Living like Louis XIV
A modest condo becomes a version of Versailles
Mementoes from the couple’s travels nestle below an 18th-century salon scene tapestry.
Photography by Merle Prosofsky
Talk about an opulent surprise. In an unassuming ’60s-era condo building overlooking the river valley in Oliver, Randall MacDonald and Darcy Kaser have created a space that’s unexpected, utterly lavish and right out of another century.
For their living room and formal dining room, the two — Kaser is the owner of the kitchen store Call the Kettle Black and MacDonald is an interior design expert, event planner and entertainer — have drawn their inspiration from the splendour of 18th century Versailles. The result is a burnished, baroque-to-rococo look with lots of gold leaf and mirrored surfaces, ormolu trim and chandeliers.
Gilded panels on the right wall close off the kitchen’s passthrough during formal dinner parties.
There’s even a large-scale ceiling mural above the dining table that features an ornate celestial scene where cherubs look down on the elegant digs in smiling approval.
“I’d say I’m a huge fan of Louis the XIV, XV and XVI,” says MacDonald, explaining how he and Kaser go to Europe and other vacation hot spots at least once a year to tour palaces and check out the different styles, then bring home shopping treasures to display on their walls. “It’s a big part of what our decorating is about — from the very modern to the very traditional.”
The powder room in their three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo is based directly on a china cupboard in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, a room filled floor to ceiling with ornamental porcelain and china.
Subtle striping on the rosecoloured walls lends them the visual strength to frame a decor of cream, gold and gilt.
MacDonald and Kaser’s powder room boasts its own collection of porcelain. The wallpaper is all rococo swirl, there’s more gilt on the plasterwork and another chandelier for continuity. “We brought the swan taps in from Italy; they’re the same as those used at the Ritz in Paris,” says MacDonald, explaining how he and Kaser swapped out the built-in vanity for a Louis XV model as part of a 13-month renovation of their kitchen and bathrooms last year.
To finish things off in their cupboard-cum-powder room, the couple imported custom switch plates and door latches — “it’s the little details that make all the difference,” says Kaser.
The foyer’s pink marble floors establish a luxe ambience immediately.
The master bath is even more awe-inspiring, with a gold leaf ceiling done by MacDonald and a magnificent pair of under-lit glass sinks created by Edmonton artist Ian Sheldon. “They asked me if I might be interested in working on something slightly different than a flat piece of glass and I thought, ‘Why not?’” says Sheldon, describing the couple’s
style as lavish. “It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
The guest room in the 1,500-square-foot condo is an homage to Greece and all things Mediterranean, while the master bedroom, done in blacks and browns, is spare, with hints of the Orient.
The modern aspect is revealed in the couple’s eat-in kitchen. It’s very New York City, streamlined and compact but luxe, too, with custom-made glass backsplash and towering special-order cupboards for their myriad kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. Of particular interest is a set of movable half-wall panels that shut the kitchen off completely, so catering staff can do their prep work behind the scenes during the couple’s many formal parties; once the sliding panels are removed, the temporary wall between kitchen and dining room disappears and the kitchen becomes part of a flowing, open space for more casual events.
The powder room’s 24-karat faucet fixtures are the same as those in the Ritz Hotel in Paris.
“When you’ve got a modern kitchen backing onto a very European, traditional living room, some would say it would be jarring. But as long as you have pieces that tie them together, they work,” says MacDonald, pointing out how pink marble flooring fills that role, as does the pull-down drapery over the doorway, which matches the dining room swags.
MacDonald, who jokes that his philosophy of decorating is “if it’s not moving, gild it,” admits their approach can walk a fine line between good taste and the garish. “So we always do checks. When we installed the alcove [in the front hall/foyer], we initially had another ornamentation above the door.
An art alcove in the hallway helps banish any 1960s-era sensations.
We thought ‘Something’s not working,’ and it was that one piece on the wall that threw it over. Taking it away made all the difference.”
At the same time, the two have found it easier to pick pieces that work as their style has crystallized.
“The biggest mistake people make in decorating is they don’t have the ability to say ‘This won’t go anywhere,’ ” MacDonald notes. “We’ll look at things and say, ‘We love that, but there’s nowhere in our home where it fits.’ So you appreciate it and you walk away.