A stitch in time

Lovingly restored woodwork is teamed with modern cabinetry for a contemporary aesthetic
The entrance way to the dressing room and chair, couch, floor, furniture, home, interior design, living room, loveseat, recliner, room, table, window, wood, black, gray
The entrance way to the dressing room and the master bedroom.

Think of classic apartment styles and New York City will probably spring to mind. At their best, these finely proportioned, solidly constructed apartments exude abundant, timeless character.

To reveal the hidden charms of this late 19th-Century, one-and-a-half bedroom Victorian apartment, and to adapt it to their modernist tastes and lifestyle, the owners approached Coty Sidnam, principal of architectural firm SPG Architects.

"The clients wanted a mix of old and new, but were very conscious of retaining the heritage of the building. As modernists, they also wanted to install contemporary cabinetry and millwork for a more sleek, sophisticated and practical overall result."

With its second-floor location, the apartment takes in views of the city skyline and also the nearby harbour.

In its original state, and despite the high ceilings, the apartment was cluttered, dark and heavy, says Sidnam. To modernise, reconfiguring the layout was necessary.

"The pre-existing kitchen was also an access route for the second bathroom, so it was swapped with an adjacent den. This provided a double benefit. As the new kitchen was a dead-end room, more bench space was available. There was also more natural light available."

A view of the dining room and master bed, bed frame, bedroom, door, floor, flooring, furniture, hardwood, home, interior design, room, suite, window, wood, black, brown
A view of the dining room and master bedroom.

Elsewhere, the master bedroom was shortened slightly to accommodate a new walk-in dressing room, a move that created more pleasing proportions by centering the window in the room.

"The kitchen and dressing room cabinetry was constructed from quarter-sawn brown elm, which has a tight and subtle vertical stripe," says Sidnam.

The old kitchen space was converted into a library, although the idea of using it as a guest room was also toyed with.

"In the end, the space was just too small, but, if necessary, the bathroom and library could be used as an independent dressing area. If, for example, a guest was staying and sleeping on the couch."

The apartment's existing master bath was also modernised. Dark brown limestone tiles now line the floor of both the dressing room and the bathroom.

"The toilet was positioned in the same place, but we added two sinks and a new bath and shower. The existing closet storage was removed, and a sliding glass panel was installed to separate the dressing room from the bathroom."

The master bedroom prior to the renovations. bed, bedroom, furniture, home, house, interior design, living room, room, wall, window, gray, black
The master bedroom prior to the renovations.

Working on older buildings provides certain challenges, says Sidnam.

"The plumbing and electrical wiring is usually at the end of its life. Inevitably, this means to install new fittings and fixtures we have to go further back into the walls. This building also had strange sectional issues we actually found two extra rooms behind the master bath, but somehow the people on the floor below had acquired this space."

The wealth of period detailing, including mahogany fire surrounds and shutters, extensive mouldings and flooring was incorporated into the renovations.

"All the original wood construction was well built, and still in good shape, except for the bits that had been chopped by earlier plumbers and electricians."

The existing oak flooring was only about a centimetre thick, however, so it couldn't be re-sanded. A feature of the floor is a large border around the perimeter of each room, with diagonal infill.

"This was a trick used by society architects when Oriental and antique carpets were popular. As the carpets were often stretched, they were chosen to sit well within the border. As the flooring inside the border was diagonal, you couldn't line it up with the carpet's edge."

Jan 19, 2007

Credit list

Derek Huntington, ZZZ Carpentry
Kitchen designer
SPG Architects
Benjamin Moore Valley Forge tan
Sofas from B & B Italia; dining and side table from Antik; dining chairs from High Style Deco; Lucite cart from Mantiques Modern; carpets from F J Hakimian
Kitchen cabinets
Quartersawn brown elm
Erin Adams design mosaic
Kitchen taps
Refrigerator and dishwasher
Interior designer
SPG Architects
Refinished original oak
Odegard; Repertoire
Phifer wire products
Yellow Ramon Medium
Kitchen sink
Oven and cooktop
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