downsizing to trump tower
Written by Danny Chan
Published July 22, 2018
Updated Oct 21, 2020
if you can't get rid of something, consider turning it into a feature
the sofa doesn't always have to be against the wall
This project will always have a very special place in my heart because it was going to be my parents' forever home. They have always loved having the view to the ocean, so they purchased an apartment high up in the Trump Tower where it has over 180 degree of unobstructed view, and that also became our priority to showcase the stunning view of English Bay!
They purchased the unit at a presale and have been waiting for a few years for it to complete. On July 14, 2016, the day finally came for our first walk through. My mom was so excited. Sandra and I accompanied her as she wanted us to hire us for the design.
On Friday (Nov, 18, 2016), I presented the mood board and the overall design to my mother, and she immediately told my father that she loved everything that I had shown her. She showed me a budget that she had in mind, and I told her that was too much. Her reply was that she wanted to make sure that this project would look good on my website. She didn't want a nice place just for herself, but she wanted it to look good for my portfolio. I assured her that because we are only decorating the place, it wouldn't cost as much since we are not gutting the kitchen, the bathroom, or replacing the floor. Her reply to me was that I should then increase my design fee and charge more for my services. I was touched by how much she really wanted me to succeed.
Unfortunately, she suffered a massive stroke later that evening and while she was in and out over the next few days, she never regained full consciousness. She left us just four days later. While we did make some modification to the design to suit my father's need, but we kept the overall design to what I presented her because apparently, before she had her stroke, she had told my father how happy she was with everything that I chose for her, showing that I really knew what she liked.
walk through day
facing three challenges
one: should we keep our old furniture?
For many aging seniors, maintaining a big home can be challenging. My parents were facing the same issue with the upkeep of their big house, so they decided to downsize from their 5,000+ square foot home in West Vancouver to this 1,200 square foot two bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver. In addition, they also love that they can walk to many restaurants and grocery stores, where everything is so convenient.
During the initial consultation, they told us that they only needed to keep a few of the more memorable pieces from their house. I was happy to hear that as most of their furniture from the house were mostly quite large and traditional looking. After all, they were meant for a much bigger home and some of the pieces have been with the couples for over 20 years. When moving into a smaller home, the scale of the furniture should also be smaller so not to overwhelm the space. This may not always be easy as there are often emotions attached to certain furniture pieces. I find that it's helpful to focus on the new beginning that you are welcoming rather than to what you are losing. The items that my wanted to keep included a green Italian marble dining table set, for six a green Persian rug, and a British hunting scene oil painting with an ornate gold frame that used to hang above their living room's fireplace.
two: if. you can't get rid of something, turn it into a feature!
Many of the newer condos in Vancouver have floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize daylight. One annoying byproduct is that often times, there is a massive column right where the views are. This was the case with this apartment. As soon as we open the door, we see the massive column at the end of the hallway and my mother absolutely HATED it. But how can you make the massive eyesore look less intrusive? So here is what we did. Instead of not addressing the elephant in the room and pretend that it's not there, we applied a beautiful wallpaper with metallic sheen from York Wallcoverings. This magically turned this eyesore into a feature. We then used to same wallpaper in the hallway to create a sense of continuity. My dad did not even notice that there was a column there on reveal day!
massive column in the middle of the apartment
three: where else can we put the sofa if not against the wall?
The last challenge that we faced where to place the sofa so we can enjoy the million dollar view. Most people often make the mistake of assuming that a sofa must be placed against the wall. This is what my dad did originally. But this made the living room layout very awkward because there is also a closet door on the right.
It's not necessary to always put your furniture against the wall. In this case, we decided to "float" the sofa by the column and effectively defining and sectioning off the living room. The we created two focal points, one being the view on the left, and the other being a built in wall unit to house my parents' collection of things over the year. In collaboration with David Adamian form California Closet, we designed this wall mounted wall cabinet. Over the years, they have collected a lot more than what's shown here. But instead of displaying everything and making the space feel clutter, we encouraged them to choose only a few really special items. It was the famous Japanese organizer Marie Kondo who says to only keep things that "spark joy" when you see them. In this case, the green vase and the bronze woman were very special to them. So we designed two tall and narrow boxes and white background to elevate their importance. The idea was to focus on quality rather than quantity. And by wall mounting the unit as well as creating a backless unit, the space stays airy and spacious while also showcasing the beautiful golden floral wallpaper behind it.
colour inspiration is all around you
You may have noticed that there is no TV in the living room and you would be correct. Both my parents were used to watching TV in the bedroom just before going to bed. So we decided that we would turn the second bedroom into the TV room as well as a guest room for the grandchildren. We wanted a room that was gender neutral so all the grandchildren would enjoy spending time there. We created a memorable gallery wall by using the same size picture frames, printed photos of each of their grandchildren, and grouped them into a grid. When printing the photos, we like to make them black and white so not to compete with the colour palette of the room. In this case, the colour is Benjamin Moore's Blue Seafoam (2056-60). It has a light reflective value (LRV) of 70.49, making it a bright and cherry colour for the room. One could say that it's a more youthful green than the green in the living room. The inspiration actually came from the windows across the street as well as the rooftop of Hotel Vancouver.
Since the second bedroom also acted as a guest room, the clean designed and firm sofa that we chose was not only comfortable to sit on to watch TV, but it also converts easily into a very comfortable sofa bed. It features an orthopedic foam mattress to ensure everyone can have a good night sleep.
where will you take your inspiration from? in this case, it was my dad's suit
The master bedroom is a very important space for us to design because it is the most personal space, If you knew my dad, you would know that he was always very well dressed. So when I was considering the design for his bedroom, I wanted to the room to be "well dressed." Suddenly, I saw the subtle houndstooth pattern on one of his suit and felt that it'd be perfect for him. I chose this golden houndstooth wallpaper from Graham & Brown. On the one hand, the pattern is quite traditional, but on the other hand, the colour modernizes the design.
do the unexpected and go bold
I spoke about a British hunting scene oil painting that my parents wanted to keep. It used to be hung above the fireplace in their living room, so I wanted to give this painting some importance. But with the apartment filled with a lot of windows, there was not a lot of walls to hang art work. Another challenge was that the painting was very traditional and doesn't seem to fit the feel of the new condo. Eventually, I found the "perfect" spot for this painting, the powder room. This would be the last place anyone would expect to find such a painting. I wanted the painting to be a feature, so I painted the ceiling black and wrapped the small space in a faux croc wallpaper. In the end, when we juxtaposed the old with the new, it created a wow factor for anyone who visits the powder room. Sometimes, you just have to expect to do the unexpected.
My father has been happily living in this smaller condo, surrounded by a few things that remind of his life with my mother while creating another chapter in his life knowing that this was designed with her in mind. Living in an apartment that I designed for him (and mom) solidify my standing as an interior designer for him. Nowadays, he is very proud to tell his guests that his son was the designer of his beautiful place.