Decorating a rental apartment comes with its own set of challenges. Many landlords won’t let their tenants add so much as a coat of paint to their apartment – but when a pair of world-class designers are the renters, things change. This was the case when architect Maxime Vandal and designer Richard Ouellette of design firm
Les Ensembliers moved into a 2,500-square-foot rental apartment in Montreal. Their landlord gave the couple carte-blanche to redecorate the interior, which resulted in a six-week project. “We’re our own worst enemies,” says Richard. “We can’t live in not pretty.” Take a tour of the Golden Square Mile apartment that pushes the boundaries of what a rental apartment can be.
This zebra-patterned wallpaper is the “perfect backdrop,” says Richard. “I used it in many rooms in the apartment, which makes the effect more subtle. If you used it on one feature wall, it would scream at you.” The two pieces of black-framed artwork are by his partner Maxime Vandal’s mother, Moïsette Boucher.
Hits of exotic pattern — the ornate desk and Chinoiserie urns, for example — are the calling card of Les Ensembliers. “Blue and white china is like a great pair of black pants,” says Richard. “You can mix it up and play with it in any space.” In the entranceway, he layered large ginger jars — some old, some new — to create a moment below a Fortuny light from Celadon. Graphic upholstered stools give the vignette punch.
Within six weeks of renting the apartment, the couple had their suppliers build and reupholster new pieces for the entire place, including drapery, carpets and a silk-covered ottoman that gives the seating area a colorful focus. A black and white diptych by Montreal artist Agnès Ménabréaz adds another dynamic layer of pattern to the mix.
To improve the lifeless kitchen, the designers painted white lacquer on the cabinetry, island, floors and backsplash. But the biggest impact came from covering the walls in an orchid-patterned wallpaper. Its whimsical feel, mixed with shapely pendant lights and Chinese antiques, gives the kitchen gorgeous style.
In the small den just off the kitchen, an exotic rug in warm earthy hues complements the orchid wallpaper.
A mixed-media portrait of Yves Saint Laurent by André Monet hangs by the doorway to the den in the kitchen. Through the adjacent doorway is a photograph of Steve McQueen. “The portraits balance each other out in that they’re both black and white, but one is literal, and the other more modern,” says Richard.
While the main living areas are light and bright, the bedroom is moody and layered with textiles, art and books from the couple’s travels. The colorful Oushak rug adds a feeling of history.
Richard and Maxime created an intimate dressing area by closing off a doorway to the living room with an antique chest and tall mirror. Papering the walls with a graphic pattern by Kelly Wearstler makes a strong statement and gives the small space a cozier feel.
The original pedestal sink in the ensuite bathroom was small, impractical and uninspiring. With a vintage console they picked up for $200 at a flea market and a $150 sink, the designers were able to create a space with character.
Want to see more interiors by Les Ensembliers? Tour a bright home with pattern and personality
House & Home October 2015