Life In The Fast Lane

Pleasing the client and pleasing the end user of a space are, or at least should be, the goals of design. For residential spaces it may seem an easier task: if the client and user are the same, there are less people to make happy. But to create a truly successful design for a home is pretty tricky business. Not only does everyone have different tastes, but also vastly different needs. And if a home doesn’t meet the needs of its occupant, it can make life difficult.

When Antonio Tadrissi, of Prototype design lab, was commissioned to transform a standard loft into a more personalized space for a close pal, he already had a head start. Walking into the project, Tadrissi already had a pretty good understanding of his client’s life style, which dictated much of the design, down to the smallest detail.

“He’s a single, young, jet-setting guy,” explains the designer of his entrepreneur friend. “He’s into stuff like fast cars and fashion, so he wanted to bring that into his place.” Tadrissi elaborates that his client/friend figured he had reached an age and point in his life that this would be his last bachelor pad and therefore wanted to do it up right. The end result is very rock ‘n’ roll: dark, sexy, glamourous, indulgent, and at times a little extravagant.

Tadrissi, an intern architect, was involved right from the beginning, even getting the chance to give the thumbs-up on the Toronto loft before it was purchased. Despite a badly planned layout, typical of cookie-cutter condos, the space had some unique features, such as a two-storey living room, that gave it potential.

The project started with two main structural interventions. The first was to move the washer and dryer, which were located right near the front door – a standard positioning that is hard to see the logic behind. By moving them, the field of view was opened up, removing the suffocated feeling the foyer previously instilled. The laundry is now located in the generously proportioned guest bathroom on the second floor. With two and half baths, the extra space there had been wasted, and now the laundry facilities are much closer to the closet. Brilliant.

The second structural change was to rip out the staircase the visually dominated the main floor. Tadrissi swung the direction of the climb around when installing a new floating staircase that is very subtle and transparent, acting as a point of interest, rather than a necessary imposition. The open space left is clearly defined as two rooms, dining and living, without the intervention of walls.

In the dining room, just to the right as you enter, a large, dark table sits in front of a wall papered in velvet-textured blue and black, underneath a huge blue blown-glass chandelier that creates an ambience that would put most restaurants to shame. The lamp, the table and the chairs are all custom designed by Tadrissi for the project, as is most everything else. Even the wallpaper is one of his designs, realized in one of the many shades of blue – the client’s favourite colour – used throughout.

Adjacent to the dining space is the living room, which is dominated by a large grey-blue tufted sofa. Another of Tadrissi’s custom pieces, the sofa is designed with a “formal” side built for sitting and an “informal” side for stretching out. A perfect place, as he points out, to pass out after a night of drinking. And no need to fear the sun streaming in through the double-height window occupying the entire front wall: the designer has thoughtfully added heavy black velvet drapes that fully block the light. He mentions that since his friend rarely spends time at home during daylight hours, the curtains most often are closed, but that they can be opened to reveal a pretty spectacular view of the city, day or night.

Opposite, on the back wall, one of Tadrissi’s Scripted Walls signals the transition from dining to living room. The Scripted Wall, a concept for which the designer won a 2008 Best of Canada Award, features artwork of the client’s choosing etched into 100-year-old mushroom board. The coffee table is in the same wood, but encased in glass, like a museum piece on display. Oh, and the room is, of course, fitted out with a flat screen TV and top-of-the-line sound system.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a room that is truly, shall we say, built to impress. The custom-designed bed features a tall, purple velvet headboard and a high-gloss finished base. The back wall is in a race car-inspired titanium grey. Insert double entendre here.

“Everything was specifically customized for the client,” says Tadrissi. “For instance, he has a lot of hats, so I added somewhere to put like eight or nine hats, right inside the front door. Custom design to this point is only possible when you really know the person and take time to anticipate their needs from the design.” cI