Carlton character condo

Traditionally Modern

Our challenge here was to fit a modern open-concept living space into a well-preserved character building in downtown Winnipeg.

The approach from the public street to the private condo exhibited traditional craftsmanship and materiality that we chose not to conceal, but to celebrate.

This is no longer a small room for mere food preparation, but a grand open space for sharing and entertaining.

Context + Character

Our design was inspired by the textures and materials we found in the 100-year-old building. The patinaed metal, the solid oak trim, the foot-worn marble, and the attention to detail informed everything we added to the space.

Before And In-process

The kitchen was completely closed off from the dining room, making the dining room a formal (and under-used) space. The homeowner wanted a much more informal space for cooking and entertaining.

The unique challenges of condo buildings required us to get creative with plumbing and wiring that was in the demolished walls.

We also carefully salvaged the solid oak baseboard and crown moulding to be re-installed with the new floor plan. With still extra left over, we sent the remaining oak to a custom millworker to create a solid wood bar top and a vanity counter for the bathroom. While the wood was planed down and sanded for these pieces for a more refined look, the original nail holes remain as signs of its past life.

There was significant damage to the plaster walls and ceiling, so we chose to fully remove it and expose the structure instead of cladding with drywall.

Reclaimed + Re-executed

Since the back panel of the island is in direct line of sight for someone seated in the dining and living room, we wanted to add some visual interest in this area. We salvaged the old lath pieces from the demolition and installed them in a geometric pattern, adding texture and pattern.

The ceiling-mounted installation was made with traditional tin cornice painted out in a glossy black, and additional salvaged lath pieces spaced 1/2″ apart to allow light to diffuse from above. (LED lights are installed behind the lath).

The posts to support the island are 4×4 solid reclaimed wood, and the bar countertop is made of solid oak left over from the extra baseboard and door trim.

Reductionism + Authenticity

We solved the problem of crumbling plaster (which would have exceeded the budget to repair) by removing the lath and plaster and exposing the structure both on the ceiling and the load-bearing interior wall. We love how the exposed brick wall and concrete ceiling display the construction methods of the early 1900’s.  The concrete ceiling was then painted out white to further highlight the imprint of the wood formwork that spanned the width of each unit.

Because sand-blasting can damage the face of softer bricks, we chose to use soda-blasting for a less invasive (and more cost-effective) method. The process is still pain-staking — the homeowner first had to manually chip the plaster off the surface in preparation for soda-blasting.

SAVE AND SAVE:  While in some cases it costs significant money and/or labour to reclaim materials and re-introduce them into the design, other times it’s as simple as re-using a couple old pendant lights like these ones we took out of the hallway. All they needed was re-wiring and a coat of black paint.

MODERN DETAILS:  Conscious of keeping the space fresh and modern, we balanced ornate details with modern minimalism, as seen in the acrylic countertop reveal and the cabinet hardware.

DAY AND NIGHT:  Since the kitchen and dining room will be primarily used for evening entertaining, we created a lighting design that incorporates abundant accent and task lighting to make the space dramatic but still functional. Through the use of zoned lighting and dimmers, the room becomes totally customizable to any situation.

Reflective, textured, and translucent materials were all used to manipulate the play of light in the room.