Skip to main content

Home of Janet Oh and Eddy Ra, a condominium residence above the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

When Janet Oh and Eddy Ra first married 20 years ago, they lived in a small condo at the corner of Toronto’s Adelaide Street West and University Avenue. The location was perfect for two young urban professionals, right between the Financial District, where Mr. Ra works in finance, and the bustle of the Entertainment District, where both enjoyed unwinding after 5 p.m.

“At a certain point we thought we should start adulting,” says Ms. Oh, an executive at a kitchen and bath company. So they moved to Markham, Ont., a nearby bedroom community, and for more than a decade, owned a 3,200-square-foot-home, with a lawn and garage and none of the conveniences of downtown life.

Sometimes, adulting means recognizing you’ve made an error, then fixing the mistake. “We eventually realized it didn’t make a lot of sense to be way out in the suburbs,” Ms. Oh says. “I travel all the time for my job so I was never home. Eddy had to commute over an hour to work every day.” In a full-circle moment, the couple ended up back in a condo, a block from their old abode at Adelaide and University. “We’re very social and love to go out,” Mr. Ra says. “We missed all the restaurants,” says. Ms. Oh says.

Story continues below advertisement

Interior designers Samer Shaath and Kevin Chan of design studio Nivek Remas created a sophisticated look for the 2,100-square-foot penthouse.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

Condo 2.0, though, was in no way a throw back to their cramped pad of 20 years before. Mr. Ra and Ms. Oh bought a 2,100-square-foot penthouse near the top of the Shangri-La, a hotel and residence where the likes of George Clooney and Johnny Depp have been spotted during the Toronto International Film Festival. Working with interior designers Samer Shaath and Kevin Chan, founders of design studio Nivek Remas, they created a sophisticated space that’s very much grown-up.

The dining room table from Desalto is clay-topped and built for outdoor use.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

At the outset, Mr. Ra and Ms. Oh’s unit was a blank canvas. It had previously been used a model suite by the Shangiri-La’s developers, and was hollowed out when the couple purchased it five years ago. The design could have gone in any direction.

“At the beginning, I started sending Kevin and Samer Pinterest images of beautiful Parisian apartments,” Mr. Ra says. “They said these are nice, we love Parisian apartments too. But you do not have a Parisian apartment.”

Instead of applying ersatz French moulding to the walls, Mr. Shaath and Mr. Chan embraced the particularities of a modern Toronto skyscraper – expansive windows, sharp lines, views overlooking hundreds of glass-and-steel towers. Sometimes, condos are described as boxes up in the air, often in a negative way. Nivek Remas made the concept beautiful.

The studio hired an artist, Christina Ott, to plaster-finish the walls in just the right tint of grey to play off the blues of the sky.

"She came several times to study the light,” Ms. Oh says. “The walls might look uniform but they have a wonderful variation.”

Artist Christina Ott plaster-finish the walls in just the right tint of grey to play off the blues of the sky.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

A custom wool-and-silk rug was commissioned in dozens of shades of green, mimicking the look and feel of peering down, way down, at a canopy of trees from the 60th floor. Over the dining room table, ethereal, smoky orbs cluster together like the passing clouds.

Story continues below advertisement

In the same way that the aesthetic was thoughtfully attuned to the context, the furniture and layout were carefully considered to suit Mr. Ra and Ms. Oh’s lifestyles. “Before we ever started talking about style, Kevin and Samer asked us a lot of questions about how we live,” says Ms. Oh. “We realized we only have people in to entertain maybe twice a year. So we didn’t need a big dining area. We wouldn’t use it.” Likewise, the dining room table itself, from Desalto, is clay-topped and built for outdoor use. “Our old table was glass,” says Mr. Ra. “It always made me nervous. I could drop anything on this one, jab it with a fork, and it would be fine.”

Cutting down the eating area freed up more room for a gracious living room. Deep-seated Montauk sofas face a clean-lined stone fireplace, all surrounded by windows that twinkle with city lights at night. It’s an elegant aerie for post-work relaxation.

The living room boasts a clean-lined stone fireplace.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

One of the biggest challenges of Mr. Ra and Ms. Oh’s downsize was losing all the storage of their Markham home. “We used to have three bedrooms and we don’t have children,” Ms. Oh says. “There was a lot of space to put things.” As part of their downsize, the two adopted a new habit. “If we buy one new thing, we have to get rid of something,” Ms. Oh says. “It’s one in, one out.”

Nikek Remas also lined a wall in the master bedroom with a bank of custom cupboards, with grey doors that complement the grey panelling on the adjacent walls. The panelling gives the effect of a luxury hotel suite, something the couple appreciates.

When possible, Mr. Ra accompanies Ms. Oh on her work travels (in pre-COVID time, she found herself on the road most days of most weeks). He loves staying at high-end hotels. One of his favourites is the Park Hyatt in Seoul, a tall, glass-y modern tower with simple, wood-lined rooms and commanding city views. He first stayed there before buying his condo. “I can remember standing in our room, looking out the window,” Mr. Ra says. “I remember thinking: if we ever can, it would be my dream to live in a place like this.”

Your house is your most valuable asset. We have a weekly Real Estate newsletter to help you stay on top of news on the housing market, mortgages, the latest closings and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies