BY STEPHANIE WHITTAKER / PHOTOGRAPHY: RANDAL KURT / STYLING: BEYOND BEIGE
We’ll start this story with the anecdote about the chicken-wire glass because it illustrates how single-minded interior designer Reisa Pollard can be when she’s hunting for something on a client’s behalf.
Pollard, the founder and lead designer in Vancouver firm Beyond Beige, was in the process of designing an eclectic residential loft in a century-old former warehouse. The 1,400-square-foot loft had been residential for several years but Pollard’s Los Angeles-based clients, who had bought it as their Vancouver pied-à-terre, wanted a redesign.
The question of chicken-wire glass arose after Pollard turned her attention to redesigning the kitchen, which was functional but not to her clients’ tastes. “The husband said he hated the black kitchen,” Pollard says. “So I decided to reinvent the cabinetry. I popped out the internal panels on the upper cabinet doors.” And she thought about the materials that were used in industrial buildings a century ago. “These old warehouse buildings had windows with chicken wire embedded in the glass.”
And that began the quest for chicken-wire glass by Pollard’s assistant, Jolene Davis. “We finally found a company in Georgia that had reclaimed chicken-wire glass,” Pollard says. The result? The cabinet doors were given a fresh look with a material that recalls the building’s past, and the black cabinetry was painted an unusual Caribbean blue, much to the satisfaction of the homeowners.
Pollard says she loves hunting down difficult-to-find accessories and materials for her clients. “I was on vacation in Oregon and I saw a lamp made from a steam cylinder,” she says. “I decided I had to have it for these clients because they would love it, so I bought it.”
The loft project, which started in 2012, took about a year to complete, and it began with some rearrangement of the space. “It had already been converted into residential lofts when my clients bought it,” says Pollard. “We went to great lengths to change the entryway, laundry area and storage. There had been some strange angles when you walked into the loft. It was hard to understand why the space was laid out that way. So we ripped out that area down to the studs and reframed it.” The newly organized floor plan allowed for a larger ensuite shower and a more efficient use of space.
The funkiness in the loft begins in the entry hall, where Pollard put a bank of old school lockers to replace the coat closet. “I love old lockers,” she says. “But it wouldn’t be comfortable squashing coats into separate ones. So an antiques dealer I know re-welded them as one piece.”
The entry hall walls are adorned with large wheel-like structures, which are former wood forms from an engineering firm. Pollard found them through an artist whose father had worked at the firm. “He had stashed them in the back of his building,” she says. “He had to move so he needed to sell them. I wanted elements from Vancouver’s history in this space.”
The industrial theme continues in the guest bathroom. “I had to entice my clients with unique design elements that weren’t going to be showy. They didn’t want anything showy,” says Pollard. So a former metal janitor’s cart serves as a vanity for a raised-bowl basin. And the walls that surround it are clad in corrugated iron sheeting.
An old clawfoot tub was painted an unlikely chartreuse and encased in concrete. “My client had seen an image of a concrete tub in a magazine and she liked it, but it would have been difficult to retrofit,” she says. The walls around the tub are clad in large hand-glazed Ann Sacks ceramic tiles in midnight blue.
To maximize space, the guest bedroom doubles as a home office. Pollard, a former library employee who loves the look of card catalogues, had an old-fashioned library built into the room with a wall bed that is hidden behind a faux bank of card catalogue drawers. The bed is made up with a Hudson’s Bay point blanket for a cozy Canadian ambience.
Another project that required one of Pollard’s big searches was the master bathroom. The modest dimensions of the room – eight feet by 10 feet – forced the team to get creative. It began with the installation of a Mid-century Modern teak bar reconstituted as a vanity, which contrasts against walls clad in small hexagonal tiles in a honeycomb pattern.
“We needed something impactful in there while balancing Mid-century simplicity,” says Pollard. “I found a photo of former industrial windows that I wanted to adapt as shower doors. But shower door manufacturers don’t make iron shower windows, and iron door companies don’t make shower doors. So Jolene worked with an ironworker to custom-build them from scratch. We had to fabricate something original.” Think 19th century multi-paned industrial window meets shower door; it’s both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
In the kitchen, where the gloomy black was replaced with joyful blues, Pollard decided to replace standard hanging lights above the island with studio and stage lights. “So off Jolene goes on a quest again and finds television studio lights at CBS in Chicago,” says Pollard. “She also found theatre lights through an antiques dealer.”
The kitchen shares open space with the dining area and living room. And it goes without saying that this area is also full of original and unusual touches. To wit: iron outdoor chairs at the dining room table and – one of Pollard’s favourite finds – a pile of antique suitcases with vintage destination tags still attached.
She also found a coffee table made of driftwood “that exemplifies the Sunshine Coast and the reason people live in Vancouver.” And, thanks to this designer’s waste-not-want-not modus operandi, the living room fireplace was clad in copper that she had salvaged from a design job she did on a Vancouver bar.
Because her clients live in L.A., many of Pollard’s meetings with them were done by Skype. “The whole project was all about the fun,” she says. “I was in my element and I was given the green light to run with my imagination.” As a result, she has two happy clients and a very interesting pied-à-terre.