House of mirth

Designers take over the Bronfman mansion.

Far above the rabble of Carré St-Louis, on the other side of town, over 800 of Montreal’s most well-heeled gathered for a charity cocktail on Monday. The 80,000 square-foot grounds of the Bronfman mansion in upper, upper Westmount held the opening gala of the second annual A Decorator’s Dream House, which runs until June 5. 

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This 10-day-long open house (open, but not free– general admission tickets are $60) is the first time the Bronfman estate has ever been open to the public. Samuel Bronfman, the whiskey baron behind the Seagram dynasty, first bought the 1906 house in the late 1920s. While the family has since sold its stake in the distillery, the property remains in the hands of grandson Stephen.

Stephen Bronfman lent the estate to the Women’s Federation CJA– a Jewish philanthropic organization that offers social services to the community– to be transformed into a “decorative showcase” where each room is conceptualized by a different Montreal interior design team. This is the second event of its kind– last year’s was at Ogilvy’s . And like last year, proceeds will go toward helping Montreal’s poor.

Selected by the exhibits co-chairs Vicki Feil and Saryl Bross, the designers supplied their own materials, antiques and other furnishing to transform each space in the red brick and copper-shingle roof mansion. Rather than strike a contemporary tone in their work most of the designers have chosen to echo the beauty and architectural details of the original building , like the wood-paneled walls of oak and pine that were made from the trees that were cleared from the property to build the house.

While “less is more” seems to be the mantra guiding the hands of downtown designers toward clean lines and subdued shades, this project shows that things remain different uptown: Every room in the refurbished mansion is an exercise in opulence and goes a long way to recapturing the site’s former glory.

Hour, May 30 – June 5, 2002

About mmcontentatlarge journalist | copywriter | producer/editor

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