A Waterfront Condo Reimagined by Picnic Design
Using shape and colour, the Toronto design studio transforms a dated condo into a serene family home
Photography by Scott Norsworthy
Sometimes staying put is the best option. When a young couple with two children was looking to improve their living situation, they realized they didn’t need to move at all. Their waterfront condo would continue to suit them perfectly if only a few tweaks were made. It made sense financially to renovate the condo, plus, they had grown to love their magnificent view of Lake Ontario, the Harbourfront, and Toronto Islands.
“They had a decent size condo to work with, about 1,000 square feet, two bedrooms plus a den,” says Picnic Design principal Eric Martin who worked on the project with partner Joanne Lam. The main challenge in renovating was creating a feeling of space while giving the busy family the storage they desperately need. Upgrading finishes and cultivating an elevated aesthetic were done on a tight budget, which speaks to the ingenuity of Martin and Lam. Space planning and the right choice of materials netted the family a home that’s as functional as it is beautiful.
“The kitchen is typically the hub, and here, it became literally the centre of the home,” says Martin. Previously, the kitchen had been configured in a C-shape and was basically a dead end. One person in, one person out. It blocked the space from the rest of the condo, physically and energetically.
To remedy the tight squeeze, Martin and Lam used a triangular island as a touchpoint in the room, which also effortlessly guides traffic. “We created an island and turned it 30 degrees, so that two sides of the triangle align with the corners of the kitchen. The third side follows you from the entrance to the dining area and if you stop beside the island, it’s a bar that faces the main kitchen. They can now face their guests and it’s very comfortable,” he says.
Dressing the island are vertical white-oak slats that give the space a sophisticated look while adding texture and warmth. Topped with white quartz, the palette is fresh and livable.
The second item on the couple’s must-have list was a luxurious ensuite bath. If they were planning to stay in the unit for another 10 years or so, they wanted a spa-like retreat. Martin and Lam set about designing a spa bath and a well-lit walk-in closet with custom mirrors. “It’s not a dark place, which is very common with walk-ins,” says Martin, who paid special attention to the colour temperature of the lighting throughout.
“Overall, an open-space mandate in the shared areas was to make it more inviting for guests and more comfortable for themselves — a more presentable, social place with higher-end finishes, all without breaking the bank,” he says.
Millwork wraps around the kitchen to create a multi-purpose wall that is both a home office (with hidden storage) and an entertainment area for the family’s TV and books etc. By linking the kitchen and living room visually, the condo feels more spacious. “We created an interior landscape that follows from the kitchen to the living room with a massing that’s all one colour,” says Martin. “Within that, we created pockets that are articulated with flashes of different material — white oak or tile.”
Vital to making the condo work for a family with two young kids was the transformed vestibule, which now offers a coat closet, shelving, a bench to sit and put on shoes, along with a concealed kitty litter box.
By focusing on the key issues faced by the family and prioritizing both ample personal and social space (plus, storage!), Picnic Design was able to deliver a unique waterfront condo fit for any busy family.