When The Garneau on Whyte Avenue opened in 1997, the trendy transformation of the historic St. Joseph’s Hospital into upscale urban condos was touted as one of Edmonton’s best revitalization success stories. Ryan Oland watched the project with interest while attending the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine. And, then, in his first year of practice, he purchased a penthouse loft at one of the coolest addresses in the heart of Old Strathcona.
That was eight years ago and, as much as Oland still loves his loft’s location, its interior had fallen out-of-sync with his up-to-the-minute lifestyle. Funny how even the cutting edge dulls with time. When you’re tall, talented and look like you belong on the set of Grey’s Anatomy, having a hip home that reflects your urbane life is important.
The Garneau condo is Oland’s primary residence, a place to relax and entertain. He has another no-frills utilitarian condo in Stony Plain across from the WestView Health Centre, where he crashes intern-style after his shifts there as chief of emergency staff. It’s full of old dishes and furniture dating back to his dorm-room days, unlike his Edmonton residence showcasing the new life he’s created as a successful physician and assistant clinical professor.
Oland turned to Edmonton designer Jacqueline Hoshizaki of J. Hoshizaki Designs for his penthouse’s upgrade. “The space looked dated in spite of its cool setting,” says Hoshizaki. “Ryan needed something more modern – a single man’s space with more sex appeal. That didn’t mean creating a party pad; that’s an old-fashioned approach. What today’s modern single man wants is a sleek, functional interior with the hip vibe that comes from high-end materials and good design.”
Oland doesn’t know a lot about design, but he knows what he likes. He did his homework. He tore pages from magazines to show what he was after and discussed details with Hoshizaki. “But it’s not like I wanted to go shopping with Jackie,” Oland jokes. “We developed a two-choices strategy. She’d narrow options down to two and I’d pick one. It worked well for both of us.”
Oland temporarily moved his Garneau belongings to his Stony Plain condo and booked a six-week ski trip to New Zealand during the reno project. But, of course, as most projects do, it ended up taking twice as long.
Prior to leaving, he had to confront his most difficult renovation decision and cut down a rubber plant. The plant had been a fixture for years, thriving in the strong sunlight that streams through the condo’s large windows. As it grew larger, Oland propped it up against the spiral staircase where it really took off, intertwining itself between the railings all the way up to top floor then beyond to the skylight. He hacked it back, then let Jackie get to work.
Since The Garneau is a designated historic site, Hoshizaki couldn’t make major structural changes. But that didn’t pose design limitations since Hoshizaki and Oland agreed that the bones of the home were great. Instead, the biggest challenge was dealing with the electrical system
What I started with initially had little in the way of overhead lighting,” says Hoshizaki. “Originally I wanted to put in lots of pot lighting, but we discovered the ceiling was concrete so that became impossible in most areas.” Hoshizaki did succeed in adding some pot lights in the most-needed areas such as the kitchen. Then, on the advice of builder Norm Perrin of Habitat Studio, she changed her plans to a monorail system of track lighting to highlight other key areas.
Of course the out-dated carpeting had to go, replaced by fir hardwood and ceramic tile. The existing sun-damaged fir hardwood was sanded and refinished in updated walnut tones. The gunmetal-grey spiral staircase, a central and significant design feature of the 1,200-square-foot condo, also got a makeover, as its carpeted treads were replaced with hardwood and stainless steel nosing. Brightness and a contemporary look came with switching the paint palette from stark white and browns to soft off-whites and warm greys. The new colour scheme also accentuates the exposed brick walls (so important for the fashionable New York City loft look).
Kitchen cabinets went from dark wood to a glossy eggshell-lacquered finish with a few remaining wood accents, and older appliances were replaced with the latest designs in stainless steel.
“Since I couldn’t add as much lighting as planned, I maximized existing light by using reflective surfaces,” explains Hoshizaki. Stainless steel and the lacquer cabinets were key for that effect, but the real showstopper is the massive custom-made kitchen backsplash with obsidian. “It adds depth, since it contains so many subtle tones, and also provides the interest of texture and reflection. And it’s unique, a true accent feature.”
The other big design change was ditching the tub for an expansive walk-in shower. “I don’t think Ryan even fit in that tub, he’s so tall!” Hoshizaki remarks. Oland never cared for baths anyway, so he loves the newly added space to the ensuite bathroom, allowing for organized storage units under a stylish shallow rectangular sink.
Other design motifs are subtle, as Hoshizaki intended. “The spiral staircase dominates the main floor, and it’s a fabulous modern design feature, so I drew inspiration from it, picking up on its shape with an underlying theme of circles and curves.” It’s a nice twist from the usual straight and angular lines of contemporary design, plus it keeps a very masculine decor from looking too sterile. Hoshizaki added curves to the kitchen countertop, incorporated circles of marble into sections of the bathroom’s ceramic flooring for a naturalistic pebble look, added funky circular mirrors as accents and choose curves for the overhead track lighting.
Now the refinished retro living-room furniture donated by Oland’s mom from the family cabin looks completely at home in the redesigned space. Makeover complete, this Garneau condo got its groove back.
Last New Year’s Eve, Oland proudly launched his home’s new look, while hosting one of the rotating parties held as part of a Change for Children medical fundraiser. His friends hardly recognized the re-energized space. Except for one thing that hasn’t changed, the hot tub is still out on the balcony. Some things, it seems, never go out of fashion for single men.
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