The High Life: four glam condos that redefine urban opulence
They call it downsizing, but who are we kidding? Four glam condos that redefine urban opulence
The Windsor Arms
Architect: Page and Steele
Owner: Nancy Pencer, philanthropist and president of the Pencer Brain Trust
Nancy Pencer’s 5,000-square-foot apartment, one of 28 residences in the Windsor Arms Hotel, is Paris–meets–South Beach: impeccably stylish and sourced, with a little bit of flash. The apartment is a major departure from Pencer’s traditional Forest Hill home, where she lived with her husband, Gerry, the former CEO of Cott beverages, until his death from brain cancer 12 years ago. She decided her new place had to feel “young and contemporary,” so she bid adieu to all the chintz and started fresh with designer Kristi Morrison, who was given carte blanche to create the residential equivalent of an haute couture dress. It took four travel-filled years for Pencer and Morrison to furnish the space with antiques sourced from New York, Paris and London.
Pencer moved in five years ago and has been entertaining ever since: 50-person dinner parties, Mount Sinai membership teas and fundraising dinners for the National Ballet. Her unusual glass dining room table, which has a transparent underlayer that has been filled with everything from candy to goldfish to flowers, is a conversation starter: at the Mount Sinai event, it was lined with Isabella Briatico diamonds.
Amalgam, the large fuchsia painting, is by the American abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler. Pencer, who sometimes lends her art out to museums, bought it from Gallery One.
The tufted chairs, from L’Atelier, are upholstered in wedding dress–like satin from Donghia.
Obscured by the chair and column is an edition of Helmut Newton’s 65-pound oversized coffee table book Sumo, which costs around $15,000 and comes with its own Philippe Starck–designed stand.
The Vietnamese urns are from Teatro Verde.
When Morrison found the mahogany and brass Empire-style table in Paris eight years ago, she wasn’t exactly sure where it would go. It quickly found a home front and centre in Pencer’s salon.
The Italian renaissance-style daybed is covered in burlap to contrast all of the other luxe pieces.
The massive quartz crystal bowl is also from L’Atelier.
The Regency chandelier is from London antique dealer Mallett.
The two iron end tables are in the style of sculptor Alberto Giacometti. On top: Tibetan cowbells.
The silver upholstered chairs are from Pencer’s Forest Hill home; they used to be stained brown and covered in flowered chintz.
The floors are leonardo limestone imported from Italy and cut in Toronto.
Once a fan of pastel pink, Pencer now gravitates toward bold fuchsias and purples to punctuate the otherwise neutral colour scheme. “As I get older, I feel I need something richer,” she says. Thus the bright mohair throw from the Irish Shop.
The dining room chandelier is from Nicholas Haslam’s London shop.
Pencer likes her flowers arranged in the signature leaning style of Jeff Leatham, the florist who rose to fame at the George V hotel in Paris.
The glass and chrome dining table, a custom design by Kristi Morrison, has a transparent under-table layer (accessed with a key) that can be filled with items for display. Pencer once filled it with jelly beans for a children’s party; during a Mount Sinai fundraiser, the table showcased diamonds. (Security guards were hired to keep a close watch.)
Pencer’s glassware and fine china are stored behind mirrored panels.
Morrison had plans to upholster the Louis XVI–style chairs in fabric from Primavera, but Pencer preferred the original muslin as a less fussy counterpoint to all the high-gloss finishes.
Folding glass doors close off the inner terrace, which has heated Algonquin limestone floors and gas lanterns. Pencer entertains outside year-round.
The sculpture is of Bacchus, the god of wine. Before the move, it had a more discreet home nestled in Pencer’s Forest Hill garden; she refused to leave it behind.
Most of the outdoor furniture is by Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.
One St. Thomas
Architect: Robert A. M. Stern, in collaboration with Young and Wright
Owners: John Ruddy, president of Trinity Development Group, a commercial real estate company, and his wife, Jennifer
John and Jennifer Ruddy are based in Ottawa but needed a Toronto pied-à-terre for their regular visits here. When they chose a suite in One St. Thomas, they wanted it designed to evoke the modern-traditionalist sensibility of the building’s architect, Robert A. M. Stern, who is known for his architectural tributes to 1920s and 1930s New York, most notably at 15 Central Park West.
After purchasing the entire 28th floor of the 29-storey luxury building, the Ruddys handed the raw space over to Toronto architect and interior designer Dee Dee Taylor Hannah. She says the moneyed Manhattan apartment in A Perfect Murder (the Michael Douglas–Gwyneth Paltrow thriller) offered a starting point for her concept: the final design incorporates such decadent details as onyx-inlaid floors and nickel cornices.
