Normally when I hear that an architect has bought an old house, I assume he or she will be turning it into a white box – stripping away all the elements that made the house charming in the first place.
But David Steiner is not that kind of architect. In the four years since he moved to the area from Montréal, he has been lovingly restoring his late Edwardian style house.
“I’m a modernist,” he says, “But I adore this stuff. All of the houses I have owned are from this period.”
Steiner retired from his own architectural firm in 2018, where he specialized in multi-media theatre and conference centres, such as the McCord Museum. He bought his current house because it had undergone minimal updates since its construction.
“Nothing much had been done to modernize it,” Steiner explains, pointing out the original polished-wood pocket doors, the bevelled-glass oval window, the mouldings and the house’s first electric lights, which sit in the arched doorway to the living room.
The home’s owner draws attention to the boldly-figured British Columbia fir in the doorways and the tiger-maple fireplaces. Although the kitchen and upstairs bathroom had been updated in the 1950s and the servants’ staircase removed, Steiner is gradually restoring them to their previous designs.
A contrast of old and new
But what makes these original features stand out is the way Steiner has blended them with an outstanding collection of modern art and contemporary furniture. Large abstract paintings dominate every room in the house, brightening the spaces.
“Most of the art are the works of friends,” he explains.
Steiner and his former partner, Louise Remillard, entertained a lot and cultivated a wide circle of artist friends.
“Sometimes when the rent was due, we’d buy a painting to help one of them out,” he laughs.
What makes the collection particularly interesting is that most of the works are by female artists. Les Femmeuses was a collective of 22 women artists which included well-known new-wave Québecois painters, such as Lucie Laporte, Francine Simonin and Marie Cinq-Mars. David and Louise acquired dozens of their works – now distributed liberally among family and friends – along with a collection of David Blackwood watercolours, which Blackwood used as sketches for his woodcuts.
Mother knows best
Steiner comes by his love of art naturally. His mother, Fay Scott, was an amazing woman who lived to the age of 101.
Scott worked in the fashion industry, beginning when she was 15 years old, and owned her own high-end boutique by the age of 30. When she retired at the age of 65, she turned her creativity to sculpting, taking classes at the Sadye Bronfman Centre and the Golden Age club, and being mentored by noted Montréal sculptor Pearl Levy. She produced modernist abstract and realist sculptures in marble, alabaster and soapstone for 30 years, exhibiting in many shows in the Montréal area.
His mother’s stunning sensual works of art glow in all the rooms of Steiner’s house. The family tradition of creativity continues with Steiner’s daughter Julie who is a silversmith.
Steiner has succeeded in combining beautiful elements of the past with vibrant contemporary art to create a serene, stimulating and welcoming environment.
A triptych by Francine Simonin in the hallway of David Steiner’s house. Photo: Greg Byers
A pair of sculptures executed by Steiner’s mother, Faye Scott. Photo: Greg Byers
Architect David Steiner in the arched doorway to his living room, showing the first electric lights installed in the house. Photo: Greg Byers
A painting by noted Montréal artist Lucie Laporte. Photo: Greg Byers