Established Hamilton artist Paul Elia is renowned for his photo-based illustrations depicting post-industrial cityscapes. Paul recreates entire city blocks, each piece composed of dozens of photographs digitally stitched together and painted over to showcase the hidden treasures within. His talent for seeing the beautiful amongst the industrial doesn’t end there, it nourishes everything he touches.
When Paul and his husband, also named Paul, outgrew their previous home, they went looking for a unique space to not only to live and share with family and friends, but also a place Paul could display his art and welcome the community and other artists. They envisioned an industrial modern gallery with an office and enough living space for their growing family. Their son Denver, now nine months old, was joining the fray. And while Hamilton has its fair share of industrial sites, only a home on Cannon Street East, an old bakery built in 1920, sparked inspiration.
The property had everything the couple were looking for: space around the main building, parking, room for landscaping, potential for an art gallery below, and substantial living quarters above. They fell in love with the building’s old-world beams and pillars, exposed brick and iron work throughout. “We knew this building had potential,” says Paul, “we could see what it could be, the butterfly in its cocoon.” So with the help of Zoran Tomasevic’s Harbour Hills Construction Management Inc. and architects Phillip Toms and Graham McNally of Toms + McNally Design, they tackled the project only a few could envision.
They started with the main living area, an open-concept living/ dining/kitchen space. The Aussie Stone countertops were chosen to be well used, and the large kitchen island doubles as a buffet. The modern kitchen cabinetry and grey glass tile backsplash offer a unique contrast to industrial elements like exposed wood beams and duct work. White walls offer a gallery-like setting for Paul’s art and admired art by fellow Hamilton artist Marina Randazzo.
One of the couple’s favourite features is the soaring roofline and skylight that can be seen from every level. They also love the outdoor patio off the upper kitchen and living area. “Removing the roof was risky, but well worth the effort. Now, when we have friends and family over, they spill onto the patio as if it’s another room, an extension of the loft.” It was Toms + McNally Design who suggested removing the roof to create the outdoor living space. In fact, they brought a lot of great ideas to the project, taking the couple’s vision to another level. He added windows to flood the space with light and bring the outdoors in, and separated the bedrooms from the main living area to provide the family with an after-hours escape and a second office, since Paul’s husband also works from home.
When the lower level is complete and Paul’s gallery is open to the public, fans and curious locals will be able to wander in to watch Paul work on his next masterpiece through a glass wall. He’ll showcase a rotating cast of artists and host events.