From Boardinghouse to Bohemian Dream Home
An eclectic, barn-like loft becomes the perfect home base for a creative marketing director looking for a space to call her own.
Three years ago, when Nadia Nascimento walked, empty-handed, out of her West End apartment after a break-up, she had a vision of where she wanted to live: a charming loft, lots of light, a library staircase.
“I needed breathing room. I wanted to be able to expand,” recalls Nascimento, founder of digital and experiential firm Primary Colour, and a former actor in the kids’ TV show Animorphs. She found what she was looking for on Craigslist: the top floor of a century-old house in Strathcona. It was painted purple and the current tenants owned a three-foot lizard, but some deep scrubbing, sage burning and a fresh coat of eggshell white later, the place was Nascimento’s blank slate.
DESIGN TIP: If you move into a loft, be prepared for some heavy lifting. How do you get a king-sized bed up to a loft? Via ladder, of course.
“The Barn,” as she calls the 1,500-square-foot space, gets its name from the peaked roof and the bare wooden beams that cross the width of the loft. A ladder extends from the living room to Nascimento’s meditation area and bedroom on the upper floor, the house’s converted attic. The unusual layout posed some initial challenges: getting her king-size bed up the ladder to the loft was a four-hour ordeal, and, out the sliding door where her deck should be, she found a sloping roof with no railing to guard against the two-storey drop. And there were a few surprises left behind from the previous owners. “I remember sitting on the roof off the kitchen, having a coffee there in the morning, and noticing that there was a bag of crickets nailed to the side of the house,” laughs Nascimento. “Lizard snacks!”
DESIGN TIP: Repurpose vintage pieces for modern purposes, like this homeowner did with her radio-turned-liquor-cabinet.
Neutral, minimalist furniture and finishes, like soft white walls and stainless steel appliances, provide a simple backdrop for Nascimento’s collection of vintage Canadiana curiosities. Old cotton currency bags function as throws, and a Vancouver bus scroll from the ’50s stands by the entrance. Her three-seat breakfast table comes from an Alberta farmhouse; a 1930s stand-up radio has become a makeshift liquor cabinet. A brick chimney accents the wall between the kitchen and living room, providing a surface to hang copper pots and kitchen knickknacks, and another touch of heritage cool.
The living room is layered with an interplay of textures in neutral tones—the modern, oatmeal-coloured sofa, a woollen knit rug, a giant sheepskin, an ancient bench from an Okanagan schoolhouse. The neutral background allows key pieces to stand out, from the collection of family photos on the wall to the colourful art books stacked under the glass nesting tables.
DESIGN TIP: Create smaller, intimate spaces to encourage conversation.
Nascimento loves entertaining, so it was important to create a space for intimate conversations. The petite “New York room”—named for her second home in New York, where she lives part time with her partner—is a modified den that acts as an alternate living room for cozy chats with friends. The inviting softness of the light blue velvet couch and armchair and their plush feather cushions play off the room’s harder, industrial-cool pieces, like a metal basket lampshade and chandelier.
In a traditional house, the attic would have been for storage, but here it’s a bright bedroom and a meditation space that looks like a kid’s dream blanket fort, layered with rugs and vibrant saris from India. That colourful, global inspiration is picked up in the bathroom, which takes on a Moroccan feel, complete with soft pink walls, a leather pouf and lanterns. Eclectic farmhouse elements are interwoven into the space, too, in the form of an old chair and a wire egg basket filled with a collection of pretty Moroccan vases in pinks, blues and gold.
Though it’s non-traditional, it’s Nascimento’s dream home. “To my father and my uncle, who are both carpenters, it looks extremely unfinished, but to me this place has history,” said Nascimento. “My girlfriends say there’s magic in the walls.”