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September 28, 2006

Five alive

Professor puts personal touches on downtown condo

Anne Gafiuk

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Born in Vietnam, moving to Belgium, then France, his family chose to settle in Montréal. MD completed his undergrad at the University of Montréal and then his Ph. D at McGill. His post doctorate was done at Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he lived in very small, basic accommodations.

When approached by the University of Calgary and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute to take on the Brenda Strafford Foundation Chair in Alzheimer Research about a year ago, he was lodged at the Kensington Riverside Inn. It was because of his stay at the upscale boutique inn that he became familiar with the area and within two weeks of making his decision to move to Calgary as Assistant Professor, he purchased within three days his two bedroom, 1080 square foot condo at Five West.  “I liked the environment and being close to Downtown.”   He depends on the C-Train to take him to and from work.  A bicycle may be on his “to buy” list as he enjoys the river pathway system, only two blocks away.

“When I bought, it was too late to customize my condo.  If it had been one and a half years ago, I could have customized it myself.  My choices were limited eight months ago.  There were about fifteen condos on the sale list; everything was different in each unit and I wanted dark hardwood floors.”  The unit he selected is on the 16th floor, facing south.  “My in-suite laundry appliances were not included in the purchase price,” says MD, but he negotiated with his agent and now has a stackable washer and dryer located just off the ceramic tiled foyer.

Another important criterion for MD was having large windows, of which his condo has plenty:  in his master bedroom, the dining area and living room, plus the second bedroom.  “They have to be big.”  The windows in the dining and living areas meet at the corner, offering a great deal of natural light, as well as wonderful views of the Calgary’s Downtown west side.   From his 100 square foot balcony, he takes in the Bow River Valley.

The light from the windows allows for subtle changes in the appearance of the taupe painted walls. Creamy white baseboards and window casings complement the taupe tones.   Polished chrome is featured on cabinetry as well as in the contemporary lighting fixtures.

MD describes his condo’s style of décor as “retro”, featuring elements from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  “I shopped before I came” to Calgary.  Chrome is a prominent element throughout the unit, from funky floor lamps, his brand new “retro” kitchen table and chairs, to a fruit bowl.  He found them in a variety of stores, local and international.  His chrome and glass coffee table, from his parents’ home in Montréal, sits on a lambskin area rug, setting off the warm walnut hardwood flooring found throughout the kitchen, dining and living spaces.  “I like design.  I like to put things together.  My table is simple and modern.  A traditional style would be too heavy,” explains Ming Dang.  He is very proud of the two transparent stools sitting near the breakfast bar.  “I just love them! The style is from the ‘80’s and their shape is like the chair I have in my computer area, which is from the ‘70’s.”

In his master bedroom, two chairs, also with 1970’s design elements, are used as tables.  They coordinate perfectly with the 1930’s art deco headboard MD was given by his sister.  Light coloured carpeting covers the floors in both bedrooms.  “I sleep on the white leather couch” in the second bedroom, “when I have company,” he says.

His photography takes centre stage – but not on his walls.  Instead, he has placed his framed 11x14 black and white photos leaning against the walls on the floor. “It’s more artistic.  I don’t like anything on the wall,” MD explains.  To accentuate his love of photography, he has an antique camera and an old slide projector.  “I bought them for fun.”

“I’m very monochrome.  My sister told me my place is too cold and I needed to add colour.”  A low-profile black leather couch and ottoman, both with chrome legs, are accented with red and black throw pillows.  A stemmed glass bowl, found on e-Bay, gives another welcome splash of red to his living room.  Below his oval chrome dining table with the pink and black chairs, he found an olive area rug to tie in with the retro styled clock/radio sitting on the granite countertop in his kitchen.   A pink melamine platter sits neatly atop the table for added impact.

Having a very busy schedule, condo living offers him less responsibilities than had he purchased a house.  “I have a different schedule than most of the people that live in this building.  They are gone by 7 or 7:30 a.m.  I leave around 9:30 a.m. and return between 9 and 10 p.m.  I spend a lot of time in my lab.  I also have guests from out of town and take them out.  I have to show them Calgary’s hospitality – we’re not all cowboys!” he laughs.  “I usually go out to eat.  I have to try all the restaurants in the area.”

To the east of the Art Deco and 1930s architecturally influenced Five West, a sister property is under construction.  MD believes it will be taller than his building and contain more amenities, including an exercise room.  Both buildings will be connected with access for all residents to the services.  Still being developed in Five West is the Social Room and outdoor patio.  What with a concierge located in the elegantly appointed lobby, MD continues to live a retro boutique lifestyle!  CL

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