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Designer Touches

This article was written by Jeanine Matlow and was featured in our May issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Joel Klassen. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.


In the coveted Britannia neighborhood of Calgary, Alberta, known for sizable lots, mature trees, and proximity to downtown amenities, sits a distinctive dwelling that showcases the success of carte blanche when granted to the right designer. In the highly skilled hands of Amanda Hamilton, founder and creative director of Calgary-based Amanda Hamilton Interior Design and online-based Palette Archives, the elements that make a house a home were enhanced when she was entrusted with outfitting this custom residence by RockCreek builders.

“This was one of our first ‘just go with it’ projects,” says Hamilton, who along with her team, had free rein with most of the furniture selections and collaborated with the clients on the rest. “We were really involved in the process.”

The homeowners, a couple with grown children, did their share of renovating and building over the years and developed their own style preferences along the way. “It’s clean-lined, but it still has flourishes and glam,” the designer says about her clients’ essentialist approach and devotion to uncluttered spaces with a twist that stems from a penchant for eccentric embellishments and bold color. Their aesthetic—endearingly dubbed “Midcentury Scandinavian Palm Springs Art Deco Minimalism”—might be a mouthful to say, but it’s easy to understand.

Custom contents deliver the visuals, while sensible layouts support the homeowners’ lifestyle. “We were able to oversee some challenges as far as the context of the overall design,” says Hamilton, who worked mainly with the wife. “She struggled [with] how the long and narrow living space would interact with the dining space next to the kitchen. We took their personal standpoint and made it work for entertaining with two different seating areas.”

The designer took a hotel-lobby approach with flexible configurations conducive to conversation, like an auxiliary space on one side of the living room with a place to recline after dinner. “It’s more of an intimate space with the linear fireplace,” she says. Now the area that might normally be underutilized can support different activities.

Inspired by the couple’s second home in California, Hamilton introduced a Palm Springs vibe with midcentury touches like reproduction womb chairs covered in a mustard velvet and a custom stool with houndstooth fabric that pulls yellow, green, and blush hues into the room. Houseplants provide some natural softness, while a dramatic slab on the European-style stone fireplace makes a statement. “By blocking out the middle, the eye really sees the flame,” explains Hamilton.

In another part of the living room, clean-lined sofas echo the Scandinavian sensibility and form a second seating area by the dining table and chairs that were positioned near the kitchen in the open-concept home. “We wanted something that really felt artful,” she says. The Japanese-inspired pieces have a sculptural effect with a walnut table paired with blonde chairs that feel light and bright.

Black oak cabinets create a stark contrast to the white quartz countertops in the kitchen, where brass hardware and lighting stand out against the white oak floors and white walls that establish a neutral backdrop. Clear globes keep the sight lines open. “We chose a style that feels more eclectic and vintage with black and gold fittings. It was very intentional to soften the kitchen, and the round globes on the sconces speak the same language,” she says. “It’s quite streamlined with a black-and-white kitchen. The wife loved the glammy pops of gold you see in the light fixtures and we were able to manage all the different styles to feel very cohesive.” Black and gold finishes give a subtle nod to art deco.

Other luxuries that transcend eras include Carrara marble tile floors and double vanities in the primary bath. “You can see those little brass feet that create a light and airy effect with a little bit of that midcentury vibe,” she says. Ditto for the brass faucets and sconces that blend with other elements to make each one more impactful. “I am very pro mixing metals, like the matte-black hardware on the drawers and the drapery rods that allow the brass to not be overkill,” she adds.

In the primary bedroom, the nightstands also combine wood tones with brass details. The mural with a feather motif creates a dramatic accent wall for the custom upholstered bed covered in deep-charcoal velvet. A faux-leather ottoman, wall-to-wall carpet, and sheer draperies further soften the space. Striking yet restrained details like these deliver a winning combination for a one-of-a-kind style.