It turned out they loved city life, so they bought a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom condo, got rid of everything that held no emotional attachment, moved in with what they thought they could fit and wound up with three large storage units full to overflowing. Faced with a “sea of boxes” in the condo and struggling to reconcile their antiques with the condo’s contemporary architecture, they called in interior designer Lori Steeves. She helped them freshen up some of their existing pieces and add new furnishings and lighting that bridged the gap between 100-plus-year-old antiques and their modern high-rise.
Living and Dining Room at a Glance
Who lives here: Cathi and John Campbell
Location: Lower Lonsdale area of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Size: 400 square feet (37 square meters)
Designer: Lori Steeves of Simply Home Decorating
“This project was quite a collaboration with the clients … much more so than most of my projects, where I start with a blank slate and determine everything from scratch,” Steeves says. “Cathi and John had a lot to contribute to the project and really just needed help to pull everything together.”
The designer looked to the couple’s existing pieces for inspiration, including the colors in their antique Persian rugs and in the art, the wood and finishes of the furniture and the architecture of the unit. To help them bridge the gap between the 19th-century antiques and the modern-day condo, she turned to midcentury modern design.
“Lori, John and I were really on the same page,” Cathi says. “After this experience, I highly recommend bringing in someone to help.”
The new dining chairs and a new chandelier that nod to midcentury modern design help tie the old and new together. The painting, originally Cathi’s father’s, was painted by Michael Forster in 1941, so it fits right in.
The rich slate floors were one of the elements the couple fell in love with when condo hunting, and also inspired the decor. “Their rich jewel tones were a big influence on everything we did,” Steeves says. The dark accent wall plays off the stone’s tones as well as the black accents in the room. Cathi painted it herself, and after she realized the natural light in the apartment was making the After Midnight paint color appear too blue, she returned to Benjamin Moore several times to have it custom mix the final result — a black with subtle blue undertones. Along with the rug and light fixture, the wall helps define the dining area within the open space.
Light: West Elm; dining chairs: available at Once a Tree
To best showcase the art, Steeves made a minor but significant cosmetic change: She painted the window frames black and replaced dated crystal light fixtures with modern black art lighting. The combination updates the condo, creates graphic punches and helps the colorful artwork, also framed in black, stand out.
“Lori’s genius came in through some of the little things I hadn’t even thought about,” Cathi says. “I hadn’t considered replacing the original light fixtures, but putting in that brass chandelier and the articulated black sconces on the curved wall really tied everything together.”
Another change Steeves suggested was moving the TV from atop the trunk to the same height as the artwork so that it would blend in along the dramatic curved wall.
She created a sense of symmetry around the new sofa by using the same lampshades on a new floor lamp and the couple’s existing lucite lamp, and by making sure the shades were placed at the same height. The lamps add a modern-day touch, while the Noguchi coffee table is an iconic midcentury modern piece. The rugs tie in with the fabrics on the throw pillows and chair.
Sofa: American Leather; cherry blossom fabric: Meredith Heron for JF Fabrics; geometric fabric: Duralee; pig: Urban Barn
“It’s important to have pieces that can function in different places when you’re in a small space,” Cathi says. For instance, two of these antique chairs, passed down through her family, move among the desk, the extra bedroom the couple use as a cozy den and the dining table. Steeves helped them choose an updated fabric for them, a playful chenille animal print.
To the right, you can catch a glimpse of a curved wall that was formerly painted drywall in what Steeves calls “hospital green.” “Plain drywall didn’t fit with the rest of the upscale feeling in the home and we couldn’t hang art on it because of the curve,” she says. “Using this patterned wallcovering plays off the dark wall, adds texture and elevates the look.”
Chenille animal print fabric: Duralee
Its tapestry upholstery was in bad shape. “Also, we were placing it near a south-facing window so we needed to select a Sunbrella fabric that wouldn’t fade,” Steeves says. A menswear-inspired gray flannel provides a great dark contrast and is punched up by warm orange plucked from colors found in the rugs. A midcentury-modern-inspired tulip table and a chunky woven pouf add fresh touches.
The couch comes in handy not only for lounging and reading, but it can seat two guests when the couple entertain.
Pillow fabric: Kravet; pouf: Urban Barn; tulip table: Crate and Barrel
Now about those three storage units. They were truly transitional — it just took a little time to take care of them. Cathi and John created a Dropbox account and shared photos of each item with their three children so they could choose what they wanted and have it all shipped. “It worked out perfectly — almost everything we love is still in the family,” Cathi says. “It’s so much easier to get rid of things when you know they are wanted and will still be used.”