Photos: How an Abandoned Calgary Factory Went From Warehouse to Dream House
A heritage space in Victoria Park gets a restorative reno inspired by its restaurateur (and hobby-surfer) owner.
Jeff Hines knows how to create a mood. For seven years now, the restaurateur has been serving up sunny and quirky Mexican taquerias—with a side of top-shelf tequila—to Calgarians with his Beltline restaurants Anejo and Blanco (and soon-to-open Reposado). Hines, a tequila aficionado who moonlights as a hobby surfer in Sayulita, Mexico, is intent on bringing the laid-back vibe of his home-away-from-home to Calgary. Whether it’s the exposed brick and colourful feature wall of Mexican rosaries and crosses at Anejo or the moody, neon sign-lined surf-shack walls of Blanco, Hines has a knack for transforming heritage spaces into something memorable.
He was able to express those talents again when he purchased a 1929 warehouse loft in Victoria Park in the fall of 2017—though, at the time, he wasn’t even in the real estate game. His girlfriend, realtor Ann Stranges, spotted the unusual listing: “When Ann sent me the listing, I knew it was a unique piece of Calgary’s history that I wanted to leave my mark on,” says Hines, who shares the space with his catahoula leopard pup, Sadie. Until 1961 the loft had been the Imperial Tobacco Company, but was now in foreclosure and had been gutted from top to bottom. “With the 14-foot ceilings, large factory windows, exposed brick and the fact that it is the only unit in the entire building with a 550-square-foot, exclusive-use patio, how could I walk away?”
Recruiting Korr Design, the interior design firm responsible for the aesthetics of Hines’s restaurants, he asked the team to strip the loft back to its factory origins and create a modern, relaxed space to suit his needs. When Kasey Sterling, principal designer at Korr Design, took hold of the project, she quickly realized the team was going to need to rework the entire space, from piping to duct work.
“While we were starting with a blank canvas, the previous renovations had left the 1,432-square-foot space feeling very residential and closed off, with drop ceilings that accommodated piping and other elements that covered up the exquisite character of the building,” says Sterling. “We really pulled back the layers and revealed the original brick walls, flooring and 14-foot ceilings of the historic factory space.”
The standout feature of the loft is the transformation of the original concrete-encased freight elevator shaft into an open concept kitchen, with custom Ikea cabinetry, slab stone and butcher block countertops, and KitchenAid appliances. Made for entertaining and influenced by the restaurant world, the kitchen also features a sky-high wine “cellar” with racking tucked above the cabinetry. A full-length ladder, stored nearby in Hines’s bedroom, is used to access the many vintages in his collection.
The real showstopper is a custom tequila wall on the exterior of the concrete shaft. “With Anejo and Blanco, tequila is the focus, so we wanted to create an homage to Jeff’s passion for his collection,” shares Sterling. “Five reclaimed Douglas fir shelves host about 100 bottles of my private tequila collection,” adds Hines. “This was probably the largest influence that restaurant design has had on my home, positioning my tequila collection as a centrepiece of the home, like a work of art.”
Around the corner from the kitchen, the master bedroom was expanded by acquiring an unused corridor behind the unit. By working with the condo board, Hines was able to find another 120 square feet for the bedroom, including an original red brick wall that would become a feature in the room. Wall-to-wall mirrored storage flanks the brick, reflecting the factory windows and a set of restored iron-and-wood doors to the back patio. A four-poster bed from CB2 adds an architectural element, while the muted textiles and rug soften the space.
“The cherry on top of this renovation was acquiring this unused space behind my loft,” explains Hines. “Plus, gaining access through the old loading dock extended the length of my one-of-a-kind patio by about 170 square feet. I now have this beautiful red brick and a second entrance to my patio.”
The remainder of the renovation was about creating livable, multi-use spaces throughout: the office doubles as a guest room; the live edge wood-topped desk is easily moved out of the way to accomodate a pop-down Murphy bed from Wayfair. Sterling made a few cosmetic updates to modernize the space as well. European cast iron-style radiators from Hudson Reed keep the heritage integrity of the loft intact while literally warming it up.
With the ability to move plumbing and piping thanks to the building permits they acquired, the bathrooms, a guest bath and ensuite were stacked side-by-side and designed with a clean, monochromatic black and white palette. Sterling kept the ensuite simple with white tile, black accents and a chunky, lacquered-front floating vanity from Art Bath, while the guest bath mimics it with a pedestal sink, narrow black mirror and small shower.
The Imperial loft renovation was a labour of love for Hines, where he explored the nuance and beauty of imperfections in a space that was not originally intended to be a residence. Taken from the past and brought well into the next century, the loft aptly feels like a beautiful extension of and retreat from his busy professional life in the culinary world. An ideal spot to unwind and connect with friends over a tipple from the revered tequila wall, Hines’s home evokes the same modern bohemian spirit of his beloved restaurants.