Meticulous planning is the answer to how you translate an Uplands estate into a 1,000 square foot waterfront condo. Find the resources list for this condo renovation at the end of this article.
By Julia Dilworth | Photos by Joshua Lawrence
When homeowner Val Pattee lost his wife Joan last spring, his 4,000-square-foot home felt like too much. “I had long ago decided that if I was ever on my own, I would have a smaller condo, and I wanted it to be on the water,” says the former Canadian Armed Forces major-general.
The two-bedroom apartment his real estate agent soon found in James Bay had the coveted oceanfront view and was in the perfect location. Pattee loved that he could walk along waterfront paths for miles east and west, but the condo itself would need serious work.
“It was a shambles,” says Val, of the dated finishings, cramped space and 1970s-era wood cabinets. The closed-in pocket kitchen was blocked off from the ocean view, and an awkwardly converted solarium carved out a whole corner of the living area.
Even still, it took Val exactly 10 seconds to make an offer on the unit (he knew there was a lineup of people behind him to look at it), and then he made two calls — the first, to his longtime contractor Tim Agar at Horizon Pacific Contracting, to see if he could squeeze him in, and the second, to local millwork guru David Sheridan at Splinters Millworks.
Val’s late wife Joan was a very well-known artist and had a great eye for design and colour. She had designed their previous Uplands homes and had picked out everything down to the colour palette, and so Val’s directive for the renovation was clear: take the condo back to the studs and recreate a smaller version of the Uplands home he loved so much.
“We analyzed every single light fixture, furnishing, fireplace and we dressed the new space with the furnishings that were nearest and dearest to Val before we even began to design the new condominium space,” says Agar. He brought in interior designer Jenny Martin who then measured and catalogued every item to help translate the warm, traditional character of the old house into a new and functional homey space that wouldn’t feel too cluttered.
“All of the furnishings, floor coverings and artwork were preplanned and built into the millwork, the cove ceilings and the wall spaces we had available to us,” says Agar.
Val had even held onto his old paint cans from their former house, and so custom blends of warm camel brown and muted blue made their way onto his new walls in the waterfront condo.
The team opened up the kitchen so it would now face the ocean views, complete with a generous island, a feature hood fan, marble backsplash and extensive bespoke millwork that conceals appliances and storage behind painted Shaker cabinets — important details Martin wanted to carry through from the old house. The expanse of rich cathedral- grain walnut floors throughout continued the home’s story and complemented the vibrant antique furnishings Val and Joan had collected abroad.
“We spent a lot of time in Europe, I was in the Royal Canadian Air Force in NATO and Europe for quite a few years,” explains Val. “So most of the furniture is from auctions in Europe — some in Paris, some in Belgium.”
A number of colourful floor rugs from their travels to Turkey, Damascus, Germany and Syria found their way into the James Bay condo too. The fireplace in the living room was cast in concrete to replicate their traditional stone fireplace, and the ornate coffered detailing overhead is not only beautiful, but an ingenious way to get more height out of the condo’s original seven-foot, eight-inch ceilings.
Hosting family and friends was another priority for Val, so Agar’s team designed a removable wall-bed unit that allows the office to convert quickly and easily into a guest suite.
“We integrated all of that into custom millwork, so it’s completely hidden,” says Agar.
Shaker-style cabinets, brass lighting fixtures and shelves even frame a mounted painting of Joan’s—the end result couldn’t be farther from a boxy Murphy bed folded up against the wall.
As with many waterfront condo buildings in the 70s and 80s, the solarium had been poorly converted into a sunroom. “Its doors had been removed, but all the remnants were hanging down from the ceiling. The old exterior wall was sticking up through the floor,” explains Agar. “And so we removed all that and truly integrated the exterior deck space” — a move that would pick up another 186 square feet of living room and better incorporate the ocean views.
“When you step into this waterfront condominium, it feels like you’re stepping into a Belgian manor, because everything is specifically designed to mimic the comfort of Val’s past homes and the things that are important to him that he’s acquired over the years,” says Agar.
Val had to think twice about living in less than 1,000 square feet.
“But if I was standing in my living room, I would say it’s my favourite; if I’m standing in the bedroom, I would say it’s my favourite; if I’m standing in my little den, I would say it’s my favourite — I’m more than happy. I’m thrilled.”
BUILDER/CONTRACTOR: Horizon Pacific Contracting
HOME AND INTERIOR DESIGNER: Jenny Martin Design
MILLWORK: Splinters Millworks
COUNTERS: TK’s Granite
FLOORS: Hourigan’s Flooring
APPLIANCES: Trail Appliances
LIGHT FIXTURES: Amped Electrical
WINDOW COVERINGS: Sun Shade Films Systems
FIREPLACE: Good Grade Plumbing & Gas Co
HARDWARE: Splinters Millworks, Home Hardware and Jenny Martin Design
SHOWER DOOR: Builder’s Choice Shower Door
ELECTRICAL: Amped Electrical Contracting
PAINTING: Amira’s Painting