'We wanted it to be very modern and elegant,' says Liza Castro, 'where there's a common thread from one room to another that exudes a sense of fluidity and total harmony!'
“As a young girl, I loved beautiful surroundings and was always concerned with the aesthetics of what surrounded me. I regularly rearranged my room,” Liza Castro recounts.
By age 17, Castro’s interests included the film industry, so enrolled in a cinema course in 1999 at CEGEP Montmorency in Laval. During her two years of study, she came to realize that earning a living as an artistic director on movie sets was somewhat unstable work. After receiving her diploma in 2001, Castro took a one-year break to sort out what she really wanted to do. She consulted a private career counsellor to discover what her strengths were.
“My artistic side stood out from the results of the tests,” says Castro, who then researched the profession of interior design. She discovered the work was quite varied with good opportunities for employment. More certain than ever about pursuing her childhood passion, she registered for a three-year program in interior design at CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal, from which she graduated in 2005.
Armed with two artistic diplomas, Castro started calling design firms and landed a job with Annie Lacaille, a Montreal designer.
“I really learned a lot from Annie. She involved me in all the various stages that a design project requires,” explains Castro. Wearing many hats allowed her to eventually have her own clients at the firm. In 2009, with Lacaille’s encouragement, Castro’s work week was split between looking after her clients at the firm and working from home to build her business to eventually go solo.
In 2013, her then boyfriend Bruno Bernatchez convinced her to audition for the Quebec television program Des idées de grandeur, a show on interior design and decor broadcast on Canal Vie. They selected her as one of the 20 designers for the show’s two last seasons. But the real event that officially launched lizacastrodesigner.com came when an entrepreneur in construction asked her to share an exhibition booth at the Expo Habitation show at Olympic Stadium in Montreal in February 2015. The number of people stopping by requiring the services of an interior designer for their renovation projects was so great, she amassed a full roster of clients overnight.
One project Castro is particularly proud of is the home she and Bernatchez built that same year. Driving through Laval’s west end looking at homes, they came upon a vacant lot for sale. Bernatchez proposed the idea of them making an offer and building their own house instead of buying.
The seller happened to be the builder who had made all the houses on the street. He already had the plans in hand for the house that was destined for the lot. Bernatchez and Castro explained they wanted to oversee the construction of the house themselves. They purchased the plans and met with Nelson Perron from Les Créabitations N.Perron, who had designed the house. They asked him to make several structural modifications, which included a higher ceiling, larger windows and space for a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, a central stairwell and a terrace above the garage.
“While Bruno looked after the budget, I took care of the plans for the layout and interior design of the rooms, including the plumbing, electricity, LED lighting configuration, kitchen cabinets, laying of the ceramic, etc. Having full-time jobs, we couldn’t be on-site every day,” recounts Castro.
But Bernatchez’s father has extensive experience in the construction industry and was present to supervise the tradesmen and manage the delivery of materials. Even so, Castro visited the site whenever she had to revise plans with the plumber, electrician, ceramic installer, etc.
The final product is true to Castro and Bernatchez’s vision of an elegant contemporary home inside and out. The juxtaposition of the grey cut stones and brown stained wood combined with black garage doors and trim on the façade makes for an imposing-looking residence with a graphic architectural design style.
With a house measuring 17 m x 15 m (55 ft x 49 ft), Castro could afford to unleash her creativity in designing and decorating a large master bedroom on the upstairs floor. The grey padded fabric headboard, which extends beyond the king-sized bed’s frame, makes it stand out even more in the large room. But what’s exceptionally beautiful and practical in the master bedroom is the open walk-in ensuite with an Italian shower.
“For the shower, I didn’t install a glass panel. It’s a real Italian shower! The floor is slightly sloped so that the water flows into a linear drain,” explains Castro. The mirror above the 214 cm (84 in.) Italian white high-gloss lacquered vanity by cabinetmaker Jaklin Paounov runs the length of the ensuite, producing an effect of grandeur.
For the staircase, Castro wanted a hyper-modern design, something out of the ordinary, with railings made of tempered glass in black aluminum frames. She also added black stringers to give rhythm to the decor. Cherry wood was selected for the steps because of its light grain, and a dye specialist was asked to produce a stain in a shade similar to the medium tone found in the acacia floorboards. The risers were added to accentuate the zigzag effect. The staircase was built by Escalier Steve Dufour.
The ceiling in the living room is noticeably higher than in the rest of the house. The reason, says Castro: “We wanted long windows to enjoy the view of the backyard to the maximum when sitting in the living room.
Castro’s design ideas abound in this house, like the wall behind the sectional sofa. She had the painter, Aziz Farouk, make a concrete covering with several layers in nuanced shades on the wall, but with a slightly satin finish for a unique elegant effect that blends with the grey leather of the sofa and gives texture to the room. Another example of Castro’s knack for thinking outside the box was placing the fireplace and TV screen side by side to make the living room look wider.
The dining room, which opens to the kitchen, has a rosewood tabletop supported by two darker-toned wooden bases. The dark-brown high back leather chairs, which Bernatchez had in storage, are of a contemporary style that fits well with the table. Having a minimal and unconventional design, the brass lighting fixture projects the illusion that it’s floating above the dining set. To soften the potential for the lacquered armoire to overpower the room, Castro painted the wall behind it a dark grey so that the two colours meld.
Having had difficulty finding a painting for the wall next to the kitchen, Castro decided to create one herself, despite the fact she had never done one before.
“I went to DeSerres and asked for advice about different types of paints and brushes. The salesperson suggested I start with acrylic, so I purchased a 101 cm x 101 cm (40 in. x 40 in.) canvas and lots of paints. When I got home, I thought for a few minutes about what I could paint. I was looking for a theme of strength and elegance. Little by little, the inspiration came to me to paint a horse without eyes, mysteriously floating on a foggy water surface, in an imaginary universe,” describes Castro.
For the colours, she turned to the cushions in the living room. And as a final touch to highlight the painting, she painted the wall a dark grey.
The flat-door cabinets in the kitchen are ultramodern in design, with bevelled-edge grips instead of handles, and are made of the same material as the vanity in the ensuite. The 2.44 m x 1.22 m (8 ft x 4 ft) island has a white quartz countertop providing lots of space for preparing meals. Four grey perforated leather and stainless steel low-back chairs are perfect for socializing with dinner guests.
Seamless integration allows the dishwasher and fridge to be hidden behind cabinets to look like the cupboards. Castro points out the kitchen sink’s Solna model SmartTouch water faucet by Brizo. You can touch it anywhere to activate and deactivate it. So if your hands are dirty, you can just touch it with your forearm.
Adjacent to the dining room is a water closet, where the live or natural-edge maple counter is warm and authentic-looking. To give dynamism to the room, Castro painted white geometric shapes on the dark grey wall. She chose a round mirror to contrast the patterns she painted on the wall.
The colour scheme in the guest bathroom in the basement is bold and energetic. Working on a white base, Castro selected a bright blue finish for the custom-made wood laminate vanity by Abet Laminati, which adds vigour to the decor. She painted wide stripes on the ceiling that continue down on the narrowest wall to accentuate the width of the bathroom. In addition, a mirror that runs the length of the vanity wall doubles the space visually.
Castro says she really loves her house because it is so personalized. “We wanted it to be very modern and elegant, yet timeless and refined with a bright layout where there’s a common thread from one room to another that exudes a sense of fluidity and total harmony!”
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