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Condo Scene: Contemporary decor is not the only option


Recent Country French kitchens tend to include less bright colours and more neutrals, in cabinet hues and wall colours.

I noticed recently that many of the smaller design magazines focus almost exclusively on contemporary design. The impression is that sleek, modern decor and architecture are what all younger people want, but my clients make up enough of a sample size for me to insist otherwise.

Certainly modern is a low-maintenance style that is a draw to many purchasers of all ages, but it’s not the end all. In fact, traditional and Country French looks have their fans as well.

But what if you’re buying a condo? Are you forced to opt for modern design? Condo interiors are often modern because of the use of glass, steel and concrete in construction, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go more traditional.

Toronto architect Stan Makow grew up in Ottawa and designed one of our city’s most beautiful retirement homes, The Rockcliffe. I asked him what advice he has for new condo buyers who are less interested in a modern living space and instead want to bring in other design themes.

He often sees homes with traditional exteriors and modern interiors, or vice versa. He absolutely believes that a condo can be similarly decorated so that its style does not scream modern, because “the furnishings, when placed in an environment, totally transform the feel of it.”

If you don’t want modern, incorporate “warm furnishings, including drapes, warm rich fabrics on your furniture and don’t forget to hang the art,” he suggests. By bringing in matte or rich, silk fabrics you can also change up the light to create a warm and inviting ambience.

Though modern is also a great design suggestion for a condo, keep in mind that what looks modern to us in 2015 may not stand the test of time. I often go into 10-year-old condos or homes and find they have been dated by newer styles.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the spaces that most age older condos. Often it’s because the first owner chose design elements that were trendy to the point of ubiquity in a certain year and are thus associated with that time.

Ironically, to really be timeless with your decor, you might consider Old World furnishings or an overarching Country French theme, both of which are considered classic. Of course, if you overdo it, that too can become dated.

For instance, recent Country French kitchens tend to include less bright colours and more neutrals, in cabinet hues and wall colours. To pull this off, think about a neutral countertop with cream cabinets. The new Country French involves more embellishments and softer tones. Gone are the days of blue cabinets.

Furnishing a condo is “not a problem of style; it’s a problem of scale,” says Bill Teron, one of Ottawa’s premier developers and the father of Kanata. “When you get a small apartment, you must scale down the furniture. A lot of the classic old period furniture is delicate, petite and perfect for a condo or apartment.”

A classic armoire or loveseat has the added benefit of exuding timeless elegance just as a little black dress is always in style.

When decorating your new condo, consider moving off the beaten design track of modern. Remember that you can treat the space as a blank canvas rather than as an example of modern construction.

Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. Reach her through

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