Shelter: Griffintown penthouse a tribute to owner's negotiating skills

Kim Bruneau's condo is decorated in grey and white, but still manages to be warm.

Kim Bruneau in the open-plan living area of her Montreal penthouse. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

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Kim Bruneau is a real go-getter. When obstacles are placed in her way, she doesn’t take no for an answer.

Bruneau grew up in Boucherville, but now describes herself as being “very much a Montrealer.” A licensed real estate broker who works for a leading Montreal property developer, she specializes in selling new condo towers, including the 21-storey Griffintown building she calls home. She was able to purchase the penthouse for herself at a considerable discount and to decorate the interior using her contacts and negotiating skills to obtain many of the furnishings for less than retail cost.

In addition to being the sales director for another new high-rise building — 111 Atwater, on the site of the former Montreal Children’s Hospital — Bruneau has a couple sidelines. She founded an animal charity, The Beauties and the Beasts, and raises thousands of dollars for it by organizing special events. Bruneau is also a talented painter (her work hangs all over her condo) and because of her good looks, she also gets professional modelling gigs — not a bad track record for someone in their early 30s!

Her penthouse is stunning. Huge windows offer views of the Montreal skyline and they flood the open kitchen and living/dining area with light, reflected off the shiny “Extenzo” membrane that is stretched across the 13-foot-high ceiling. The condo has three bedrooms, two bathrooms (plus a powder room) and three balconies. The overall palette is white and grey with touches of black.

Gazette: What gave you the idea to cover the concrete ceiling?

A: I wanted my space to look even bigger than it is. I’ve got 2,000 square feet but I need lots of light for when I’m painting. I’m not keen on a lot of colour but I don’t think my décor is cold, because I use lots of different materials with different textures. The cover of the ceiling is made from vinyl. My countertops are quartz. The floor is stained maple wood.

Kim Bruneau in the open kitchen area of her penthouse apartment. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

G: Your all-white kitchen cabinets also reflect the light. They’re really shiny.

A: They have press-to-open doors, which are great, but unfortunately the lacquered surfaces leave fingerprints. The kitchen was custom-made but not for me — at least not directly. This unit had been bought by someone else and I was helping him to design the interior. The sale fell through but the plans were done, so I decided to step in.

G: But you said you had to cut costs?

A: I did. The original buyer had a much bigger budget than me, so I had to save money in a number of ways: repurposing countertops from a show house; rescuing a dishwasher from one of the other units, which would probably have been thrown in the garbage and doing without window blinds for a year. Of course, I got developer discounts, but I still had to spend a lot of money.

The family dogs lounge on the sofa in Kim Bruneau. She painted the portrait of Sade that hangs in the background. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

G: I like your story about the sectional sofa and chairs you bought when you were on vacation in Greece.

A: (Laughs.) Back in 2012-13, the Greek economy was in a terrible mess and places were going out of business. I walked into this high-end store that sold designer furniture, like Fendi beds and couches, and offered the store owner $2,000 for the stuff you see here.

He looked at me as if I was crazy and said the price was EUR16,000. I pointed out that within a month, he could well be bankrupt and that nobody could afford those prices. I got the furniture for the price I offered. Although I had to pay another $6,000 to ship it to Montreal, it was well worth it.

G: Tell me about your dining table and the huge portrait on the wall beside it.

A: That’s a painting I did of the singer Sade. I wanted something dramatic for that end of the room.

(The other end of Bruneau’s dining/living area is an anteroom that serves as her studio.)

Half the wall is recessed so I painted the portrait in sections, which I then mounted side-by-side across the entire wall, to make the image flow.

Regarding the table, there’s a bit of a story behind that piece of furniture as well. The top is solid granite and it’s very big and heavy — so big in fact, that when it was being delivered, it wouldn’t fit in the elevator, nor could the guys who were carrying it manipulate the table top up the stairwell.

G: Heavens! You thought they’d be willing to carry it up 21 flights of stairs?

A:  Well, it was worth a try! In the end, I had the top cut into two pieces and glued back together.

A modest shoe collection is stored in Kim Bruneau’s walk-in closet. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

G: You must be very persuasive.

A: Exactly!

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Shelter is a weekly series featuring a conversation with tenants or condo owners.

Occupants: Kim Bruneau, 34, and toy poodles Tyler and Penelope

Location: Sud-Ouest (Griffintown)

Size: 2,000 square feet plus three balconies

Price: Undisclosed

Been there: Since 2015