Designing Cohesive Indoor Spaces Using Focal Points

A home’s disjointed rooms are unified to create a modern milieu for a collection of age-old treasures?

Credit: Terry Guscott

Ron Dupuis reused pieces collected over the years in his new contemporary design

Interior Solutions Design Group transforms a large 60-year-old home using focal points to unify space

When Ron Dupuis first set foot in his 1947 postmodern home perched on a hill overlooking the Lions Gate Bridge and Burrard Inlet, he was met with a collision of design styles. Cedar wood planks blanketed the walls and ceiling, and white marble floors extended the length of the cavernous entranceway. A vertical retaining beam separated two doors leading from the foyer into the living room.

“There was barnboard everywhere and no defined sense of space,” says Dupuis. “It looked like a bowling alley, but I was drawn to the view, the modern look of the home and rural feeling of West Vancouver. I thought I could fix it to my own taste.”

The 3,600-square-foot space was originally constructed as three apartments and had undergone two extensive renovations. The result was a home with 57 windows and 11 exterior doors. 

“He wanted to create a backdrop for his furniture and art that was clean and modern,” says project design manager Teresa Cain of Interior Solutions Design Group.

“Ron knew he wanted to update a number of the principal rooms, but once we got into the project, we realized that a lot of attention needed to be given to the foyer. It was a very disjointed space. The entrance sets the tone for the entire home. There was too much contrast in the white marble flooring and casual wood walls.”

Striving for Contemporary Design Amidst Eclectic Furnishings

Dupuis stands in his newly renovated home

Over the years, Dupuis, an estate jewelry auctioneer, had amassed an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative furniture from auction that he planned to incorporate into the space.

And while many of the pieces were older, including a marble Roman statue dating from 122 AD, he wanted the home to retain its contemporary feel.

The design team immediately got to work by removing the country style, oak spindles and handrail from the staircase in the foyer and installing a dramatic glass-and-stainless steel stair system that extends along the second floor hallway overlooking the entrance.

Above the staircase, ginkgo wallpaper with metallic gold detailing stretches to the ceiling, effectively creating a focal point. Cedar planks were removed from the walls and 12-by-24-inch porcelain tiles were installed on the floor.

The wood ceiling trim was painted out white to blend in with the walls and flooring, while the large wooden beams along the ceiling were left exposed and highlighted as an architectural feature.

A closet was installed just to the left of the entranceway to anchor the once expansive area and create a divider for a separate media room. The now-cohesive space was punched up with Dupuis’ antique furnishings, which include an oversized nautical-style convex mirror that once hung in a private men’s club.

Keeping Traditional Elements within a Modern Motif

By using modern fixed elements, the design still has a contemporary feel

According to project designer Tiffany Karlson, the key to incorporating antiques into an overall contemporary space is to keep the fixed elements modern, but with a nod toward tradition.

For example, when redesigning the gas fireplace in the dining room, Karlson created an asymmetrical nook that traditionally would have been used for stacking wood. Instead, it’s used to house a miniature Roman statue. Even the ginkgo leaf motif on the foyer wallpaper is found in traditional textiles. 

Since the homeowner allocated the majority of the budget to the entrance and two bathrooms, the kitchen was given a cursory update. A forest green countertop was replaced with black granite, featuring a smaller overhang to make room for a marble-topped breakfast table and red leather chairs. Taupe glass tile was installed as a backsplash and brass hardware was replaced with brushed nickel.

Lighting played a critical role in achieving the overall look of the home. Translucent glass was installed in the interior doors to let the light come through and enforce the contemporary feel of the home. In the main floor bathroom, a set of three glass pendants hangs askew over the bathroom vanity, creating an unexpected focal point from the hallway.

“It is purely decorative lighting that invites you into the bathroom,” says Karlson.

In the upstairs and main floor bathrooms, colour blocking was used to create drama and a focal point in each space. On the main floor, large, striated midnight blue porcelain tiles were installed over the vanity. Upstairs, aqua blue tiles were placed in the shower for the same effect.

“The blue cements the West Coast modern contemporary look,” says Karlson. “Most clients want an indoor-outdoor feeling and the blue plays off what we see reflected in nature.”

Chrome vanity bar lights help to light the bathroom

The freestanding, oval-shaped tub in the upstairs bathroom creates a second focal point, adds Karlson. “It is like having a sculpture in the bathroom.”

The vaulted cedar ceiling with exposed beams posed a lighting challenge for the design team. Unable to install overhead halogen lighting, Karlson opted for a set of chrome vanity bar lights and a matching pair of sconces to light the space from both above and below.

For Dupuis, the reno has created a soothing space that lets him rotate his collections throughout the home. Pointing to an A.J. Casson landscape painting located in the entranceway, Dupuis is attracted to its universal appeal.

“Over time, I might replace it with something else,” says Dupuis. “I like to put a general landscape – that doesn’t seemingly depict one particular place – in the entrance to a home. It is welcoming.”

Designer Tiffany Karlson Shares Her Top Bathroom Design Ideas

When it comes to your bathroom, think horizontal lines


Layer lighting. Karslon suggests using up to three types of lights in a bathroom: a general-purpose light in the centre of the room to illuminate the entire space; a task light near the vanity; and a separate decorative light set on a dimmer to add interest.

Use metal Schluter design accents. Schluters are the thin strips of metal that are used to protect a tile or stone edge. They can also be used as a fresh alternative to a feature tile. In the main floor bathroom, a Schluter was installed running horizontally through the shower wall to give the space a contemporary edge.

Install a six-inch (or higher) kick at the base of a bathroom vanity for a modern, European feel.

  • Think horizontal. Use tile and wood grain with horizontal lines. It is current and can also help open up a smaller space.
  • Change up materials. Karlson paired a high-gloss polyurethane-coated vanity with a stainless steel kick for both style and function. In the main floor bathroom, the stainless steel kick complements the metal Schluter accent in the shower. It is also a durable material able to withstand wear and tear in a heavy traffic area.
  • Colour block. A vivid shot of colour on one wall in the form of paint or tile can amp up an otherwise neutral space.

Originally published in BC Home Magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.