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Here is some local coverage of our recent design-build project, Foxbar Executive Apartments. I was flattered to learn that Martin, the owner of Foxbar, had forwarded my work for the cover article in the Homes section. Martin wholeheartedly put his trust in what I envisioned for the apartment. He said that his own idea of modernity would have been too cold, “She is a master at blending modern and new, male and female”. I wanted guests to experience different aspects of the apartment at different times of the year, summertime visitors will think they are in Savannah; with the scent of the Linden tree carried by the breezy linen draperies. – Jade
LONDON FREE PRESS – HOMES – COVER STORY – MARCH 14, 2013
Jade Brown’s goal was to make visitors feel comfortable and stimulate their imagination
By Janis Wallace, Special to QMI Agency
Thursday, March 14, 2013 6:35:58 EDT PM
( PHOTOS: DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press )
Linen draperies fluttering in the breeze; rich dark wood floors; views through the house to the leafy exterior. If this sounds like a snapshot from the past, it could well be. But in a 1929 Old South four-plex, it is also the setting for a stylish, inviting and modern apartment.
“The house has been well-respected over the years,” owner Martin Feiertag said. “The house has been lucky. It has always been a rental. This subdivision was the first in London to be built with curved roads. With the winding roads, it has a village appeal.”
Feiertag maintains the building as an executive rental. This week visitors from Vancouver are staying to attend the world figure skating championships.
Feiertag wanted the best of both worlds. “I have a more modern esthetic. I wanted it to have a strong style esthetic now.”
So he engaged the services of designer Jade Brown to balance the old and new. “She is a master at blending modern and new, male and female.”
Brown began by determining what could be saved from the original building. The results meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirements.
“We did not take anything out that was sustainable from 1929,” Brown said. “And all the new materials we introduced are sustainable, too. The layout is the same now as then.”
Original sash windows, hardwood floors, fireplace, bathroom tiles and tub and kitchen cabinets were all worked into the new design.
With a background in architecture, Brown draws renderings, details and specifications and works with commercial businesses, such as sawmills and metal shops, to create unique pieces.
The wall-size backdrop for the master bed is an example. She found old planks at a sawmill in Delaware and had them cut to specific lengths to form a mosaic. When installed, the result was darker than she wanted, so she whitewashed it.
This same whitewash effect was used on a large log in front of the living room fireplace. She calls it a Muskoka finish — a more sun-bleached aged look.
Vandex Manufacturing in Delaware created the rolled metal headboard. Brown wanted a jagged edge on the heavy rolled metal, so she used a plasma cutter herself to get the desired effect.
A tapestry facing the bed echoes the tree outside the window. Brown created it by stretching opaque fabric patterned in leafy swirls onto a frame.
Her own art also graces the walls. “My approach to painting is an extension of design. I look at the surroundings and the light and integrate them.”
Brown starts with maquettes (small boards she paints) and experiments with them in each room, selecting something that works well with the design and setting. Then she creates the work at the size that fits the space.
An etagere in the dining room was an east-end thrift shop find. Brown replaced the glass shelves with metal ones.
As an executive rental, Feiertag and Brown worked to make the space inviting, luxurious and conducive to contemplation, inspiration and conversation. The people who stay here are visiting researchers, scientists, doctors and businesspeople.
The round glass dining table was chosen to serve as a gathering place for dialogue.
Practicality was also a concern. Lights in the walk-in closet had to be cool enough that tossed clothes would not ignite. A radiator in the kitchen, with towel bar in front, was hidden by doors with grills for air circulation.
A touch of whimsy lightens the mood. Dramatic black walls in the dining room are offset by glass tables and an Oldsmobile hubcap. In the kitchen, guests are treated to Fox bars — a play on the name of the street and the building, Foxbar. Brown designed the bold orange and red label.
Feirtag also wanted to create a sense of the city and its heritage. “The plan was to connect clients to the community and activities in London,” he said.
This was a big design challenge. “Over and over I thought about how to make it comfortable,” Brown said. “If someone is here for a few months, it is not their own home, but I wanted it to feel like home.”
The glass waterfall coffee table illustrates the results. A perfect height to put your feet on, it looked too beautiful to do so. Brown threw a hide on top, with a cushioned pad, and a pile of books.
“The other challenge was the high ceiling and boxy feeling.” She solved that by creating two tall etageres to flank the fireplace. The fireplace itself was softened by a whitewashed log placed on the hearth. This outside/inside approach repeats throughout the room: a side table carved into strong angular lines and topped with glass; a nine-square photograph of a pond; leather upholstery, a spray of branches in a vase.
It continues in other rooms with nature patterns on bed linens, Brown’s watercolour prints of London’s metal tree sculptures and an upended log as a table in the master bedroom. The Forest City motif runs prominently.
In the second bedroom, a reclaimed 1930s desk sports a new coat of paint and a Philip Stark ghost chair. The Stickley-style headboard, a Kijiji find, was given more height. “It was probably a footboard but I had a handyman make it taller,” Brown said.
She mixed one-of-a-kind artisan pieces with second-hand items and items from Ikea, Restoration Hardware, HomeSense, Rona and Lee Valley.
“I wanted to show this can make a statement. Martin wanted it put together to create a look so that when people visit here they can see all things London.”
“I did not want to recreate a 1930s feel but I wanted to incorporate good design and the best of what is available now,” Feiertag said.
“The house reminds me of my grandmother’s farmhouse in the Tavistock area,” Brown said. “It’s very nostalgic . . . a ’30s open concept.”
Janis Wallace is a London writer.
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Jade Brown: jadebrown.ca
Foxbar Executive Apartments: foxbarexec.com
Before the Rain
the sky holds 50 times more purple
than it does blue,
but our eyes are better suited to viewing
blue’s longer wavelength
the yet unnamed painting
hung in place
on an October evening,
the opening night of
The Springs Restaurant.
On that night
the sky was thick with the
before the rain.