Celia Lavinskas grew up on the West Island and in Westmount, but she also spent a lot of time in Georgeville in the Eastern Townships. Her grandmother and parents each have second homes there and Lavinskas likes to hang out in the country.
Lavinskas studied photography at Dawson College and during her last year, she moved into the McGill Ghetto. She is quick to admit that she’s more creative than she is academic, so she didn’t attend McGill University, but she enjoyed living within the student community.
After she graduated from Dawson, Lavinskas worked for a while at a “little photo studio downtown” but then decided she would like to become self-employed. Around the time Lavinskas made the decision to work for herself, she and her mom also formed an online company — celiaetcetera.com — a combination of photography, handmade jewelry and tie-dye silk scarves, made by Lavinskas’s mom. (“She’s also very creative”Lavinskas says.)
Her next step was to look for an apartment that could double as a home and a studio. In September 2013, she found what she was looking for — a loft condo in Point St-Charles. Situated in the former Sherwin Williams paint factory (it was converted into condos in the 1980s) she has a third floor, all-in-one space with a living area and kitchen at one end and a studio-cum-work area at the other. Lavinskas shares her abode with her partner, Andrew Mann, who is an engineer and Baxter, a mixed breed puppy.
Q: You told me it was quite difficult to find exactly the right kind of space?
A: It was. I was looking for a very long time because I had certain criteria.
Q: Which were?
A: Something big with high ceilings and lots of light. Something that would accommodate a living area and a work area, but not be too awkward. It was really hard to find an apartment that would work as a studio. This building was ideal, because it’s zoned residential and commercial.
Q: How did you find it in the end?
A: Through a real-estate agent. My mom was with me — my parents are helping me out financially — and when we first saw this place it didn’t look very good. It was very shabby, but we could see its potential. I loved the brick. I loved the wood. I loved the ceilings. They’re 13 feet high!
(The kitchen end of the living area and the bedroom have exposed brick walls. The bedroom is separated from the rest of the space by a sliding barn door that hangs from a black metal track — one of three in the apartment. The other two doors hide the bathroom and a laundry area.)
Q: So the space didn’t look like this when you moved in?
A: Not at all. We renovated the entire thing. My mom and I made the sliding doors. There were regular doors here before. We’re both pretty handy but it was more difficult than it looked!
Q: And the flooring?
A: That had to be replaced. This is a composite of some kind. We couldn’t use real wood because there’s underfloor heating. That was put in when the paint factory was converted into condos. We replaced the floors in the bathroom and the bedroom with ceramic tiles.
(Apart from the exposed brick, the walls and barn doors are painted white — all the better to reflect the light from the tall windows. The far end of the living room is the studio and work area. A roll of backdrops stands in front of one of the walls and two large reflectors hang from the slatted-wood ceiling.
(Two wooden cabinets with several dozen tiny drawers of the type used by jewellers to store gems, clasps, chains and the like stand at this end and a number of colourful tie-dyed scarves are draped over a coat stand. A wrought iron spiral staircase leads to a mezzanine.)
Q: You’ve got a mezzanine I see.
A: Actually, there are two. The other one is in the bedroom. We use one of the mezzanines as an extra sleeping area and the other for storage.
Q: What about your furniture? Did you have that from before?
A: The armoire came from a previous apartment and my dining chairs with the webbed seats came from my parents but most of the rest, like the armchair, the coffee table and the sofa, were made by a friend in the Eastern Townships.
(Crafted from espresso-coloured wood, they have ivory-coloured cushions. The coffee table is square and low.)
Q: Were they made to your own design?
A: Not quite. I found this “look” on the Restoration Hardware website that I really liked and showed it to my friend. He has his own forest. He cuts his own wood and makes everything by hand. The Restoration Hardware version cost $5,000 for just one chair! My furniture was much cheaper than that and I really like the end result.
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Occupants: Celia Lavinskas, 25, Andrew Mann, 25, and Baxter the “rescue” dog.
Location: Point St-Charles
Size: 1,100 square feet
Been there: Since September 2013