The Ruddys—who had not yet moved in when this space was photographed—are also working closely with art advisor Judith Tatar; John collects abstract art, with a focus on the Painters Eleven. Taylor Hannah created a tone-on-tone sitting room that won’t compete with the large, dramatic canvases soon to come.
Polished nickel cornices—architect Taylor Hannah calls them “ceiling jewellery”—run throughout the entire apartment.
The custom sofa by A. Rudin combines Primavera Great Plains fabric with bouclé fabric from Donghia.
The drapery was sewn by Studio La Beauté.
The 1960s chrome and glass chandelier is from Residential Lighting.
The custom plaster ceiling medallion and cornices are by Empire Plaster Moulding.
The Harrison and Gil upholstered tufted chairs are from Chair Source, with fabric by Donghia.
For the flooring, Taylor Hannah used camaru hardwood and a marble border with flecked white onyx inlay and more polished nickel edging.
The curvaceous Carrara marble fireplace, purchased from the Fireplace Shop, was chosen to add a feminine feel to the otherwise masculine space.
The wall covering is grey silk by Great Plains trimmed with grosgrain ribbon by Mokuba.
The four mirrored sconces that flank the vanity mirrors in the master bath are actually repurposed from a Niermann Weeks chandelier that Taylor Hannah dismantled.
The bathroom fixtures are from Waterworks.
The onyx and dark mahogany vanity, custom-made by Falcon Kitchens, is another nod at combining feminine and masculine.
The vanity knobs and legs are crystal glass.
Architect: Turner and Fleischer
Owners: Philanthropist Emmanuelle Gattuso and media baron Allan Slaight
Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight have an unconventional arrangement: his-and-hers apartments on the 16th floor of the Regency Yorkville. His space is dark, masculine and filled with magic memorabilia (magic being a lifelong fascination). Hers is the yin to his yang, and she waited a lifetime to get it. “When I was eight years old, I knew I wanted a white space with high ceilings where the colour would be the art,” she says. But unlike the impersonal do-not-touch feel of most contemporary galleries, Gattuso’s apartment is full of bright, graphic touches, thanks to another interest: fashion. She worked with designer Jay Gibson and art advisor Popsy Johnstone to bring this vision to life.
Gattuso, a former PR executive and TV producer, now uses her apartment as a command centre for her fundraising work at Princess Margaret Hospital. (She and Slaight gave $12.5 million to the Gattuso Rapid Diagnostic Centre in 2009.) In addition to her collection of Canadian art, she has a quirky assortment of chic curiosities on display in the office, including a limited-edition Zagliani handbag in multicoloured suede and leather patchwork and a sequined-and-crocheted can of sardines.
A Douglas Coupland piece is installed in the front hall: five long Plexiglas frames contain hundreds of multicoloured Laurentian pencil crayons.
The two adjacent frames, a diptych called Learning to Fly, are by Barbara Steinman. Gattuso also has Steinman’s blue neon Songbird in her living room.
The Kiss by Kelly Mark is a light box photograph of two televisions.
The red metal box is part of Micah Lexier’s series A Minute of My Time.
The ceramic mobile is by Robert Fones and is from the Olga Korper Gallery. Gattuso fell in love with the playful piece, which was part of Korper’s private collection.
The Fornasetti plate is from AT Design Group.
The tribal mask is from a trip to South Africa.
Gattuso found Tinned Sardines, a crochet-and-sequins piece by the British artist Kate Jenkins, at the Toronto International Art Fair two years ago.
Seven colourful Derek Sullivan pencil-crayon sketches make good use of the 10-foot-high walls.
The sofa by J. Gibson Design Inc. is covered in a linen and silk blend.
The office was originally designed with sliding doors, but Gattuso decided it would be more fun for guests at her dining room table to see into the open space.
The painting above the dining room table is by the late Canadian abstract expressionist Jack Bush and has been in her husband’s private collection for years.
The Eero Saarinen table and chairs were sourced by Knoll through Hollace Cluny.
The folded throw is from Hermès.
Upholstered versions of Saarinen’s iconic Tulip chair are covered in fabric from Maharam.
The rug is a wool shag from Red Carpet and Rug Co.
Neighbourhood: Forest Hill
Architect: Hancock, Little, Calvert Associates
Owners: Gerald Slan, who works in commercial real estate, and his wife, Judy
In 2005, Gerald and Judy Slan decided they no longer needed 5,000 square feet for just the two of them and downsized from their Casa Loma–area home. They opted for an apartment on the 16th floor of the Lonsdale. It was the right size (2,750 square feet) but required a 10-month reno to reconfigure the rooms to their liking. Judy was smitten with the idea of a Manhattan-style apartment overlooking the city, with the UCC grounds below subbing for Central Park.
