photography by Ian Grant
Light flows through the large bank of windows in James Knull’s downtown loft. Outside, the sun is setting but, inside, the light show is about to start. As sunlight moves through the 1,400-square-foot condo, it hits the kitchen island, right at the beginning of the space. The island’s granite finish is dotted with crystals that shine and sparkle, adding colour and dimension to the space that Knull designed himself.
For the past decade, Knull has worked in Edmonton as a realtor, where he often gets the first chance to see some of the city’s most beautiful homes. From 2007 to 2012, he lived in a home on a tree-lined street near the ravine in Bonnie Doon. But he started itching for a change; he wanted to live centrally in a loft that didn’t require a lot of upkeep.
While he looked at many great spaces, he settled on one that he knew he could totally revamp to be something that reflected his own style. Following plans Knull drew up himself, contractors painted the taupe brown ceiling black, reworked the flooring with dark grey textured wood and installed several unique lighting features over six months – all to create a sleek and unique space.
“I wanted to create a place that didn’t look like any other space in the city,” says Knull. He took inspiration from Vancouver’s Yaletown, where lofts have a sleeker, more industrial look than the wood-beamed aesthetic common in Edmonton.
Knull also took inspiration from restaurants, bars and nightclubs he has visited in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. It’s fitting when considering the open kitchen, dining and living area of his condo, like that of a restaurant or lounge, is ideal for entertaining, especially when the sun goes down.
While the size of the space is modest, Knull says he has hosted parties with over 100 people. The area by the door became a dance floor with a DJ booth, and speakers projected sound toward the living space, while the kitchen housed the catering. “The speakers are stadium quality so they can put out some crisp sound. And with it being a concrete building, I can make it pretty loud in here without getting in too much trouble,” says Knull.
He also hosts friends for hockey and football games – about 20 people can comfortably sit on couches, chairs and barstools arranged by the windows, watching a giant screen that descends on the opposite end of the room. Meanwhile, the dining room was designed specifically with dinner parties in mind, featuring an impressive 10-foot saw-cut wood table – the texture of which matches the flooring – with seating reminiscent of what you would find in a restaurant. Metal chairs adorn the ends, while the middle of the table is outfitted with benches on either side.
“It’s like in a restaurant where half the table is a booth, and the other half has chairs. And the benches provide a cozy middle spot. So, if I’m having a more intimate dinner party with four people, now it feels like we’re sitting at a booth rather than a dining table,” says Knull.
The feeling of the space is probably closest to that of a lounge as the sun goes down and the lights come on. Nearly everything from the floor to the cabinets and the furniture is dark, so, when the small, dimmable overhead lights come on, they seem to appear out of nowhere, enlivening the space with the vibe of a high-end nightclub. A faux brick wall adds to the space as well, and the attention to detail that was paid during its installation makes it look incredibly realistic.
The brick wall serves as a backdrop to a few pieces of artwork, including Knull’s own three-part abstract acrylic in the middle of the open space by the living area – these are the only paintings he has done so far, created to reflect the devastation and strength of a tsunami, with waves of dark colours travelling across the canvases. Near the couches hangs a surrealist print that Knull bought in Thailand – a gnarly tree sprouts from a desert plain, bathed in the light of a setting sun.
Meanwhile, the sun has already set in the condo and the kitchen is lit by Edison bulbs that hang from the ceiling, all different sizes and at different heights. The fixture is an example of one of the elements that was inspired by a public space – in this case, an Indian restaurant in Calgary, Mango Shiva, that had similar lights hanging above its chef’s table. Knull took the idea and adapted it to work in his dining room while also incorporating a ridged backdrop onto the wall, creating a focal point where light cascades down the textured wall. A wine rack hangs next to the backdrop, and the light refracts through the horizontal bottles of wine.
Knull says he was going for the look of a high-end Las Vegas hotel room for his bedroom, where an open closet has abundant room for clothes and accessories. Lights embedded in a ledge attached to the headboard give it a glow, making it seem like the view from the window should be the blinking lights of the Flamingo rather than the skeleton of the new Rogers Place.
But Knull has no complaints about his condo’s location. He stands at one of the large windows, overlooking the Edmonton skyline, and points across the street at a parking lot. “Soon, they’re going to start ripping into that parking lot and turning it into a park. I mean, I have a park right there, 104th Street market over there and the river valley,” he says.
Natuzzi couch from Finesse Furniture and Interiors; Lange ski poster bought in Whistler, B.C.; surreal print bought in Thailand