Homes

Art, design, and panoramic views: Inside a luxurious Centretown penthouse

This article originally appeared in our 2020 Interiors edition.

Prepare to be dazzled. Though the skyline views from the penthouse at Cathedral Hill are undeniably magnificent, it’s the carefully curated collection of furnishings and artwork that draws the eye inward to a space that is equal parts comfortable family home and art gallery.

To date, it has taken Janise Saikaley, the owner and lead designer at Uproar Interiors, more than three years to put together the look, working closely with the owner, Tom*, to design a 3,500-square-foot suite that is both vibrant and enchanting — a luxurious retreat layered with texture and colour. And still the design process is far from over, continuing to develop and evolve, layer by layer, year by year. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
*first name only at homeowner’s request

Left: A view from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen. Right: Tom asked for  floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the views. Photos by Christian Lalonde

Over the years, Tom and Janise have developed a partnership based on mutual respect. “I love her feel for colours and paint and high-quality materials,” says Tom. “She really takes her time, using design to solve each issue as it comes up.”

He points to the penthouse foyer as a perfect example. Safety codes meant that as he stepped off the elevator, he was immediately faced with fire doors, a fire escape, and fire equipment. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to turn this foyer into a jewel box.’ ” Janise did just that, cladding the hallway in Shanghai Peacock, a mesmerizing chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper that draws the eye away from the functional features.

Left: A custom steel plate ensures that even the elevator button looks chic. Right: Mesmerizing chinoiserie-inspired wallpaper was used throughout the foyer. Photos by Christian Lalonde

For her part, Janise describes Tom as gracious, honest, and trusting, open to bright hues and unconventional ideas. “He lets me step outside the box and open up my design thinking. We have fun.”

For Janise, fun means the opportunity to work with talented Canadian artists and artisans, to research and recommend sophisticated materials and, perhaps most important, to eschew all things grey. “We live in a grey city — it’s grey for half the year. Why bring grey into your house?”

The glass Valcucine kitchen features a custom art piece — a stylized floor plan of the condo in contrasting colours. Photos by Christian Lalonde

Still, over the past three years, the chance to design custom pieces and work with luxe materials has on occasion felt like an uphill climb. “Thinking layer on layer takes time. Working with artists takes time. Sometimes both Tom and I would get frustrated and I’d have to keep reminding him that Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Janise. It helped that Tom realized from the beginning that his penthouse was a unique space and nothing about the design and execution should be rushed.

Even before Janise came onboard, Tom and his brother, an architect by training, had spent months thinking about the potential of the condo. The builder originally conceived it as a four-bedroom space, but as an empty nester with three adult children, Tom rarely has more than one child visiting at any one time — “And if they do, someone can sleep on the couch!” he says with a laugh.

And so his brother sketched a custom design that sees one-third of the condo devoted to personal space (a bedroom, an ensuite, and an office), one third earmarked for the kitchen, dining room, and living room, and one-third reserved for play (a relaxing television room and two expansive terraces, one with a barbecue and seating, the other with a pool and hot tub).

The expansive terrace off the kitchen includes a pool with views of Lebreton Flats. Photo by Christian Lalonde
The McGuire chairs and ottoman, which Tom brought from his former home, were reupholstered in a bright fabric sourced from the Designers Guild in the U.K. Photos by Christian Lalonde
The reconfigured layout allows for an expansive ensuite — a luxurious room with patterned sheers, a pretty pendant light, and a massive circular soaker tub. Photos by Christian Lalonde

That revamped layout allows for grand windows and sweeping views while, at the same time, offering up extra wall space on which to showcase Tom’s art collection.

Janise took this spatial plan and got to work making masterful use of furniture to define the interior layout of the open kitchen, dining room, and living room. She imagined sophisticated colours, materials, and furnishings that make the most of the spectacular setting. “Because Tom’s place is so unusual — we have a 360 view of Ottawa here! — I told him I wanted him to live in it and understand his living patterns before we made all the decisions,” she explains.

Left: Anchored by a grey mohair sofa, the TV room is designed to feel comforting. Patterned drapes, here and throughout the condo, can be drawn to envelop each room. Right: the Cathedral Hill condo building is perfectly situated to offer magnificent views of the city from the penthouse suite. Photos by Christian Lalonde

In the early days, Janise found herself at Tom’s condo almost every Friday night, her arms loaded with fabric and wallpaper samples. She would show him ideas but also get him to think deeply about how he was living in his space. Where did he sit in the morning? At night? What was his favourite view? Where did he feel most relaxed? Some design decisions were made quickly, while others took months. “Sometimes we’d just find that it was time to take a creative and financial break,” says Janise.

Slowly the layers came together. In the living room, for example, the reflective beauty of a silk carpet was paired with the deep richness of two silk-clad sofas, a moody Peter Hoffer painting overlooking the scene. And Janise was constantly on the phone to craftspeople, one month ordering the perfect resin-topped table from renowned B.C. artist Martha Sturdy, the next working with local furniture maker Brendon Taylor to design a daybed and contacting Christopher Solar for custom floor lamps. “I’m a bit of a hippysnob,” she admits. “I’m passionate about supporting people who make functional, beautiful, handmade pieces, and Tom is open to that.”

Left: A floor lamp by local furnituremaker Christopher Solar. Right: this is one of two benches in the condo by Vancouver designer Martha Sturdy. The painting is by Canadian artist Peter Hoffer. Photos by Christian Lalonde

Tom says now that everything has come together, his condo truly feels like home. “I love the kitchen, I love the pool, I love sitting on the ‘monkey couch’ and looking out the window at the Parliament Buildings. It’s home. It has everything I want.”

Left: The owner calls this sofa, which features a whimsical nature motif, the “monkey couch”; situated in the master ensuite, it’s offers a relaxing nook for morning coffee. Right: Saikaley designed this hair on hide bench in the dressing room and had it built by Brendon Taylor of Foris Workshop. Photos by Christian Lalonde

Janise, meanwhile, continues to tweak the interior, always looking to make it just a little more perfect. “Tom recently sent me a picture of him having a cup of coffee and looking out over the view. He said, ‘I can’t thank you enough.’ That he loves his place — that’s all I needed to hear.”