Interiors Photo Credit: Tracey Ayton

Photos: Inside Chef Kate Horsman’s Gorgeous Railtown Condo

One Vancouverite shares her peaceful-meets-playful corner of the city.

When Kate Horsman first laid eyes on her Railtown condo, it didn’t scream “West Coast retreat” as much as “Italian prince’s seaside villa.” Instead of standard doorways, stone-like Roman arches divided rooms, a grand fountain held court on the patio, and the walls were awash with Tuscan-yellow paint.

An Italian-style arched bookcase houses a crammed collection of reads and knickknacks. The coolest part? Push a lever and the structure springs open to reveal secret storage for more books and what Horsman’s husband calls “the zombie apocalypse survival kit.”
Horsman filled her Railtown condo with custom shelving to store all her treasures, including well-worn novels, kitschy prayer candles, army men, 1980s action figures and a beloved E.T. doll.

Horsman, a stylist turned private chef and holistic nutritionist, fell in love with the princely palace anyway (the panoramic windows, 1,000-square-foot deck and Burrard Inlet view had something to do with it) and promptly turned everything white—“It was like I snowed on the house,” she says.

Horsman wanted the big blank wall in her bedroom to reflect the Railtown aesthetic, so she hired a plaster artist to create a white faux-brick finish to go behind the bed. It’s a perfect backdrop for the custom Zeppelin-lyric light by Neon Concepts.
In the living area, a vintage Wegner sofa topped with reupholstered cushions is Horsman’s favourite place to snuggle up with her dog, Mary Jane. The television is mounted in the corner, but the views out the oversized corner windows are more enticing.

The patriating continued with decor additions like a faux-brick wall in the bedroom, beachy bleached driftwood rescued from Tofino, shell lighting, dream catchers and surf boards. Horsman and her husband love escaping to the Island to get in some surfing time, but these are often two-birds-with-one-stone trips. “Usually something will call out to me and I’ll force him to put it on top of his car and bring it home,” she says, describing her driftwood crush. “A lot of times we’ll have this giant bundle that lies on the patio for a couple of months.”

Colour-wash paintings by Canadian artist Patricia Larsen hang above a piano that was a gift from Horsman’s mom. Above the custom Union Wood Co. dining table, a capiz shell pendant “makes a beautiful sound” when breezes come through the open patio doors.
A wire-frame antique bookcase turned on its belly serves as the living room coffee table—“I’ve been asked if it was a crab trap”—while animal hides and skulls and Tofino driftwood round out the beach-meets-desert aesthetic infused throughout.

Outside her condo, the B.C. landscape is all old-growth evergreens and rainforest, yet Horsman brings the outdoors home with heavy influences from two of her favourite arid destinations, California and Arizona. “I find the desert staggeringly beautiful . . . maybe because it’s such a juxtaposition to what we have here.” On the patio, the previous homeowner’s boxwoods were supplanted with palms, yuccas and pampas grass, while a desert palette of sandy tones with bleached wood and bone and, of course, a large spiky cactus work the look from the inside.

Horsman’s original concept for the condo design was inspired by raw crystals—feminine, but also organic and earthy. Various acrylic pieces throughout the space (like the Gus Modern Timber table and Louis Ghost chair) still reflect that elegant, translucent inspiration.

In the serene and palatial centre room (there are no doors to her bedroom or dining area, so the area forms one wide-open space) the central arched bookcase is where Horsman, a self-proclaimed “maximal minimalist” keeps an eclectic mix of treasures. A David Bowie candle, a vintage mascot head in the form of a perpetually peppy chipmunk, taxidermy—these are all little clues that tie back to her love for another strong theme woven throughout: ’80s nostalgia. The E.T. doll on one shelf is just foreshadowing for the life-sized replica in her bedroom (unfortunately not pictured). “He’s just a symbol of hope and innocence and pure love—I think he’s adorable,” she laughs. “The ’80s were just a little bit more magic; I guess I want to hold on to that.”

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