Calgary Herald

Designer creates functional ‘islands’ in unique office-living loft


It is not unusual for condo owners or renters to set up a home office in a corner of the living room or one of their bedrooms. Some people work part-time from home. Others are self-employed. That is the case with Sandra Donaldson, a Montreal landscape architect who also renovates houses. Her work is largely focused on outside spaces, but she is also an interior designer.

Instead of setting up a home office in a spare room of her loft- style condo, Donaldson bought an empty space in what had been a commercial building and set up her home in the back section behind her work area, which takes up the entire front section of her condo.

“I bought 1,650 square feet of concrete!” recalled Donaldson. “It was a completely raw space. There was no electricit­y and no plumbing. I had to put all that in.”

The local bylaws allowed Donaldson to use one-third of her space as an office so she divided the interior into 550 square feet at the front and the balance at the back. Within that space, however, she has created little “islands” that perform different functions.

Just inside the front door, slightly above street level, is the main work area, divided into a conference room, a library and a design studio. Accommodat­ing up to six people, the section includes desks, computers and a drafting board.

A giant weeping fig stands midfloor, providing a touch of greenery and privacy from anybody peeking in from the outside. The studio’s wall of windows casts light across the room.

When planning the interior of her office-condo, Donaldson’s goal was to create an airy, loft-like feeling, allowing the eye to flow around the interior.

“I figured out ways to divide up the space using the furnishing­s I already had,” she said. “It was a pretty cost-effective way to lay out the interior. Renovating doesn’t have to cost a fortune.”

Donaldson also added a garden room off what she calls the bedroom suite, at the far end of the officecond­o — a fenced-in, flagstone patio that she planted with a Russian olive bush and a crab apple tree.

Befitting of a living area where relaxation, rather than work, is the priority, the dining room, kitchen and bedroom are decorated in softer tones. The floors are covered with textured taupe carpeting, while the kitchen has solid beech cabinets and greige Italian ceramic flooring.Each of the “rooms” in her home has its own distinctiv­e character.

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