July 4, 2012

All-white palette gets warmth from hits of colour

Gail and Ron Styles’ bright open-concept condo offers clear sightlines of planes, ships, geese


Iceberg white and glacier smooth — that’s the look Gail and Ron Styles were after when they recently redecorated a condo on the Songhees waterfront in Victoria. The result is quiet, contemporary and ultra cool but not cold, thanks to many hits of colour, which the owners inject according to the season or their mood.

“We love electric blue and turquoise at this time of year,” said Gail, who’s been known to toss around scarlet cushions at Christmas, chartreuse towels in spring, or use lime green ceramics to brighten her dining table on a dull winter day. Storage for extra linens, cushions and glassware is not a problem, since this understated 1,400-square-foot home is loaded with custom cabinetry.

It’s like a luxury yacht. The guest room of the condo has a complete wall of storage as well as a built-in desk. The master bedroom is ringed with built-ins, as are the kitchen, dining, office and living areas. And all are snow white. The palette extends to gleaming appliances, leather chairs, sofas and small ottomans. Even shampoo bottles have been stripped of their garish labels.

This polar excess is nothing new for the warm and fun-loving Gail and husband Ron. Their former home in Kamloops was mostly white, as was their first retirement home — a custom 6,000-square-foot house they built at Sun Peaks, an area just north of Kamloops famous for its powder skiing. Ron, 77, a former professional hockey player, had taken up skiing in 1968 but made his last downhill run in 2003 and they decided it was time to move. He was born on a farm in a place called Blueberry Hill, Alta., but Gail was born on the coast, so moving west made sense.

They sold their all-white mountain retreat to a couple from Saudi Arabia, who bought it complete with all the furnishings, and moved to Vancouver Island with only their suitcases. Clearly these two have found their style and are sticking with it. Even their favourite meal fits the mould. They love cooking together and their specialty is blue cheese chicken with asparagus, served on — what else? — white rice. When they first retired, they did the “motorhome thing,” she said. “But we got tired of driving the I-5 [U.S. highway] and decided to spend several winter months on the beaches of Hawaii. So we were hippies for a while.”

And then it seemed time to downsize. “We traded our view of the mountains for this lively Inner Harbour with its float planes, cruise ships, water taxis, sailboats, kayaks, ducks and geese.” They gutted the condo, stripped out all the flooring, took walls down to the studs and removed one of three bathrooms. They replaced a big tub in the master ensuite with a large shower, and in the living rooms, they knocked out all the dividing walls and replaced them with white pillars that march down the middle of the rectangular space.

The only original items in the whole condo are two glass shower doors and ensuite vanity lights. Gail has always enjoyed decorating, but says she doesn’t have expensive taste. They don’t drink “fancy” wines or use real crystal, and they serve their meals on white Corelle dinnerware. She recalls the white fixation starting early. As a child, she used to take old sheets and make skirts out of them for any piece of furniture she could find.

“I’ve never found it cold. I find it bright, cheerful, charming,” she said. Ron is thrilled with the results, too, and pointed out all the countertops, tables and sofas are of a similar height, offering clear sightlines to the view. “You pay for it, so you might as well look at it 24-7,” he said with a chuckle. “And we like the open concept because everyone gets to be in the picture.”

Victoria Times Colonist

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