High life

Greg Oldenburg, who lives in a 1,861-square-foot apartment on the 39th floor of Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, is a man of many talents. No relation to ’60s Pop artist Claes Oldenburg (he of giant “soft” hamburger fame), he grew up in Sudbury, Ont., the son of an architect who taught mechanical drafting in the local high school. Greg holds a diploma in engineering and has worked most of his life in three-dimensional problem solving. 

He was a project manager at Eventscape, the Toronto firm that custom manufactures for designers and architects worldwide, building almost any form with a tubular aluminum skeleton sheathed in almost any material, from resins and acrylic to titanium sheets. His work ranged from the oversized white ribbon swirling through the Corus Quay lobby in Toronto to giant maple leafs on display at the International Olympic Committee museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Now, he has his own consultancy, Oldenburg Inc., focussing on residential fit-outs for new condo projects. Says Greg, “I’m quite connected to a variety of highly skilled, specialized fabricators and trades.” Two such contacts are lighting designer Zac Ridgely of Ridgely Studio Works and furniture designer Nick Day, who shared a booth this past January at Toronto’s Interior Design Show. 

Which brings us to the apartment, located smack dab in the middle of Toronto’s financial district. A gaggle of Ridgely’s wiry, humorous pendant lights bob above the dining table; Day built or helped Greg build many of the apartment’s custom furniture built-ins.

Greg not only designed the interiors, he also provided most of the art. “We wanted to keep the apartment neutral and add colour through artwork. We used my photographs to create a gallery feeling.” His photographs are like a Rorschach test: “Most of my photos are of things you would know clearly if you step back 10 feet. I’ve developed a style based on geometry and removing the context of the subject.” For instance, Extended Family Tree, on the Scotia Plaza-facing wall of the living-dining area, portrays a totem pole – or is it a pine tree? – reflected on the surface of a lake and rotated 180 degrees.

Sharing the apartment with Greg is his wife, along with her daughter by a previous marriage. Lisa Abe-Oldenburg, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP IT Law Group and co-head of the firm’s Payment Solutions Group, works a block away at the international law firm’s office in First Canadian Place. She loves the Trump’s location, “which is in the centre of the financial and legal district of Canada. I work for a lot of banks, so many clients are right here.”

Lisa purchased the apartment five years ago, before the tower was built. “I had a vision of how I would like to design it and Greg brought that dream to life.” At the time, she was living in Mississauga and wearying of the commute; she wanted to simplify her life. The couple would take walks through downtown Toronto. One evening they strolled past the Trump’s future location, at Bay and Adelaide streets, and pondered the advantages of living there, “owning a piece of the Toronto skyline and living in the tallest residential building in the country.” (At 908 feet and 65 storeys, Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto features 261 hotel guest rooms and suites, plus 118 luxury residences.) 

“One thing that everyone tells us when they arrive,” Greg says, “is the feeling that they are in a much bigger place then they would have imagined. That’s because the primary focus when we moved in was to create as much additional space as possible with the built-in storage. For instance, the cabinets flanking the fireplace blend in, they’re not overbearing, and act as an informal seating area. And the kitchen easily holds 20 people.” 

“We have access to so many common spaces here that the apartment feels so much bigger,” Lisa adds. “It’s a lifestyle with so many amenities: a spa; fitness centre; saltwater pool; concierge; and the proximity to Billy Bishop [airport], because I do a lot of flying to Ottawa, Montreal and New York. I can pick up the phone and call room service for ice when we are having a party here. The concierge takes your bags up and down, and groceries, too, and you’re not allowed to tip them.”

Says Greg, gesturing to the nearby skyscrapers, “We have more space around us, visually, than people who live in a house of the same size. At night, it’s very quiet except for the occasional siren. It’s almost like country living in the city.”

“It’s a lot more private at night on the weekends than people think,” Lisa says. “You can walk around on weekends when all the offices are closed and there’s nobody here except for people in the hotel, and tourists. Sometimes we open the windows to get fresh air. It’s a lot fresher up here than down on the street, I can tell you that.”  cI