It took six years to move in. Six years of anticipation and imagination. That’s how much studying, reading and research went into the layout and planning of Alan and Alison Schwartz’s two-storey, 4,200-square-foot condo overlooking the rooftops of Toronto’s Annex neighborhood. With a private collection of more than 100 international pieces by contemporary artists, Alan, an executive, and his partner, Alison, found themselves empty-nesters in 2011 with time to finally plan the home they had always wanted, but never quite achieved in any of their past residences.
Enter Daniel Harland, the couple’s longtime interior design partner, and his team at
Roundabout Studio. Every design decision beyond the entry would support the art throughout the condo. “Some pieces have been with the Schwartzes for decades and are very dear to them, while others are rotated in and out,” says Daniel. “For us, how they approached their collection was one of the defining characteristics of this project.” From sight lines to space planning, the eye is consistently led back to where it should be — the art. “There’s a curatorial story here. It isn’t just what fits where; it’s a dialogue in the same way a gallery would do a show,” says Alison.
Scroll down to tour this artful condo!
In the living room, Daniel paired a curving sectional with a smaller sofa to create a more intimate space. He also avoided angled gallery lighting. “Designing lighting that would illuminate specific paintings meant that if they changed the art placement, it might not work,” says Daniel. Alan and Alison opted for recessed pot lights and linear lighting that streaks across the ceiling instead.
The resin-topped nesting tables (foreground) were custom designed by Roundabout Studio. “You see one resin color through another,” says Daniel. “The three staggered heights of the tables create a lot of richness.”
In the past, Alan and Alison bought houses and spent years “trying to make them feel like us.” They never completely succeeded until now. They bought these accent tables in the 1980s, and they’ve had them in every house since then.
The home’s flooring is an engineered tumbled and chattered French oak.
The kitchen island stools are carved out of solid ash and, when combined with a light grey concrete countertop and pink and blue handblown glass jars, the effect is warm and inviting. A Chris Ofili figure painting hangs on the wall.
“We originally designed an open-concept kitchen, then decided against it,” says Daniel. Alan and Alison wanted something more private. The space is simply done, small and efficient, and hides anything practical. The counters, backsplash and sink are all-white Corian, which matches the cabinet fronts. A few framed prints by visual activist Zanele Muholi are showcased on one wall in lieu of uppers.
The cloud chandelier above the dining table casts a subtle glow at night, and the blackened steel of the kitchen island facing reappears as a motif in other rooms. “We connected different parts of the condo using the same materials and textures,” says Daniel.
In a recessed corner off the den are streamlined wood shelves with a powder-coated finish that were custom designed to handle Alan’s art monographs and catalogues. The color-coded organization of the book spines is meant to create the effect of a woven pattern. Alan’s wood desk is from Donald Judd Furniture. “Very few people own them because they think they’re uncomfortable,” says Alan, “but I love them.”
Alan chose a tile piece by Rashid Johnson (far right) to complement the grey palette dictated by the den’s furniture. “It took four guys to lift it onto the wall,” he says.
On the second floor, almost every piece of art is by a woman. “We realized when we moved in that we have 40 pieces by women,” says Alan. “We decided to hang them together.” Knowing that the upper landing would have some of the biggest display walls for art, Daniel gave the space as much breathing room as he could without taking away from the rooms on either side.
Alan and Alison found the lemon-yellow side tables for the guest bedroom, as well as a preppy bedspread to match.
The guest room’s credenza, cowhide chair and rug combine to create a colorful vignette.
To maintain openness, there are no doors to the ensuite bathroom, just a slip wall as you walk in that displays an Adam Pendleton silk screen.
In the principal bath, the shower and tub sit atop a glassed-off Corian-framed marble platform that forms its own separate space.
“The Schwartzes are one of the few clients I have whose home looks like this every time you go there,” says Daniel. In the principal bedroom, every item has its place. The bed frame is upholstered in black leather, and the art above by Rachel Whiteread represents an inverted bookshelf that’s symbolic of forgotten history and memory.
Author: Alison Garwood-Jones
House & Home May 2020
Daniel Harland, Roundabout Studio