Now & Zen—Shangri-La Gets an Expressionist Feel
An interior designer with an Expressionist soul is let loose. The result is a dramatic Shangri-La space inspired by world travel and...Adam Levine?
“Just make it awesome.” It’s not every day that a designer undertakes a project with that sole directive. But that’s exactly what developer Will Lin of Rize Alliance Properties asked of Tanya McLean for his new perch in the Shangri-La tower in downtown Vancouver. To be fair, McLean and her company Mango Design Co had worked with Lin on five previous projects, so the two had developed a high level of trust. But this space would be different—less the West Coast modern of the previous projects; more playful—yet would still need to reflect its sophisticated urban downtown location. “The redesign of this condo allowed us to stray from our usual home renovation,” she says, “and really have fun.”
First up, McLean needed to gut the four-year-old condo—also something that doesn’t happen every day—thanks in part to a palette so neutral it was devoid of any personality. “It was typical of many Vancouver condos, but I’m so tired of espresso-stained wood and beige,” she confides. “I’m an artist at heart. I paint in the Expressionist style and use a lot of colour; I love the layers and colours used by other cultures in Bali, India and Greece.” The 2,400-square-foot space could accommodate bold, rich tones and patterns, but also needed to be bright year-round since the floor-to-ceiling windows face north and east. To set the stage, McLean removed the various flooring (espresso-stained wood, stone, carpet) to create one cohesive white concrete base.
From there, the designer channelled Marcel Wanders—the Dutch design phenom who’s the patron saint of playful modernism—to create an overarching theme. Lin’s Tibetan thangka and Buddha collections inspired the black, white, bright yellow and brushed bronze palette. “He has some amazing Tibetan pieces so I wanted them to take precedence,” she says. Their rich colours and bronze-gold finishes underpin the whole. “I have never before selected brushed gold/bronze faucets,” says McLean, “but I love them in this space!”
There were also some layout oddities to contend with, like a stand-alone closet blocking the front entrance and a miniscule fireplace in the living room. McLean removed a partial dividing wall to completely open the living space and then further defined it by dropping the ceiling down with inset, charcoal-painted embossed tin. She knew that without many walls, well-executed millwork was crucial, so she chose rosewood (and a skilled craftsman to install it) for its deep richness and patterning—and it echoes the Shangri-La’s common areas to boot.
The open-concept kitchen was inspired by Adam Levine’s home in a recent Architectural Digest. “I wanted this project to be a little rock and roll,” explains McLean. Again rosewood, this time paired with the existing stainless-steel appliances, figures heavily. The island was refaced in it, and a rosewood veneer sits behind the glass backsplash, while the cabinets received stainless-steel cladding to amp up the contrast.
Other irreverent contrasts abound: black feature walls pop while Wanders-designed wallpaper adds drama and colour. McLean found out the hard way that the wallpapers that influenced her whole design were all discontinued before she ordered them, so a quick improvisation was in order. A Wanders border works with complementary wallpaper in the master bedroom, and McLean changed the colour palette in the powder room to white and gold, instead of the planned-for yellow and gold. Delicately printed tiles embossed in black by Patricia Urquiola clad the master-bath walls, while the freestanding Zucchetti tub—a modern take on the clawfoot—brings a whimsical touch to an otherwise serene space.
Artistic carte blanche doesn’t come along often for a designer, and such freedom can go wrong in a hundred different ways. But when it works, as it did here, you end up with a space that, as the owner puts it, is “just awesome.” wl