Small Spaces

Small space: Contemporary and artistic duplex

Small space: Contemporary and artistic duplex

Images: Janis Nicolay

Small Spaces

Small space: Contemporary and artistic duplex

A Vancouver jewellery designer and a music producer re-imagine a 1,080-square-foot rental as their first home with a spirited mix of personal objects, antiques and modern style.

When the opportunity to purchase the great space you've been renting for a year arises, you grab it. And that's exactly what Leah Belford and Kris Dirksen did."We were so attached to the home and couldn't bear the idea of moving," says Leah, "so when the owner decided to sell, we pulled together an offer and got it!" That "it" is a three-storey, 1,080-square-foot duplex set in Kits, the local moniker for Vancouver's vibrant Kitsilano neighbourhood.

As new homeowners, the couple was keen to synthesize the space's design with their needs. Overall, they wanted to eradicate the dingy yellow walls, dated popcorn ceilings and '90s builder-quality finishes to a cleaner design.

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Main floor: 550-square-feet

The open-concept main floor houses a kitchen, dining room and living room with a lot of natural sunlight. 

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Living room

In the living room, a new large picture window keeps the view to the garden unobstructed and lets in lots of light. A mix of modern furniture and worldly finds, such as the vintage throw blanket that was picked up on a trip to Buenos Aires and repurposed as a rug, reflects the couple's eclectic approach to decorating.

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Dining room

An antique dining table and chairs shake up the otherwise contemporary open-concept living space.

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Drawer units

The couple knew their fresh finishes had to be practical, and a serious lack of storage space (just two tiny storage cupboards and two closets) meant the organizing solutions had to be savvy. The stacked drawer units in the hallway provide optimal organization in the small space.

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Jewellery storage trays

Leah, a jewellery designer, uses funky trays for storage to hold strands of pretty gemstones. "They have to be stored in a single layer to avoid becoming a tangled mess," says Leah. 

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Second floor: 400-square-feet

The second floor boasts a bedroom, master ensuite and studio where Leah can work on her jewellery design. 

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Bedroom

Linens in shades of blue bring a fresh, airy feel to the space. The colour compliments the grey walls and opens up the space with its simplicity. 

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Barn doors

With saving space in mind, Kris built a sliding cedar barn door between the master bedroom and ensuite. An antique armoire scored on Craigslist holds most of Leah's clothes; off-season items are stashed in storage baskets under the bed. An African feather headdress lends a tactile softness to the room.

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Ensuite bathroom

Here, the couple shunned the traditional bathroom vanity for pre-fab lower kitchen cupboards. "They're easier to customize because there are more sizing options, and they are higher and wider than standard bathroom cabinets so there's more room for storage." In addition to housing toiletries, the cupboards hold extra bedding, blankets and cleaning supplies.

The skylight illuminates the professional-looking results of leah and Kris's DIY bathroom renovation. A ladder handcrafted by a local woodworker is an interesting perch for the bath mat. It stands beside Uma the cow, an oil painting by Leah's artist cousin.

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Design studio

In homeowner Leah Belford's Vancouver duplex, her second floor studio (where she creates jewellery for her line, Leah Alexandra) remains clutter-free thanks to clever storage solutions, some of which are artfully placed in the bay window.

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Ribbon hanger

A handy DIY storage idea for ribbon and tape art supplies brings practicality to the at-home design studio.

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Third floor: 130-square-feet

Initially Kris set up his studio on the third floor, with Leah's on the second. But the arrangement proved problematic: "There's no door on the top floor to shut out sound," explains Leah. "Since I was working right below, either Kris was complaining about my music being too loud for him to do his work or vice versa!" Eventually he converted the garage into his own soundproof studio, and the top floor is currently a "bonus" space that Leah uses as a home office.

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Office

In Leah's home office on the third floor, white IKEA exposed shelving units deliver both practical storage and an ever-changing lively vignette of books and favourite objects. A vintage bench upholstered in bright pink linen injects a decidedly feminine air, while the gold-leafed pendant light adds a layer of rustic glamour.

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Small Spaces

Small space: Contemporary and artistic duplex

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