Two crests are surging in Hamilton’s condo world right now: late baby boomers aging out of their large family homes, and their echo, the kids born between 1980-94 and ready to own something. Their different priorities present developers with two distinct marketing programs. The Parentals, we’ll call them, value good finishes, spare bedrooms, and storage. Storage for their decades of accumulated art, books, family treasures, suitcases, skis, and snow tires. And, oh yes, their cars!Millennials place a higher value on location—being downtown, walking/biking to work, transit, galleries, restaurants, and bars. They have less stuff, meaning they can live happily in 450 square feet (or less), and forego the expense of parking spot and storage locker.

Millennials place a higher value on location—being downtown, walking/biking to work, transit, galleries, restaurants, and bars. They have less stuff, meaning they can live happily in 450 square feet (or less), and forego the expense of parking spot and storage locker.

But both groups want their space to “live large” and look fantastic.Here are some of my recipes for “stealing” space wherever possible, reusing furniture in new ways, and winning the game with a gorgeous space that functions “like a real home.”

Here are some of my recipes for “stealing” space wherever possible, reusing furniture in new ways, and winning the game with a gorgeous space that functions “like a real home.”

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Thoughtful décor
Use your ten-foot ceilings to best advantage, stacking art from baseboards to ceiling, in thoughtful, salon-style collages. Pay attention to themes and colour flow among the pieces. I spend hours mapping out such walls on the floor; sketch it all out, then transfer the works into place, piece by piece.

A well-chosen paint colour on this wall can help unify a lifelong collection of randoms into a cohesive whole. Throwing a few mirrors into the mix lets you bring movement, light, and views to the wall. The closer your mirrors are to window walls, the more light you bring in.One of my clients discovered mirrored closet doors in the trash at her Main and Bay

One of my clients discovered mirrored closet doors in the trash at her Main and Bay condo and recycled them right up into her unit. Leaning against the white walls, beside her south-facing windows, they “bend light into dark spaces and welcome in alternative outdoor views.” What a great upcycle!If you’re an art beginner, hang one giant piece for major impact—I don’t care if it’s a real canvas or a fake from Ikea or the seascape from over your grandma’s sofa—go big, go bold.

If you’re an art beginner, hang one giant piece for major impact—I don’t care if it’s a real canvas or a fake from Ikea or the seascape from over your grandma’s sofa—go big, go bold.


Worth the cost
If you’re buying into a new project, ask if your builder provides motorized roller screen window shades. Yes, it’s an up-front cost, but a supremely useful amenity you will appreciate day after day, forever.Another major choice on purchase—perhaps your largest expense—will be the flooring. Retrofitted office and factory spaces may have polished concrete, which is lovely for reflecting light. Most buyers I work with remove builder-grade carpet and install hardwood as a first, unifying step.

Another major choice on purchase—perhaps your largest expense—will be the flooring. Retrofitted office and factory spaces may have polished concrete, which is lovely for reflecting light. Most buyers I work with remove builder-grade carpet and install hardwood as a first, unifying step.Use area rugs to establish “rooms” within your open space. Turn your rug, and everything on it, onto the diagonal. This introduces dynamic angles to your “zones” and can ease traffic through

Use area rugs to establish “rooms” within your open space. Turn your rug, and everything on it, onto the diagonal. This introduces dynamic angles to your “zones” and can ease traffic through the space. You might need a big rug for the sofa/TV area, smaller ones for a reading nook or mini-office, and a runner along your kitchen’s work-wall or island. Don’t forget, broadloom can be cut and bound into area rugs, too.

While we’re in the kitchen: Pay attention to your appliances. Noise from your fridge and dishwasher (along with cooking smells if your range hood doesn’t vent to outside) will float everywhere in an open space. Ditto for clunky air handlers—who wants a bathroom fan that dominates the living room when guests go to the loo?


Storage solutions
In the constant quest for storage, do your utmost with the closets you have. If you can afford it, treat yourself to a maximizing California Closets design. If you can’t, snoop the online photos of before-and-afters and devise your own way of getting to the same goal. Sometimes it’s better to remove the doors from reach-in closets and insert Ikea’s brilliant Pax system of double-hanging bars and wide drawers.

Use under-the-bed roll-outs for shoes and Christmas stuff. Take it next level, and build a loft or platform bed 6 feet off the floor. With closet or desk below, you’ve doubled your footprint. Murphy beds (status symbol among the Parentals), can be designed with desks attached.

 

Multi-use furniture
And that’s the key: furniture that can do more than one thing. An upholstered bench at the foot of your bed can store linens, but also comes to the dining table, the living room, or the foyer at party time. Old “brown furniture” can be a great find: drop-leaf dining tables from the ’40s collapse to hall-table size, then expand amazingly for dinner parties.
A “character” buffet from the same era, painted black, Chinese red, or teal, has real presence and adds storage to a bedroom or foyer. You can cut the legs down and put your TV on top, then store booze bottles below. Amour Fou in Westdale has some of these great old consoles, beautifully painted.

Your old bedroom dresser makes a great entry table. Drop your sunglasses, keys and phone on top, and use the drawers for your camera equipment, gift wrap, or stash of paper towels.
Two-drawer file cabinets look cool and industrial as bedside tables, while storing your paperwork. Find them in wood at the used office supply store. While you’re there, look for chairs that swivel. They let you watch the tube, or turn and gaze out over the city. Your ottoman can be spare seating or a coffee table. Your coffee table may be three small cubes or tree-trunks. They can bunch together, or separate as needed.


A little character
The ancient finishes in old industrial space look fantastic paired with sleek modern pieces. Stevenson’s Antiques in Westdale specializes in teak and mid-century modern: low-slung consoles and buffets with a Dean Martin-Rat-pack vibe. Remove the legs and hang them on the wall for a weightless look.

New buildings are short on ancient finishes, but you can add a wall of cobblestone, barn board, or weathered brick with incredibly believable wallpaper.

Another imperative is light. Windows may all be on one side, so lighting interior areas demands ingenuity, with floor lamps, concealed cords, and yes, swag lamps! The old light bulb on a cord with a plug-in, and a giant paper shade from Chinatown, is timeless for good reason.

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The call of the condo
If you’re hearing the call of the condo, why not embrace the changes it will mean in your lifestyle?

Paring down can be a wrenching process for parentals, or it can be a wonderful unburdening. Hanging on tight to your giant dining suite, bought for an entirely different phase of life, won’t help you make the leap. Let it go and enjoy the search for the new. Acquiring everything Millennials need for a new home may look scarily expensive. Instead of panicking, uncover your latent DIY talents. Go consignment shopping. Have fun upcycling other people’s overflow.

These two groups need to hook up to exchange goods— of course, there’s an app for that—but work your family contacts or go to auctions and resale shops. Seeing cherished pieces “adopted” into new homes beats sending them to the landfill.

If you’re willing to see things differently, the quest will give new life to your world.