The term “rental apartment” usually conjures up images of generic, white-walled spaces with zero personality and even less charm. That couldn’t be further from the reality of The College Grand, a heritage house in the heart of Cobourg, ON, that once sat empty and is now home to five stunning loft-style apartments – some of which are still available to rent.
Built in 1904 and located in Cobourg’s Heritage District, the stately home was previously owned by the superintendent of a neighbouring health facility, then purchased by the province and turned into hospital administrative offices. It lingered on the real estate market for years, at risk of becoming run-down and decrepit, says Elizabeth Betancourt, Creative Director of CASA ALMA, who spearhead the styling and staging of The College Grand.
Financial planner Kristy MacDonald, who grew up in Cobourg, was keen to invest in her hometown and snapped up the property in 2016, eager to transform the neglected building into luxury rental apartments, juxtaposing modern design against a historical setting. MacDonald teamed up with her partner, designer and builder Jeff Reed, owner of Distinct Properties, to bring her vision to life.
The renovation process took almost a year, as MacDonald and Reed completely reconfigured the interior. “A lot of its heritage and beauty had been masked or covered up,” says Betancourt. The building was stripped back to its roots, exposing the original brick throughout, maintaining the high ceilings and restoring original baseboards and pocket doors.
This unit is The Westerly, a large, airy one-bedroom apartment located on the second floor that boasts a stunning bay window, plenty of natural wood elements and vintage art from local retailer Dwellissimo.
“The kitchen in The Westerly is a showstopper,” says Betancourt. “We styled the space by placing a dining table in front of the huge bay window so potential tenants could picture themselves sipping their morning coffee and reading the newspaper while enjoying the view,” she says. “Because the sink didn’t look out over a window, we decided to create the feeling of one with the arched mirror. It also makes the space feel much bigger that it actually is,” says Betancourt.
All Together Now
“Since the unit had been rented to a male tenant already, we went with a masculine theme,” says Betancourt. The CASA ALMA rug beautifully ties in the master bedroom’s mix of warm and cool hues.
The Westerly apartment also includes a private second-floor balcony, which has been kitted out with outdoor furniture from CASA ALMA. “The furniture is mid-century spun fibreglass, which we outfitted in Swaying Palms, our favourite outdoor fabric from Tonic Living,” says Betancourt.
“We included some greenery to bring some life to the space and styled the rug on an angle, which is a fun way to add some unexpected interest,” adds Betancourt. The balcony provides spectacular views of the historic neighbourhood and acts as a bonus living space.
Main Floor Attraction
Down on the main floor is The Windrose, a huge one-bedroom unit with its own private entrance and deck. The sun-drenched living and dining area features exposed brick walls and soaring ceilings.
“This unit also features a custom ash wood bar cleverly built to fill an old doorway in the exposed brick of the original home,” says Betancourt, who adds that the bricks were “a surprise found once construction begun. They were the old exterior walls from the original homestead before the addition was put on,” she says.
The exposed bricks extend into the main floor bathroom, where Betancourt was happy to give them a starring role. “From a decor standpoint, where there was brickwork present, we really let it be the star of the show,” she says. “We used downward lighting to highlight the beauty of the brick.”
“The bedroom of The Windrose is one of the standout spaces of the whole project,” says Betancourt. “The homeowner had always envisioned a black four-poster bed in the room for drama, so we brought her vision to life and added in some large-scale greenery from local florist The Local Bloom, a vintage Drexel nightstand and rattan and brass accents for a fresh, boho feel,” she says. “The baskets on the wall were a fun last-minute decision to do something unexpected over the bed instead of a traditional piece of art,” adds Betancourt.
“The combination of the tall ceilings, glorious light from the huge windows and the cozy corner fireplace are enough to make any lover of architecture gasp,” says Betancourt.
Wild Wild Walls
wallpaper was used throughout the building, as seen here in the second-floor hallway. “The wallpaper is hand-crafted, and because it is made using paint, it naturally leaves a texture, allowing you to create dimension and character in your overall space,” says Betancourt. “The patterns range from simple and subtle to bolder patterns that are high impact,” she says.
Black and White and Red All Over
The red door leading to The Easterly contrasts beautifully with bold black-and-white Farrow & Ball wallpaper.
The Easterly unit includes a charm-packed seating area with deep teal velvet armchairs, a red-brick archway and a wall-mounted cow skull, “a fun and quirky addition,” says Betancourt. The rug is by CASA ALMA. “Vintage rugs are a CASA ALMA signature, and we knew they needed to be a focus,” says Betancourt. “Rugs can bring warmth, colour and character to a room and we used a variety of rugs to compliment the spaces,” she says.
The Easterly’s bedroom boasts a pair of nine-foot custom-welded sliding doors and Farrow & Ball’s Tourbillon wallpaper for added drama.
Keep it Simple
Betancourt stuck to a neutral palette and minimal decor style in The Easterly’s bedroom, thus allowing the sliding doors and wallpaper to take centre stage.
The third floor of The College Grand is home to The Beacon, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with spectacular arched windows, an open-concept living space and pops of bold colour throughout.
In addition to the five rental units, the College Grand also features The Commons, a multi-purpose space that can be booked by tenants to host guests or events. The Insta-worthy wallpaper is Farrow & Ball’s Hegemone.
For more information about renting an apartment at The College Grand, visit Distinct Properties.