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downsizing to trump tower

Written by Danny Chan

Published July 22, 2018

Updated Oct 21, 2020

top takeaways:

  • if you can't hide something ugly, consider turning it into a feature

  • the sofa doesn't always have to be against the wall


This project will always have a very special place in my heart because it was going to be my parents' forever home. They have always loved having the view of the ocean, so they purchased an apartment high up in the Trump Tower where it has over 180 degree of unobstructed view, and that also became our priority to showcase the stunning view of English Bay! 

English bay view from Trump tower Vancouver

They purchased the unit at a presale and have been waiting for a few years for it to complete. On July 14, 2016, the day finally came for our first walk-through. My mom was so excited. Sandra and I accompanied her as she wanted to hire us for the design.

On Friday (Nov, 18, 2016), I presented the mood board and the overall design to my mother, and she immediately told my father that she loved everything that I had shown her. She showed me a budget that she had in mind, and I told her that was too much. Her reply was that she wanted to make sure that this project would look good on my website. She didn't want a nice place just for herself, but she wanted it to look good for my portfolio. I assured her that I have chosen all the furniture and material based on my profile of who they are, so everything will be good in quality and yet well priced at the same time. Her reply to me was that I should then increase my design fee and charge more for my services. I was touched by how much she really wanted me to succeed.

Sadly, she suffered a massive stroke later that evening and she left us just four days later. While we did make some modifications to the design to suit my father's need more, we kept the overall design to what I presented her because she had told my father that she was very happy with everything that I chose for her.

Danny Chan Sandra Dee Interior designer

walk through day

challenge #1:  when downsizingshould we keep our old furniture?

For many aging seniors, maintaining a big home can be challenging. My parents were facing the same issue with the upkeep of their big house, so they decided to downsize from their 5,000+ square foot home in West Vancouver to this 1,200 square foot two bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver. In addition, they also love that they can walk to many restaurants and grocery stores, where everything is so convenient.

During the initial consultation, they asked if they should keep their existing furniture from their house. I was happy to that they took my advice well about not keeping them since most of their furniture from the house were quite large and traditional looking. After all, they were meant for a much bigger home and some of the pieces have been with the couples for over 20 years. When moving into a smaller home, the scale of the furniture should also be smaller so not to overwhelm the space. This may not always be easy as there are often emotions attached to certain furniture pieces. I find that it's helpful to focus on what you are gaining rather than to what you are losing. There were a few items that we kept, which included a green Italian marble dining table set, a 100% wool Persian rug, and a British hunting scene oil painting with an ornate gold frame that used to hang above their living room's fireplace.

challenge #2: if. you can't get rid of something ugly, turn it into a feature!

Many of the newer condos in Vancouver have floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize daylight. One annoying byproduct is that often times, there is a massive column right where the views are. This was the case with this apartment. As soon as we open the door, we see the massive column at the end of the hallway and my mother absolutely HATED it. But how can you make the massive eyesore go away? So here is what we did. We applied a beautiful wallpaper that has a subtle metallic sheen onto the column and repeated the same wallpaper in the entry hallway for a a sense of continuity. This magically turned this eyesore into a feature.

pillar column design idea

massive column in the middle of the apartment

condo design | Vancouver | happy home design
condo design | Vancouver | happy home design

challenge #3: where can we put the sofa if not against the wall?

The last challenge that having all those windows meant that we had very little wall space to place the sofa to enjoy the wonderful view of English Bay. Most people often assume that a sofa must be placed against the wall. This is what my dad did originally. But this made the living room layout very awkward because there is also a closet door on the right.

careful space planning


careful space planning


It's not necessary to always put your furniture against the wall. In this case, we decided to "float" the sofa by the column and effectively defining and sectioning off the living room. The we created two focal points, one being the view on the left, and the other being a built in wall unit to house my parents' collection of things over the year. In collaboration with David Adamian form California Closet, we designed this wall mounted wall cabinet. Over the years, they have collected a lot more than what's shown here. But instead of displaying everything and making the space feel clutter, we encouraged them to choose only a few really special items. It was the famous Japanese organizer Marie Kondo who says to only keep things that "spark joy" when you see them. In this case, the green vase and the bronze woman were very special to them. So we designed two tall and narrow boxes and white background to elevate their importance. The idea was to focus on quality rather than quantity. And by wall mounting the unit as well as creating a backless unit, the space stays airy and spacious while also showcasing the beautiful golden floral wallpaper behind it.

condo design | Vancouver | happy home design
condo design | Vancouver | happy home design


condo design | Vancouver | small space design

colour inspiration is all around you

You may have noticed that there is no TV in the living room and you would be correct. Both my parents were used to watching TV in the bedroom just before going to bed. So we decided that we would turn the second bedroom into the TV room as well as a guest room for the grandchildren. We wanted a room that was gender neutral so all the grandchildren would enjoy spending time there. We created a memorable gallery wall by using the same size picture frames, printed photos of each of their grandchildren, and grouped them into a grid. When printing the photos, we like to make them black and white so not to compete with the colour palette of the room. In this case, the colour is Benjamin Moore's Blue Seafoam (2056-60). It has a light reflective value (LRV) of 70.49, making it a bright and cherry colour for the room. One could say that it's a more youthful green than the green in the living room. The inspiration actually came from the windows across the street as well as the rooftop of Hotel Vancouver.

condo design | Vancouver | happy home design
Benjamin Moore Blue Seafoam 2056-60

Since the second bedroom also acted as a guest room, the clean designed and firm sofa that we chose was not only comfortable to sit on to watch TV, but it also converts easily into a very comfortable sofa bed. It features an orthopedic foam mattress to ensure everyone can have a good night sleep.

condo design | Vancouver | happy home design
condo design | Vancouver | happy home design
condo design | Vancouver | happy home design

where will you take your inspiration from? in this case, it was my dad's suit

The master bedroom is a very important space for us to design because it is the most personal space, If you knew my dad, you would know that he was always very well dressed. So when I was considering the design for his bedroom, I wanted to the room to be "well dressed." Suddenly, I saw the subtle houndstooth pattern on one of his suit and felt that it'd be perfect for him. I chose this golden houndstooth wallpaper from Graham & Brown. On the one hand, the pattern is quite traditional, but on the other hand, the colour modernizes the design.

gold houndstooth wallpaper design inspiration
condo design | Vancouver | happy home design

do the unexpected and go bold

I spoke about a British hunting scene oil painting that my parents wanted to keep. It used to be hung above the fireplace in their living room, so I wanted to give this painting some importance. But with the apartment filled with a lot of windows, there was not a lot of walls to hang art work. Another challenge was that the painting was very traditional and doesn't seem to fit the feel of the new condo. Eventually, I found the "perfect" spot for this painting, the powder room. This would be the last place anyone would expect to find such a painting. I wanted the painting to be a feature, so I painted the ceiling black and wrapped the small space in a faux croc wallpaper. In the end, when we juxtaposed the old with the new, it created a wow factor for anyone who visits the powder room. Sometimes, you just have to expect to do the unexpected.

black wallpaper design inspiration


black wallpaper design inspiration

My father has been happily living in this smaller condo, surrounded by a few things that remind of his life with my mother while creating another chapter in his life knowing that this was designed with her in mind. Living in an apartment that I designed for him (and mom) solidify my standing as an interior designer for him. Nowadays, he is very proud to tell his guests that his son was the designer of his beautiful place.

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