April 23, 2024

Architectural Design Kingdom

Home is where the heart is

Magnificent city views the design inspiration for Yaletown condo reno

7 min read

Kalu Interiors transforms a dated, two-storey penthouse, while keeping the cityscape in mind

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When a designer looks at reworking a space to reflect a client’s needs and fulfill their wish list, a number of factors must be considered to create and execute the design. For interior designer Aleem Kassam, co-founder of Kalu Interiors, along with Phyllis Lui, what was happening outside his client’s home determined the approach to what would ultimately be created inside the residence.

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“When you walk in the space, the showstopper is the city because it’s towering 34 storeys above the city with unobstructed views of the mountains, the harbour, the city,” Kassam says of the two-storey Yaletown penthouse. “So I wanted your eye to go straight out those windows without feeling like the interior was hitting you in the face, which … is why I utilized more natural colours and finishes.”

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The project, which unfolded in stages over a few years, involved renovating both floors of the approximately 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom condominium. Esthetically, the downstairs living space harkened back to the ’90s: think lots of chocolate brown cabinetry and old granite worktops, too many walls that made the rooms in the linear layout appear gloomy and closed in despite the multitude of expansive windows and access to outdoor spaces.

Accentuating the natural light from the expansive windows and creating unimpeded views from everywhere on the main living level was the inspiration of the redesign for this two-storey condo.
Kassam designed the kitchen and dining space for both family time and entertaining, with an island that flows into a dining table topped with glossy black quartz to reflect light. Photo by Provoke Studios /jpg

“There was a lot of wall removal and rejigging of the layout,” says Kassam. This entailed taking out some built-in closets and walls that partly enclosed the kitchen on two sides—by the entry and the living room. Upstairs, the enclosed walls in the secondary bedroom were opened up, as was the closet; the hallway closet was opened up, and the bathroom, which was enclosed with a separate linen closet and door, was opened up.

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“We really wanted to make it feel more open plan, more current and to date,” he recalls. “Wherever we opened things up, we … allowed for flexibility of partial enclosure through glazing. So, for instance, second bedroom [has] large sliding glass doors [fabricated with black tinted privacy glass]. In areas where there were closets, we opted for built-ins versus closets to make it feel more open. Rather than walls or doors, we had millwork. We did sliding glass doors into the primary ensuite as well as the second bedroom.”

The black recessed centre-stack of the hood fan and cooktop provide a visual focal point while the warm-toned, white-oak tower cabinets framing it keep the space light.
The black recessed centre-stack of the hood fan and cooktop in the kitchen provide a visual focal point, while the warm-toned, white-oak tower cabinets framing it keep the space light. Photo by Provoke Studios

From the start of the project, Kassam had a clear vision of what the client wanted from a design perspective because he specifically sought the designer out as a result of viewing Kassam’s home when it was for sale. The client didn’t end up purchasing the designer’s property, but he loved the esthetic and wanted that sensibility brought to his new residence which, though he was single when he acquired it, is now home to him, his wife and two children—a toddler and a baby. Though his marital status may have changed, his expectations didn’t.

“He wanted to be able to entertain in the space,” Kassam recalls. “He loves his wine, which is why you see a full-height temperature-controlled unit at the end of the kitchen. So he loves to entertain, he loves wine, and he loves music and media.”

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By opening up the layout, Kassam created a kitchen and dining space that functioned for both entertaining and easy family living. He designed an island that flowed into a dining table topped with glossy black quartz to reflect light and complement the matte black recessed centre unit of cabinets, cooktop and hood fan, all of which are flanked by warm, white-oak cabinetry housing the pantry, an integrated fridge and the wine cooler.

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A floor-to-ceiling smoked mirror on the wall behind the vanity reflects light and the spectacular city views back into the powder room. Photo by Provoke Studios

“So by integrating the island and the dining area, we were able to achieve a very long, amazing surface in the kitchen that acts as both dining and kitchen,” he explains. “But it’s also a countertop surface if you’re not entertaining. If you are entertaining, there are seats both at the island and the adjoining dining. Now you’ve gone from six to 10 people.”

Where the dining space was originally positioned, Kassam turned that into a secondary seating area accented with a smoke mirror-cladded wall to reflect more outdoor light in the room (the same effect was created in the powder room behind the vanity) and a full wall unit crafted with white oak millwork which opens by touch and houses everything from cleaning supplies to coats and shoes. This makes better use of the space, he says, because the room wasn’t big enough to function well as a dining room.

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Boosting the light in the home was at the centre of the colour palette selection, even though there are distinctive hits of black (a signature hue of Kassam’s design style) throughout, including in the striking basketweave wall tile in the upstairs bathroom.

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Hits of black were added for dramatic effect — like the black-and-white basketweave tile accent running up one wall, along the ceiling and down the opposite wall. Photo by Provoke Studios

“In order to create an expansive light space, I’ve utilized white oak from the floor up through the majority of the millwork throughout the space,” Kassam explains. “So your eye continues from the floor up the wall. You don’t feel like the room is enclosing you. And where I’ve used black vertically where typically it would be more impeding, like I did in the centre stack of the stovetop and the oven, that’s an inset area between the tower millwork cabinets on either side. So, it doesn’t necessarily come out at you because it’s recessed back within the space.”

Kassam says the creative process of working with the client went smoothly; essentially, he was given carte blanche. There was just one sticking point that was non-negotiable. Kassam had to accommodate a massive television in the small condo living room. That was solved by continuing the white oak millwork with a built-in unit that encased and recessed the TV, thereby softening its visual impact.

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White-oak millwork was extended into the living room to provide more storage and encase the large TV to integrate it, rather than overpower the space.
White-oak millwork was extended into the living room for more storage and to encase the TV to integrate it, rather than overpower the space. Photo by Provoke Studios

Through an open-plan redesign with unimpeded sightlines and a neutral palette warmed with earthier-hued accents, the final result is an elegant yet comfortable modern family home that doesn’t try to compete with the magnificent views.

Kassam sums up the finished project modestly: “The outdoor space, the height, the architecture of the staircase, all those elements and the flooding of natural light—the bones and everything we had going for it, it was just a matter of working with those and taking them to the next level.”

The renovation work was done by general contractor Tall Tree Construction.

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