When Alana Gannon Schilf and Bob Schilf decided to move to Edmonton from St. Albert in 2009, they knew exactly what kind of home they wanted.
“We really like the aesthetic of the mid-century modern,” Gannon Schilf says. “And I always wanted a flat roof.”
They also knew where they wanted to live in the city: The desirable eastern edge of the Parkview neighbourhood. From here, Schilf can bike to his store, Track ‘N Trail, on Whyte Avenue in 25 minutes, and Gannon Schilf is a short drive to Inspired Home Interiors, her decor business. They are also midway between their families, who are in St. Albert and just outside of Leduc.
It took some searching, but they found their ideal home in the form of a sleek charcoal-grey bungalow on Valleyview Drive.
“We’d been looking in this area,” Gannon Schilf says. “We drove by this house and I said to Bob: ‘Why can’t that house go up for sale?'”
The house was in fact for sale – the sign was simply not visible – and, after visiting it three times, the careful couple decided to buy the 2,242-square-foot home.
It was not until they took possession and were given the original architectural drawings, however, that they discovered the story behind the 1957 home and the people who had originally owned it, Louis and Tryna Rudolph.
“My brother worked for them when he was younger,” says Gannon Schilf. “He was a businessman and she was a philanthropist.” Both were involved in a number of Jewish community groups.
It also turned out the woman living in the home when they bought it had a personal connection to the couple: Alana’s grandfather had sold the woman’s family their first car in Vermilion.
“She said how much her dad admired my grandfather,” Gannon Schilf says. “That was pretty touching.”
The couple appreciates the home’s history and original architecture, but they also fully embrace 21st-century living and design. To honour this hybrid vision for the house, they undertook a six-month renovation project before they moved in. They restored the original plaster ceiling in the main floor and dry-walled the ceiling. Then, they replaced the flooring throughout the house, converted the back bedroom into the master suite and reconfigured the main-floor bathrooms. The kitchen also got a substantial overhaul.
But instead of doing away with what other buyers might consider old-fashioned, they deliberately preserved details from the original home. For example, they refaced the walnut feature wall in the living room, which had become faded by the sun over time. They also kept the fir-panelled walls in the basementbedroom, the wood sauna and even one of the old wooden accordion doors.
They also left a buzzer at the top of the basement stairs, and highlighted it with a vertical stripe of dusty blue paint at the suggestion of a designer friend.
“I thought it was quite civilized of the Rudolphs to have that installed so they didn’t have to bellow down to the kids,” Gannon Schilf says. Now it’s a source of amusement for their friends and family members when they gather in the couple’s open-plan house.
Their iconic egg chair is also a favourite with guests. The clear Perspex half sphere is suspended from the basement ceiling (where it is firmly anchored to a beam) and has a silver seat cushion and white sheepskin throw on it.
“Bob’s dad was quite enamoured of it – it’s a cool little spot to sit,” Gannon Schilf says.
The couple’s closeness with their family extends to their artwork. The upstairs guest bedroom will soon have a gallery of black-and-white photographs of their mothers and grandmothers, and a watercolour by Schilf’s father has a place in the front hall.
The rest of their art, furniture, and light fixtures – which are really objets d’art – are equally personal. They have back-stories from visits to Europe, buying trips to the mid-century modernist Mecca of Palm Springs and the Art Gallery of Alberta‘s Art on the Block events.
Their dog, Karl, a young husky-collie cross, also benefits from his owner’s attention to detail and modernist style: There is a piece of art at dog eye-level near his crate, and Gannon Schilf bought him beautiful metal and walnut dishes at a charity auction.
While they note there are still tweaks they would like to make, they are very happy with the home they have created.
“It’s a great place for us, and, with its clean aesthetic, it’s really calming,” Gannon Schilf says. “You look forward to coming home and just relaxing and getting away from business.”
The master bedroom suite is their main sanctuary, with a soaker tub and lush bed amid an Alberta winterscape of whites and greys, anchored by dark wood floors and cabinets.
“Both of us enjoy the outdoors a lot, so we incorporated that [into the design] with exposed rock, the birch-tree fabric of the curtains and some of the more natural textures,” says Gannon Schilf.
They also relax by watching TV in the sitting room with their feet up on a cowhide-covered ottoman, working out in their home gym, or sitting by the wood-burning fireplace in the basement with a good book.
Soon, one of those basement walls will feature the original architectural drawings, mounted and framed, and the couple will have another piece of art with a great back story in their warm and stylish home.