An Esquimalt condo is transformed into a whole new kind of home
BY SUSAN HOLLIS | PHOTOS BY JEFFREY BOSDET
Ten months and 16 countries into a planned year of travel, designer Sam Scott and her husband, carpenter and builder Brandon Scott, were forced home early by the pandemic. Instead, the pair moved up the timeline on renovating their newly acquired Esquimalt condo.
Having previously built a 5,000-square-foot house in Red Deer, Alberta, the Scotts were accustomed to working together. But the condo project came with some new parameters. Not only did they live in it while renovating, but they were also faced with pandemic-related supply issues that doubled their completion timeline and had them taking on some unexpected jobs, like hanging drywall.
As with many modern couples, their space had to accommodate their professional needs and be their home, to be loved and lived in for years to come.
“With both of us being in the industry, we kind of realized after we built a beautiful custom home in central Alberta, that it would be really hard to just step into something and not want to make it our own,” says Sam, Principal at Sam Scott Interior Design Studio. “When we saw this place, it was very empty, and it was pretty easy to see what we could do with it.”
Drawing on their design and construction skills, they carefully rethought the 1,000-square-foot space, adding hidden storage, a glassed-in bedroom with strong solarium vibes, and a bright, open-concept kitchen that can handle large dinner parties without feeling empty when it’s just the two of them. Non-negotiables, like exposed sprinkler lines, created an opportunity to mesh an industrial esthetic with more traditional tastes.
Large timber-frame posts and ceiling beams soften the overall look while anchoring a distinct West Coast feel.
“We have a blend of styles — there’s a little industrial, a little traditional, which is more Brendan,” says Sam. “Then I wanted to have fun with colour and texture, which I did.”
Every inch of the two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo has been redesigned, with Brandon — principal carpenter at Sawbrand Finish Carpentry — grinding off four layers of tinted sealant to reveal the warm grey of the original concrete flooring and handling all aspects of the extensive millwork, tiling and construction.
By dropping the ceiling a few inches, they were able to improve sound transfer and install perfectly positioned pot lights and pendants.
“Every detail was a priority — we didn’t want to leave anything untouched or unfinished, and we didn’t want it to feel like a half-done renovation,” says Brandon. “This was a step up from what was here, with a higher-end look, which is different than most condos.”
To achieve that elegant feel, they chose Fisher & Paykel appliances to complement the floor-to-ceiling reeded-profile Kitch cabinetry and terrazzo tile backsplash. Space was created for everything, from an easy-access shoe drawer and coat closet to closed upper-level shelving for occasionally used dinner platters and their Christmas tree.
A small, tightly designed butler’s pantry is home to the washer and dryer, a small freezer and all manner of kitchen appliances and stuff-of-life extras, artfully hung and shelved on industrial-grade organizational racks from IKEA. In the dining area, a built-in window seat doubles as a discreet home for their Roomba vacuum.
Despite the many details, the condo doesn’t feel cluttered.
“We were looking for a different lifestyle than [we had in] Alberta and to focus on travelling more and enjoying where we live, trying to be purposely conscious of what we buy and keeping it functional,” says Sam. “We really just wanted something fun and to get every square inch that we could for storage was our goal.”
Eschewing traditional furniture in the bedroom, they added a built-in bed with floating bedside tables to maximize floor space, complete with a handmade green velvet headboard with built-in pendant lights. A custom wall vanity centred in the full-height millwork wardrobe allows Sam to get ready for the day without relying on the bathroom lights and mirror.
They also made the unusual decision to enclose the bedroom — which is adjacent to the kitchen and living space — in glass. The floor-to-ceiling, large-paned glass walls, created by welder Bronte Freeman of Freeman Fabrication, allow ample light from the south-facing windows to filter through to the bedroom and down the hall toward the entrance on the opposite side of the condo.
“For now, we don’t have any curtains — we can add them later if we want, but for now it’s just us,” says Sam.
Thinking of Renovating a Condo?
For condo and townhome owners, renovations start with a very important first step.
“It’s absolutely essential that [homeowners] read their bylaws and rules closely to make sure that what they’re altering, they’re permitted to alter,” says Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of
If renovations affect common property or elements, homeowners need permission. While exteriors, windows and doors are obvious common elements, problems arise if plumbing, mechanical and electrical elements are altered, which can affect other properties and result in insurance claims — for example, replacing a bathtub with a walk-in shower.
“There are alterations to the plumbing, the drainage, and there are alterations to an asset the strata corporation has to insure,” says Gioventu. “Technically speaking, the strata has to give consent.”
Kitchen cabinetry may not be a problem, but moving electrical outlets and ventilation or installing a waterline for an icemaker can be, if not done by licensed tradespeople.
Even simple changes can cause trouble — for example, replacing carpet with laminate or hardwood, which can result in noise issues for other units.
Other considerations include construction work hours, elevator use, noise and debris disposal.
“Get yourself an agreement as to what’s going to happen,” says Gioventu. “The expectation is an owner who wants these alterations should be paying for all the costs. The problem is it becomes too casual sometimes.”
And while it is important for strata councils to be vigilant, they also have to be reasonable.
“They can’t impose unreasonable conditions. The strata is not really in a position to deny permission as long as the person is meeting building code requirements, getting building permits if necessary, and there’s no disruption to the common property or an adjacent strata lot.”
Tip for Condo Buyers
If you purchase a renovated condo, make sure the previous owners did things properly. Gioventu says there is a history of problems where condos were purchased, extensively renovated, then resold, leaving the new owners to deal with the issues.
Design: Sam Scott, Sam Scott Interior Design Studio
Carpentry: Brandon Scott, Sawbrand Finish Carpentry
Glass wall & outdoor furniture legs: Freeman Fabrication, Custom Fabrication & Furniture Design
Kitchen cabinet fronts: Kitch
Plumber: Northern Star Plumbing
Electrician: Citadel Electric
Bathroom lighting & waterfall quartz on bathtub: Kuzco Lighting
Kitchen flush-mount cylinder lights: Kuzco Lighting