring pieces of wood around with us everywhere,” Saavedra recalls. “And once we narrowed it down, I created 3D renderings to see how the different tones would look together once installed.”
To maintain a modern esthetic against the rustic materials, Saavedra paired slab-style cabinetry with contemporary brushed nickel hardware and plumbing fixtures in the kitchen. A dual-toned backsplash and a smokey-grey quartz countertop add texture to the sleek surfaces. A decorative open-shelving unit was placed above the sink to add contrast against the minimalist backdrop and to harmonize with the wood details throughout the home.
The walls were kept uncluttered [throughout the dining and living area] leaving the homeowners’ intricate wood furniture to shine. A geometric pendant from Mclaren Lighting floats above the rustic dining table — maintaining the contemporary feel the homeowners were seeking. The new fireplace (now gas) was placed off to the corner to tie together the three main rooms — allowing the space to remain open, bright and functional.
All In the Planning
When preparing for a renovation in a condo, McDonald says that the crucial first step is to clear your plans with your strata. Once you’ve got your approvals, you will need to find a reliable build firm, and together you will tackle the next crucial step: clearing it with the city.
“In a condo renovation, the longest piece is getting the plans and approvals,” says McDonald. “Once that’s complete, you can start breaking ground, and then it’s just clockwork.”
McDonald says about 60 per cent of the timeline is spent pre-planning, because once you’re on site you want things completed as smoothly and timely as possible.
“When you’re in a condo, you have to account for numerous restrictions that houses don’t have,” says McDonald. “Like noise-complaints, working hours and product deliveries that need to be brought in and out by hand.”
Of course, the end result should make the challenges worth it. While this renovation was not the typical scale for a condo, thoughtful pre-planning made for a full-size upgrade that the condo’s owners will enjoy for years to come.