The couple, who have been married 43 years, already owned several heirloom antique pieces inherited from Judy’s parents as well as a collection of Canadian art by the likes of Charles Pachter and Harlan Johnson. Judy worked closely with Toronto designer Maxine Tissenbaum to achieve an elegant mix of classic and contemporary. Their new home is not so precious as to be off-limits to the grandkids—they have four—who visit often. “I loved it from the first day,” says Judy. “It’s like living in a modern bungalow.”
One of Charles Pachter’s Painted Flag canvases hangs above the mantel.
The Venetian silk Fortuny lamp reflects an undulating pattern onto the ceiling.
The dining room table, chairs and sideboard belonged to Judy’s parents and were purchased at the Gallery of Fine Furniture at Eaton’s back in the 1960s.
When Judy inherited the chairs, they were covered in violet leather, and one was torn. She had them re‑covered but is now considering going back to the violet.
The Southeast Asian Buddha, also from Judy’s parents, sat near the front staircase in the Slans’ Casa Loma house as a sentry of sorts, but Judy now prefers its placement on a Lucite box in the living room.
Judy bought the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs to incorporate modern design into the space.
The antique French mirror is from the Art Shoppe.
The Slans’ designer, Maxine Tissenbaum, suggested updating the sideboard with a silver leaf finish. (It used to be painted an antique cream.)
When Judy, who was a runner for many years, saw Andrea Marcus’s Nike sculpture, she felt it was made for her. It sits on top of a transparent stand.
The breakfast table base was originally plain grey metal, but they had it painted a faux marble finish to complement the banquette.
Judy chose vinyl for the banquette; it’s her grandchildren’s favourite spot in the apartment and often requires a good wipe-down after the kids leave. The Slans wanted a pale green to match the verdant window views.
16 thoughts on “The High Life: four glam condos that redefine urban opulence”
Because correctness is important, even in the Twitter age, the architect firm is Page + Steele, not Page and Steele.
Once again Toronto Life has presented an article that does not reflect a “Toronto life” of someone or some couple who makes less than $3 million a year or live off some sort of extended inheritance. I think the furnishings in some of those glam condos cost more than the actual unit of my own humble downtown abode.
All 4 condos have a very similar look,you should have featured a more eclectic mix of design styles.
I am not sure what Lap’s point is. I am retired and live on a modest fixed income but very much enjoy seeing what some of those who have much more disposable income do with it. I think we are all part of “Toronto Life” and I am sure looking a Ms Pencer’s apartment is much more interesting than looking at mine.
boring and uninspiring apartments manufactured and assembled in a factory somewhere in toronto’s suburbs.
by no means do these apartments reflect opulence, just reinstate the owner’s financial means, reconfirming the old adage that money does not, in fact, guarantee that beautiful, subtle sense of style.
also, the thrill of salivating at others’ acquisitions is gone post a pretty ugly recession, we want to see inspiring spaces we live in. we, the everyday people.
The chair featured in the “Regency” numbered 15 is not the tulip chair but the Organic chair co-designed with Charles Eames in 1940, etc., etc., (look it up). The tulip chair is actually featured at number 13.
now this one is done with taste, nothing gauche like some ostentateous/obscene display of wealth
Wow, Nancy Pencer’s apartment is absolutely stunning!!!
I love it. Elegant, fresh and unique. Apparently Bianca did not read the source list – this apartment was hardly put together in the suburbs. World class design – Bravo
I don’t get the point of showing this condo.
Seems like an attempt to imitate the 80’s.
I always think Toronto reflects it’s own pulse, it’s own new and old sensibilities .
You wasted space that could have highlighted someone more reflective of the Community.
I must say, The Windsor Arms apartment is breathtaking.
only needed one. Some people spend hours visiting thrift and second hand stores looking for two identical shoes in two different sizes.
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Instead of others providing snide commentary about the Pencer apartmnetment, they should appreciate the good causes that Ms.Pencer opens her home to. Helping others is always in good taste!
All the residences featured here were elegant and filled with wonderful
treasures. It was great fun “touring” these four condos. I don’t understand readers who can’t accept such an article for what it is: a window into
a lovely world of elegant living. We all enjoy surrounding ourselves with
furnishings and memorabilia that bring us pleasure. The price tags are not the point. I personally enjoyed reading the credits; a who’s who of style and good taste. It makes me happy knowing the talent is out there waiting to help me or mine should help ever be needed. And I believe they will respect a smaller budget. I think the naysayers should relax and enjoy the view! “Toronto Life” at its best!
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