Graceful triumph for ’30s elegance
Art Deco buildings stand out in crowd
There are numerous landmarks that grace the skyline of Montreal. The majestic Trafalgar on Cote des Neiges is a well-known architectural masterpiece that has endured on the west slopes of the mountain for eight decades.
Seen from a distance, both the Trafalgar and the neighbouring Gleneagles building conjure the image of a ship at sea, towering above the city with their turrets and spires at full sail, adrift on an ocean of mountain foliage and big sky.
Common sense and people power won out over profit in 2002, when heritage status was granted to the Trafalgar-Gleneagles buildings, therefore protecting them from imposing development projects — but obligating the building representatives to stay within heritage guidelines for any repair or renovation on the exterior of the buildings.
Since then, the Trafalgar has undergone an $8 million renovation of its exterior, bringing the 59-unit condominium back to its former 1931 elegance.
Louis and his wife Susan, (who prefer not to use their last names) bought and moved into unit B46 of the Trafalgar in 2002.
“When we moved here we had to change a few things to fit our needs. We wanted to open it up a little but keep the beauty of the architecture. This meant we had to keep the arched walls and doorways, to preserve the original ambience of the condo,” explained Louis.
“It is because of this ambience that we moved here in the first place.”
Walking into the exquisite one floor, two-bedroom, 1,864-square-foot apartment is like stepping into a pair of comfy slippers on a chilly winter morning.
While many modern condo units tend to be box-shaped and open, this unit leaves you with the feeling you are enveloped in the sanctuary of a house, thanks to five arched doorways, hardwood floors, soundproof walls and ceilings, and warm natural light that spills into each room.
The views from the Trafalgar are spectacular, given its multiple exposures and imposing location.
You can clearly see a great section of the St. Lawrence River and the lands south, east and west of it, where the Monteregie flows into a backdrop of the Adirondack and Green Mountains.
“It has one of the highest and one of the most panoramic views of the city offered by any property on the island,” boasts the owner.
The meticulously renovated unit reflects the era of its construction in 1929-31, when the Great Depression and the accompanying stock market crash put the world in a tailspin; but not at the Trafalgar.
It was the leading edge of high society living in the era of Art Deco, continuing this pedigree well into the 1960s.
“We added the original Art Deco installations such as the door handles, which we recovered from old doors we found in the basement,” says Louis.
“They had been removed by some owners when they renovated. I also discovered what may be the original period chandelier which is now hanging in the dining room.
“We found it in an old box in our locker and had it cleaned and restored.” The couple often travel to Paris, the birthplace of the Art Deco movement. “The sconces were purchased from an Art Deco restoration specialty shop in Paris,” says Louis (visit www. restaur-bronze.com). Each room is large and bright and holds onto that feel of being in a house. The owner’s choice of furniture and artwork fuse together with the units’ architectural character, resulting in a delicious blend where modern greets the past.
There is more than ample space here for a couple or small family, including a pet.
Even the Naked Chef would be happy here with the condo’s huge, eat-in-kitchen, painted in bright yellow and lit by sunlight, halogen studio lights and stunning pear-shaped hanging lights.
One of the two renovated bathrooms has pastel-toned turquoise ceramic tiles covering the walls.
Glass panels and a glass door envelope the bath and shower area and complement the tones. The other has white tiles.
There is convenient access to rooftop terraces where relaxing outside and scanning over the mountain or towards the river, one might believe he or she is king or queen of the castle.
Interior parking is serviced by a round-the-clock valet and the location is fabulous for those needing quick access to downtown.
The 59 condo units range in size from 600 square feet to a 4,000-square-foot, multi-level unit. The B46 unit is listed at $849,000. “Most of the owners like the fact that it’s a heritage building,” explain the owners. “It comes with some more obligations in terms of ongoing maintenance, but you can be guaranteed you won’t have to worry about some monster project popping up in your backyard or the building walls collapsing.
“Some of our owners live out of the country but own a condo here as a home base when they are in town conducting business, as they want the security of having a residence in Montreal that feels like a real home and not a hotel,” says Louis.
Joseph Montanaro, the unit’s sales agent with Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec, says the unit reminds him of both Paris and New York.
“It is definitely a condo you would see highlighted in any main New York or Paris magazine.”
He says the units were built as comfortable residences, “for prominent owners and their families. They just don’t build them like this anymore; it’s like a fortress.”
Susan and Louis love the condo they live in, but earlier this year they visited a condo (unit B57 at 3,600 square feet) located one floor above that had just been listed for sale.
“We just visited out of curiosity. We were not looking to purchase it, but it was love a f irst site; especially for my wife who was especially happy with the extra space and the views are even more spectacular. So we bought it.”
A south-facing terrace in the building has a spectacular view of Montreal.
A view of the living room in the unit, which is priced at $849,000.
Art deco lamps highlight the entranceway to the living room. Below, the exterior of the Trafalgar. Far left, a restored Art Deco lamp and door handle from the 1930s.