BY DANIELLE POPE | PHOTOS BY JOSHUA LAWRENCE
On the edge of the water, sits an elegant home overlooking Haro Straight. From the road, the house flows seamlessly into the landscape, with the sweeping curve in its roofline echoing the environment, and the way the two-storey build is subtly set into a slope. From the water, the house appears as a stately ocean villa, fishbowling itself with an entire side of floor-to-ceiling windows, pedestal porch and a built-in hot tub.
The home appears so comfortable in its setting, it’s hard to imagine the worn out cottage that once perched in its place, or the fact that the owners had to overcome seemingly endless restrictions to create this dream — from satisfying specialized environmental permits to getting heritage designations relaxed for a long-decrepit building.
While the project would prove to be a challenge from the start — including a complicated building environment on a sloped hill — the result is a house that homeowner, builder, architect and designer are equally proud to have had a role in creating.
Once in a Lifetime
“This is one of those projects that comes along once in a lifetime,” says architect Christine Lintott. “Residential houses are peculiar endeavours as there’s a deep level of intimacy involved. It’s about understanding the relationships in the house, the tastes each person has and what they imagine for the home. Getting a chance to work on a project like this, with a client who cares deeply about the quality of the craftsmanship, is very special.”
The 5,000-square-foot home was a downsize for the owners, who wanted to focus their empty-nester lives on living as close as possible to the environment they love — the ocean and its surrounding beauty. Little surprise, the themes of water and flow are used throughout in the home’s architecture, building materials and interior design.
In addition to a unique curvature in the shape of the house, and an emphasis on natural materials, the home was built with seismic safety and environmental considerations in mind. The owners wanted to ensure that the beach flowed into the home’s design and that native plants, trees and grasses would be preserved. Great efforts were taken to maintain the safety of a stately cedar tree, which has special prominence on the property. The home is heated with 100-per-cent renewable energy, through both a heat pump and rooftop solar evacuated tubing.
“The project was run very much as a collaboration, and I’ve always been impressed with Christine’s work,” says builder John H. Knappett, President of Knappett Projects Inc. “We wanted to achieve something both visually and structurally interesting, with a real prominence on using local, natural materials.”
Elements of Nature
Concrete was the driving force in the home’s creation, from the structure to the heated, polished concrete floors, which create a beach-like feel to the house. The floors started as an experiment and took nearly five months to complete, but became an outstanding feature of the house. The owners specially ordered aggregate rocks from a pit in Nanaimo, selecting only those with beach colours naturally mixed in. The concrete was then seeded with colour-themed stones, which were ground into the slabs.
Heavy laminated timber was used for the roof, with ceilings made from old-growth Douglas fir milled in the Cowichan Valley. Wooden finishes are found throughout the house, and maple from the property was turned into furniture. The kitchen cabinetry was crafted using precise, grain-matched walnut to create a pattern that flows to the windows.
“The owners are very much water people in everything they do, from kite surfing to enjoying the ocean and their hot tub,” says Knappett. “They wanted the home to be nautical, beach and water themed, with a focus on elements found in nature.”
The interior of the house is filled with granite and marble features, while the exterior is a combo of yellow cedar from the Cowichan Valley and corten steel panels — both of which create an oceanside patina over time, so little maintenance is required. The home, which sits on over half an acre, has a triple detached garage, two bedrooms on the main level, along with a lower-level guest suite that offers visitors their own private living space and a generous exercise room.
“We are surrounded by an abundant ecosystem on the West Coast, and we believe humans affiliate closely with natural materials,” says Lintott. “The design of the home, from the floor to the wood grains, moves people through the house. We wanted the very fabric of the building to be the finish, and it’s both animated and accessible. This is a bold expression of the homeowners.”
An Inviting Retreat
Kelly Moir, principal of KM Interior Designs, says the interior design of the project focused primarily on drawing eyes to the view. That meant installing a fireplace feature made of walnut and stone that fit the scale, while not distracting from the scenery. Simple, quality materials took the place of anything visually overwhelming.
One of the stylistically impressive features of the house is the work created by local artists, including an exterior glass screen by Victorian Charles Gabriel, and metalwork created by Jake James — a blacksmith in Metchosin, who fabricated the fireplace hearth, as well as a wrought iron rain-catching feature at the entrance.
Moir’s favourite attribute, however, is the guest level — given as much thoughtful design as the rest of the house, to ensure family, friends and visitors experience an exquisite stay. “The whole home is so welcoming and invites people in. I would defy any guest to not have trouble leaving,” says Moir, with a laugh. “From the theatre and bar room, to the deck and beach access, this place is designed for gathering and for family. It was created to be lived in and enjoyed by all who enter.”
Architect: Christine Lintott Architects
Interior Design: Kelly Moir, KM Interior Designs
Builder: John H. Knappett, Knappett Projects
Landscape Design: Murdoch de Greeff Landscape Architects
Tile: Island Floor Centre
Kitchen/Bathroom and Custom Millwork: Jason Good, Jason Good Custom Cabinets
Finishing Carpentry: Ian Chapman, Seriously Woodworking
Windows and Doors: Unison Windows & Doors
Doors and Hardware: Victoria Speciality Hardware & Plumbing
Custom Furniture: Live Edge Design
Wood Burning Fireplace: Wilk Stove