They may be swimming with the Sharks these days, but Ottawa still holds a special place in the hearts of the Karlssons. It’s Melinda’s hometown, the city where Erik launched his career, and the location of a sensational house they had almost finished renovating when they pulled up stakes for the sunny south.
Chic and stylish, their walk-in closet now epitomizes the sparkle that surrounds the Karlssons, who were fixtures at charity galas around town during their time in the capital.
For Sascha LaFleur, co-founder of design team West of Main, the haute closet was a dream commission, a chance to go full glam and work with a long-time friend. She and Melinda have been close since they met in Grade 9 at Hillcrest High School — “I used to copy her homework,” Sascha admits with a laugh — and shared an apartment in their early 20s.
That shared history allowed the designer to feel confident as the process unfolded, designing a closet that played off Melinda’s fashion choices. “I already knew she liked feminine elements, classic elements, but also high fashion. She chooses fashion that has a little bit of drama, a little bit of edge.”
Their first big design decision was about sharing.
“We agreed right away that Melinda would get 75 per cent of the closet and Erik 25 per cent, so that helped narrow my focus,” says Sascha. That focus included integrating Melinda’s wish for light and bright and Erik’s request for rich and masculine. There had to be continuity but also separation. With that in mind, Sascha joined the spaces by ensuring that the couple’s cabinetry — white for Melinda, charcoal for Erik — had a similar sensibility, with identical drawer pulls unifying the look. Alpine white wood flooring throughout further unifies the space and provides a neutral canvas for their clothes.
The 400-square-foot closet took hundreds of hours to plan, with Sascha calling it a “jigsaw puzzle” that involved merging and reconfiguring a number of rooms to make one beautiful, functional, and constructible space. The millwork alone took two full weeks to install.
“There is the equivalent of four kitchens in this room,” Sascha says.
To figure out how much cabinetry was needed, the designer met with Melinda and Erik, surveying their closets and bombarding them with clothing queries. What items did they use all the time? What did they use only seasonally? How many purses did Melinda have? How many shoes? How many boots? How high was each pair of boots? What did the couple wish to hide away, and what would be exposed?
Sascha took a page from bridal boutiques, displaying Melinda’s colourful gowns to maximum advantage behind glass to ensure they wouldn’t gather dust. Walls of shoes add colour to both sides of the closet, with Melinda’s fashion personality further embodied through displays of her favourite purses while Erik highlighted his signature hats.
The intimate spaces lend the closet a behind-the-scenes fashion-show vibe. Melinda’s vanity is all Hollywood glamour, the gold sheepskin chair set before a get-ready space that is bright, organized, and very feminine.
Meanwhile, a mini fridge and coffee station with a mirrored tile backsplash reinforce the notion that dressing up should be a joy rather than a chore. “When I look into this room, I picture Melinda getting ready for an event with a couple of friends. Not rushing — everyone having a glass of Champagne or a Perrier and enjoying themselves.”