Adventures in Renovating
Mark Pupo -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Some people collect travel souvenirs. The owner of this Toronto condo took that idea a step further, renovating his entire home to evoke far-flung destinations. A property developer and avid mountain climber, he envisioned an apartment that would remind him of his favorite boutique hotels in the Far East, of trips in the Himalayas, and of his second home, in Paris.
For guidance on this design journey, he turned to the firm Johnson Chou. Its namesake principal stripped the 3,850-square-foot condo down to the bare concrete, then reorganized the rooms to emphasize the experience of movement. The entry is now a contemporary take on the classic rotunda, ringed by etched-glass panels that offer partial views of the living and dining areas and the den. Along hall leads from the entry rotunda to the master bedroom and bath.
Johnson Chou created the illusion of more space by interrupting sight lines with a series of walls upon walls. Some glow, and some are opaque. "It's like walking through an old Chinese garden. You can't figure out how big it is," he explains.
He chose materials with metaphorical significance for the client. Most vertical surfaces are sheathed either in hand-rubbed ebony veneer, typically found in Parisian apartments, or in statuary marble, suggesting mountains. The large slabs of book-matched stone heighten the impression of monumentality—the pieces are so big that they had to be carried up on the top of the building's elevator.
These massive stretches of wall nevertheless appear weightless, thanks to fluorescent up-lighting. Other elements literally float: A 16-foot-long black granite console, cantilevered on a steel beam bolted to a concrete structural column, also serves as a planter, a water element, and the hearth of a gel fireplace. ("Everyone likes surprises.")
The play of dark and light carries through to the kitchen, which has ebony-veneered cabinetry and a marble wall that the owner likes to prop large-scale photography against. The gallerylike quality of the room is cinched by the elegance of the black granite breakfast bar, carefully mitered to resemble one solid piece of stone. A gourmet refrigerator is concealed in a cabinet. Other appliances, including a microwave drawer, are installed below the counters to preserve the overall lines.
Every mountain has its peak, and the pinnacle of this design is the open master suite. As you would expect in any self-respecting boutique hotel, matching leather upholsters the headboard and a wall facing the bed, a bedside wet bar features a square teak sink, and a screen drops from the ceiling for under-the-covers movie viewing courtesy of an HDTV projector built into the cabinets. While a shower and a toilet hide behind etched-glass doors, the massive marble soaking tub takes center stage across the room. "We elevated it on an integral platform to give the act of bathing a ceremonial quality," Chou says. The tub is filled by two streams of water from fittings mounted on the ceiling.
Behind the tub, a one-way mirror allows bathers to see anyone standing at the double sink vanity beyond. "It fits with the rest of the condo's exploration of the visible and the not-quite-visible," Chou says. "And it's pretty cool, too." What more could a weary traveler desire?
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