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Making the move from the traditional family home to condo life can be daunting for homeowners. There is a lifetime of memories, not to mention possessions, that accumulate over the years.
Genevieve Barlas and her husband Manolis decided to downsize from their 2,400-square-foot family home to a 1,200 sq. ft condo.
“In order to make condo living a reality for us, we needed to hire someone to help us to utilize every square inch of this condo,” she says.
They enlisted the help of Atmosphere Interior Design’s Curtis Elmy and Trevor Ciona. The designing duo were excited to be involved in the Barlas’s new project, especially as they live in the same building at No. One River Landing.
“We could sense there was some trepidation in downsizing, but their overall excitement and passion for the project quickly took over. Gen has a great sense of style and knows what she likes, but her and her husband Manolis were completely open to us guiding them and pushing them in all areas to find the right balance and to create a space that was both glamorous and sophisticated,” says Elmy.
The design team had the task of transforming the two-bedroom condo into a one-bedroom open concept floor plan to allow for entertaining family and friends. Immediately, they decided the kitchen would be the central showpiece to enable Manolis to show off his cooking skills and entertain guests.
“The kitchen would be the star of the show and it needed to be as large and as functional as possible,” noted Elmy.
A partial wall clad in marble became a design feature to give some separation to the cooking and lounging spaces. The oversized island worked for everyday dining, but also allowed for extra seating and workspace for large gatherings.
One of the major challenges for the clients was giving up the family treasures in the form of art and photographs that adorned their walls. The condo’s floor-to-ceiling windows and stunning view of the South Saskatchewan River would have to suffice.
“We had to accept that the view would replace our art. An incredible, well-thought-out photo album replaced all the pictures on the walls and helped to sort through the 30 boxes of albums and recordings,” says Barlas.
While the clients sorted through a lifetime of memories and keepsakes, the design team encountered their own challenges.
“The floor plan was fairly fixed due to plumbing access and structural columns. Our focus had to be creating functional spaces full of life and personality in terms of the finishes and materials we selected,” says Elmy. “Many of the materials chosen had a reflective quality to them that expanded the walls and created sparkle and a layered opulence.”
Ciona and Elmy suggest anyone looking to make a similar downsizing move be prepared for the emotional upheaval. Finding ways to photograph or diarize personal belongings can be therapeutic.
Elmy says it’s important to shift to looking ahead to new memories that can be made in the new space. Perhaps there’s a common room in the new condo building that can accommodate your family when you need to celebrate or get together.
“There are always moments where there are struggles and when more space would be nice, but great advice we pass along to clients is to design the space you live in for the 360 days of the year, not the five days where you are worrying about extra seating, the second oven, the backyard or three extra bedrooms,” says Elmy.
After the move to River Landing, Barlas reports no regrets. In addition to a stylish space, the couple gained a new community of neighbours.
“You have new neighbours that look out for you, celebrate you and welcome you into their home, but the greatest thing is you don’t have far to go — maybe down the hall or up and down the elevator — it doesn’t get much more convenient than that,” says Elmy.
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