After they sold the large house, you would think Genevieve and her husband of 45 years, David would be travelling abroad or settling into a nice retirement community, but that is not what they are about. Genevieve worked as a book editor and lived in South Africa, where she met her husband David, an events planner, so they have done their share of travelling. Later, they had three girls and raised a family in a large modern house in Burnaby. A few years ago, they bought a 1400 square foot condo in Surrey close to family and needed some ideas for the downsize.
The reason for the detailed introduction is to be clear about the importance of your lifestyle on your interior space. How will your life change, and what parts of it will stay the same…that is the important design question. A fresh start at any stage of your life can be cleansing, but your style shouldn't be washed down the drain.
Genevieve has lots of books when I met her originally. I was struck by the volume of books…obviously a strong indicator of what is important to her. When I asked what she valued more than anything, it was her library, and she was quite upset about having to get rid of even one. I had different thoughts about her beloved collection. You design around your lifestyle, so I suggested she take the books with her, and build bookcases around the whole perimeter of the living/dining space. They would envelope and hug her like they always have. Besides, keeping your favourite collection in tact tempers the life change of retirement and downsizing. This also meant that the other smaller collections that didn’t mean as much could go. It’s impossible to move everything from a five bedroom house into a 1400 square foot condo.
So, we would work in the books as a design element, and incorporate a library type dining room with wing chairs and lots of light for reading (as I approach 45, I find myself needing more light to read). It’s an unusual formula to space planning, but they don’t entertain formally any more, except for their monthly book club meeting, and are mostly invited to the kids’ homes for holidays. It’s a lifestyle that they are looking forward to embracing.
Two love seats worked much better for the couple, because of the depth of the bookshelves and the symmetry the pair create. The bookshelves are made of walnut, a traditional wood without yellow or pink undertones, and are washed with light from the directional ceiling pots, highlighting their importance. By including a few artefacts from their collection, small lamps and some serving pieces, the primary task of the space is revealed; if only slightly.
Genevieve wanted jewel tones, so we used emerald, ruby and sapphire hues for the upholstery. The sofas are trimmed in nail heads and upholstered in deep sapphire cotton velvet…David loves the texture. A back wall is painted in a deep ruby colour to highlight a lighter work of art, and has a relationship to a couple of smaller items like a pillow and blanket. Hanging your pictures, art and even a mirror on the bookshelf is a great trick for making it read as one surface and two transparent side tables open up the corridor, and provide flexibility.
The couple is moving in the Spring, and have already changed their book club invites to read “David and Genevieve’s Library”.
Written, Illustrated and Designed
by Michelle Morelan