Design Inspiration: Customizing a Cookie-Cutter Townhouse
When a designer gets carte blanche to redesign his brother’s Port Coquitlam home, a standardized space becomes a creative playground.
According to designer Ben Leavitt, there are two ways to make your dream home: you can build it, or you can decorate it. For Fox Design Studio’s latest project—a 2,100-square-foot townhouse in the heart of Port Coquitlam—the latter was the ideal solution.
“They weren’t looking at doing renovations,” says Leavitt, referring to the new build’s recently wed owners—his brother, Mike, and sister-in-law, Jessa (with a newborn baby, Ella, in tow). “They wanted to solve all their problems through decor.”
After immediately falling in love with the home’s central location—and its abundance of large wall-to-wall windows, each of which overlooks the city’s Lions Park—the couple commissioned Leavitt to instill some function into the five-storey space that would make adjusting to a baby a little bit easier. Outside of that directive, they gave Leavitt the go-ahead to experiment. “They wanted a home that was fun and bright,” Leavitt recalls. “Other than that, we were given pretty much carte blanche.” A perk of working with family.
Designer tip: Add personality to a space with pattern and texture
These simple requests soon had Leavitt and his team playing with an assortment of vibrant fabrics, pillows and rugs to complement the more neutral walls and furnishings. “We decided not to paint the main walls any crazy colours, to prevent the space from looking any smaller,” he explains.
Instead, the designer sourced a mix of quirky accessories that helps tie each room together without adhering to any one theme. In the living area, a glittering tree-stump table sits atop luxe sheepskin and a textured jute rug for a swanky Palm Springs vibe, while custom shibori drapes and throw cushions dyed in bright oranges and blues capture a more retro feel.
Designer tip: Use strategically placed mirrors to create the illusion of space
Along the mirrored wall, a whitewashed oak table—complete with custom notches—slides in and out from a plush grey bench for easy entertaining (a must for Mike and Jessa, who both love hosting). A moulded mirror wall and antique brass Arteriors chandelier further mark out the makeshift dining space, creating the illusion of valuable square footage while also reflecting and showcasing the fluorescent orange powder room—the one room in the house that did get a bold paint job.
The couple hand-picked the colour themselves, hoping that the vivid hue would help balance gloomier weather conditions. “We have a lot of grey days in Vancouver, so we thought it’d be fun,” says Mike. The room acts as a striking piece of art—especially when reflected alongside the smoky grasscloth wallpaper and crisp white moulding of the entryway.
Designer tip: Hang a 3D object as artwork
That same grasscloth wallpapering extends to the master bedroom, which Leavitt decorated with his brother in mind. Here, a collection of resin-cast turtle shells finished in black, gold and silver leaf (designed by Leavitt himself) pays homage to Mike’s backpacking days, while the low tufted headboard and Sputnik chandelier appeal to more masculine sensibilities.
Designer tip: Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kids’ rooms
The fun continues on the walls—and ceiling—of Ella’s nursery, which features a pattern of shimmering gold-leaf stripes reminiscent of a circus tent. Straying from the typical girl’s room, Leavitt looked to his own travels for more unusual decor pieces: framed vintage prints from Vietnam; a monochromatic monkey-pirate wall sconce from Atlanta; and a mid-century-style sofa, reupholstered in a banana leaf print inspired by the Beverly Hills Hotel. “This room is exactly what I would want my baby’s room to look like if I had children,” Leavitt laughs.
But despite the mishmash of seemingly clashing (and anti-kid) elements, the space works. “Every single person who has come into our house has been blown away by that room,” says Mike.
Evidently, the eclectic combination of varying styles and eras is one that works throughout the rest of the home as well. “We wanted each of the rooms to be cohesive, but we also wanted to create a sense of unexpectedness with each floor,” says Leavitt. Consider this dream home complete.