IDC’s Sarah Bradbury spoke with Olga Gomes of OG Design Studio to get the scoop on this hard loft renovation.
Situated on Lake Ontario’s waterfront is the trendy Tip Top Lofts. Formerly a warehouse for menswear clothing retailer Tip Top Tailors, the renovated factory is a fusion of original Art Deco details and sleek, modern finishes. But for one Toronto couple, the interior of their converted loft didn’t reflect the heritage and character of the exterior. So they called on Olga Gomes, ARIDO Registered interior designer and owner of OG Design Studio, to soften the hard, industrial edges and infuse the space with warmth, comfort, and a touch of sophistication. With special attention paid to the loft’s existing features, like its high ceilings, large windows, and exposed concrete pillars, the space was transformed into a bright, cozy, and spacious home.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I have practised interior design for 17 years and even before that, I had always dreamed about being an interior designer. I have worked in small firms, medium-sized firms, and partnerships, all with the goal of making great, lasting design. As owner of OG Design Studio, I live through my clients. I’m the advocate for their wish list and I try to tick off as many of those wishes as possible. It’s a dream come true; to love what you do and have clients that love what you do for them, too!
Why is interior design important?
Design is what makes something more human. How we interact and relate to an interior space determines how efficient we are and how engaged we are. A well-designed interior space can make you feel more comfortable. There’s a place for everything, and everything in its place.
How did you decide on a theme or concept for this project?
OG Design Studio is very much client-driven. We love taking our client’s vision and making it fit into the existing shell. In this case, the client wanted a more modern look than what the builder had originally provided. We felt that it was important to keep the ‘hard loft’ feel; less gloss, more matte; less sleek, more rustic; less fuss, more strength. Together, we worked on this fine balance and created a loft that was in keeping with the building’s aesthetic — but was comfy at the same time.
What were your sources of inspiration for this particular project?
Though the space had large windows, high ceilings, and exposed concrete pillars, they weren’t the focus at all. We definitely wanted the space to be bright and airy and to make it feel even larger so we lightened up the colour palette, making it more neutral and modern. The existing sliding door into the bedroom was plain and flat, so we added a rustic, reclaimed-wood barn door with oversized hardware. In order to do this, we had to reinforce the doorway to make sure the wall could support the heavier door. Now, it really makes a statement and brings that warm touch to a rather cool interior.
How did the location of the project affect the design?
The unit faces the lake and a park, so the view through the large window was a big priority and we really wanted to take advantage of the natural light. In an effort to get more light flow to the back of the loft, we lowered the walls in the bedroom and kitchen to allow light to filter through.
How did the square footage affect the design?
The unit is approximately 1000 square feet but any condo dweller will tell you there’s never enough storage! We found ways to sneak it in. The kitchen was not a large space but we made it more efficient and provided more storage by adding a huge island for a clean, uncluttered look. In the bathroom, we converted the existing super-tiny shower into a large linen closet and rearranged the plumbing to create a large shower/tub combo.
Can you explain how interior design affects the lifestyle of the client?
We try very hard to have our designs enhance our client’s lifestyle. It’s all about making them feel more comfortable in their surroundings than before we started. We also try to make the new design feel like it was always supposed to be that way. This particular condo was one of the first ‘hard-loft’ conversions in Toronto, so it was important to maintain that true loft feel and at the same time keep it sophisticated and pulled together. The overall design is a balance between warehouse and understated elegance. It’s the perfect ‘grown-up’ living space.
What were some unique features and/or materials used in this project?
The wow-factor is when people walk into the sleek kitchen and see the expansive space for the living and dining area with those large windows and 14-foot-high ceilings. Their jaws drop at how much space there is. We installed walnut engineered hardwood flooring with a unique wood grain and varied tones of pale brown to brighten up the space while providing lots of warmth. We custom designed the coffee table using reclaimed barn board and large metal wheels.
In general, what is the most challenging part of what you do?
The most challenging part of what I do is managing client expectations, specifically with regards to schedule and the length of time needed from start to finish. The process takes time, but it’s all worth it in the end!
What kinds of challenges did you face during this project?
With any condominium project, there are limitations. Many of my clients want to radically change the layouts of their bathrooms and kitchens but we have to be mindful of building plumbing and electrical systems. In this case, once demolition occurred, we quickly realized we had to go to plan B, which in the end wasn’t so bad!
What does interior design mean to you?
I have always loved the blend of creativity and technicality. Interior design is an art, but it has a ‘real world’ application. It’s not just conceptual. It must be built and it must be functional — and it should always look great! It’s a real balancing act. The easiest way to explain what interior design means to me is this quote by mathematician, Christopher Zeeman: “Technical skill is mastery of complexity, while creativity is mastery of simplicity.” I doubt he was referring to interior design specifically, but to me, this quote exemplifies the two sides of what I do everyday.
To work with an interior designer on your next project, search IDC’s online database FINDinteriordesigner.org.