The condo they bought in the heart of Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood overlooks the jutting, crystal-like exterior of the Royal Ontario Museum. “They were excited about being less traditional and more contemporary in an urban environment,” says Colette. With this fresh start, the owners were eager to see the treasures they had accumulated over a lifetime in a completely new light. Colette, who honed her everything-old-is-new-again approach in the U.K. when she was creative director for legendary designer Nicky Haslam, began by visiting her clients’ Montreal house prior to the move. She relished walking through the rooms one by one, reviewing the furnishings and accessories to decide which pieces to bring to Toronto. “I love the challenge of creating a dialogue between then and now, between antique and contemporary things,” she says. “I find it much more interesting than starting from scratch, which can look like a showroom.” Since it’s not always readily apparent what will sing or fall flat in a new environment, Colette encouraged her clients to bring more than they actually had room for, particularly pieces of art and statement mirrors. The designer says one of the biggest dilemmas when downsizing from a grand old home to a modern 2,517-squarefoot condo is how to create architecture in whatis essentially a box. “We agreed to keep the spaces quite clean, which allowed the antiques to really sing,” she says. That meant replacing the orange-tinged jatoba wood floors for more up-todate, rift-cut oak wood flooring and painting the walls white. Beyond freshening up the palette, Colette’s redesign brought new energy to the whole condo. The living room needed a focal point, so she designed a niche on each side of the fireplace inset with verre églomisé mirrors, and replaced the painted neoclassical mantel with a contemporary plaster version. Colette found that, in the dining area, the clients’ existing chandelier, sideboard and dining set needed some shaking up. “Once we whitewashed the mahogany Chippendale chairs and upholstered them in a cut velvet fabric, the room looked like a million bucks,” she says. The family room originally had tall, dark wood builtins and a fireplace, but the owners happily sacrificed them to get an extra two feet of space for lower builtins and an integrated work area. And in the home office, a floating walnut desk lets natural light stream in while floor-to-ceiling storage reveals a Murphy bed that transforms the space into a guest room. The ample cabinets are perfect for stashing essentials. “When you come from a house, you have overflow: clothes, linens, photo albums, filing papers,” says Colette, who ensured everything had a place. But it’s the gutsy additions like the Brutalist coffee table in the living room that build a vibrant tension with the homowners’ antiques. “That was a real wild card,” says Colette. “I knew it would be dynamite. Then I thought, They’re not going to get this.” The designer was thrilled when her client’s eyes lit up when she saw the table. Chalk it up to the rejuvenating power of new ideas.
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