When Space Dictates Design: Embracing an Industrial Condo

An old-school loft gets a renovation true to its roots

Credit: Ema Peter

The kitchen is the focus of the design in this open-concept loft

Sometimes working with what you’ve got is the best way to renovate a living space

Good design is dictated by the space. Like in this contemporary concrete-chic condo, which homeowner Ty readily concedes is more reflective of the space itself than of him. And he’s happy with that. After owning and outfitting a few condos, this bachelor knows that you work with what you have.

Overhauling an 800-squaare-foot Condo

As soon as Ty walked into the 800-square-foot loft in South Granville, he saw that it desperately needed an overhaul; the kitchen, floors and bathroom were all a mess, and nothing upstairs was finished. Jacqueline Pasquali, a designer and project manager at Klondike Contracting, agreed. “It was pretty sad,” she laughs now. Even Ty’s building inspector described it as “grim.”

But Ty saw the potential and bought the condo knowing he’d renovate. “The bones of the place are amazing,” he says. But the finishings, cabinets, floors, stairs, lighting, and even the front door needed some serious work.

Working with an Industrial Space

The open-concept condo builds upon the space’s industrial feel, instead of trying to hide it. (Image: Ema Peter)

Ty wanted to embrace the industrial vibe of the distinctive live-work building, but he couldn’t do it alone. “I’m not really able to picture things, and that’s where someone like Jacqueline comes in.” The starting point he gave Jacqueline was white cabinets, black accents and stainless steel – something monochromatic and sparse. 

“That was new for me,” says Jacqueline of Ty’s request. But she ran with the neutral scheme and built on the industrial theme, working with the exposed steel beams and electrical conduits. The strange surface-mounted marine lighting, however, had to go. “The decor was so odd, but it was actually kind of cool at the same time,” says Jacqueline. “In redesigning this place we wanted to keep – and had to keep – some of the surface-mounted boxes and conduits.” Her job was to get rid of the unsightly elements and keep those with that funky industrial feel. 

Case in point: the exposed ducts in the completely concrete building. No hiding things behind walls – or the bare concrete ceiling. Pot lights just weren’t an option. Neither were tucked-away vents. But these quirks became bold features. Now the exposed duct running the length of the kitchen looks purposeful. It ties in with the stainless steel tiles in the kitchen backsplash, appliances, custom-built island, and even the switch plates – all pop against the high-gloss white cabinets. 

Gathering in the Kitchen

The custom-built island invites guests into the open-concept condo. (Image: Ema Peter)

“It’s so basic yet it works so well,” says Ty. “Everybody that’s come in here has been just blown away.” His guests love gathering around that sleek island. And, as happens in most well-designed kitchens, this one has had 20 people around it, leaning on the counters, sitting on the stools. “This is where it all happens,” says Ty. 

Jacqueline agrees. “It’s like that in every home, “so why not make it the biggest and most central space?” The kitchen here really is the core of the small, open-concept space. Jacqueline expanded its original footprint, bringing it to a more natural boundary at the edge of the upstairs loft. And the glossy new cabinetry fills out the space while adding precious storage.

Jacqueline also convinced Ty to go with granite countertops. He originally wanted concrete instead, but that would have been overkill in the concrete box. Then Jacqueline found a granite called Virginia Mist and Ty was sold. The dark colours and swirls pick up the warm grey tones of the concrete and contrast the white cabinets.

The surprising warmth in the overall steely palette stems from the refinished cement floor. It’s the unifying element in the space, tying together all those grey tones – from marble tile in the bathroom to the gritty-yet-glam steel door (grinded by a metalworker to add abstract texture). 

Another standout is the loft’s staircase, adding that touch of black to the monochromatic colour scheme. The floating treads were simply sanded and repainted a high-gloss black warmed with a purple undertone. Throughout, Jacqueline recycled whatever possible, helping keep costs reasonable – part of why this condo recently won the 2010 Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association award for best reno under $100,000.

Adding Touches of Refinement

The design of the bathroom is clean and minimal to match the entire space’s decor. (Image: Ema Peter)

And, while emphasizing that industrial edge and saving money by repurposing, Jacqueline also incorporated touches of refinement, like the addition of baseboards, something that has “completely changed the look of the place,” says Ty.

Subtle softening and polish is also found in the one bathroom, where a wall of marble tiles in the shower brings in elegance. “In such a small bathroom you have to make a punch somehow,” says Jacqueline. Especially since you can see right into this room from the kitchen island.

Jacqueline’s answer to the close proximity? Blur boundaries with that coherent colour palette. “Even with the bathroom right in your face, it flows because of the colours and consistency throughout.”

Of course, it’s still crucial in an open-concept loft to differentiate. “Try to designate the specific spaces while keeping the flow and unity throughout,” advises Jacqueline. That means when Ty is relaxing on his sofa, watching hockey under the 20-foot ceiling, he’s in a separate area, within one streamlined space. And, though he’s never lived in an open space like this before, he feels right at home. 

Back in the kitchen, it’s time for this bachelor to crack a beer. He got what he wanted with this reno: a very-now loft that fits a one-of-a-kind building. And the style oozing from that concrete frame is just what the space dictated.

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.