NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE
House was bought for the view but is now the ideal family home
BY PHILLIPA RISPIN
PHOTOGRAPHY: EMA PETER
Buy the worst house in the best location – it’s one of the mantras of real estate for those with constrained budgets. The owners of this home in the Caulfeild neighbourhood of West Vancouver took heed and couldn’t be happier with the results.
It wasn’t exactly a horrible house; it was quite liveable, but it did have only a small balcony, too many rooms for good flow, one floor and an unfinished basement. It also had a dated aesthetic that the couple’s designer, Catherine Brown, who is the principal of Kennedy Crawford Design, is not shy in describing as “an Eighties nightmare. But the view was the showstopper. It’s a stunning million-dollar view.”
When the couple first looked at the house, “all I could see was the mint-green carpet, but my husband had vision,” says the wife, a family physician who, with her dentist husband, now has two young girls. “He said, ‘Look at the view; look at the layout.’ I must give all credit to him. He was the visionary.
“We bought here mainly because we fell in love with the neighbourhood. Before we had kids, we were renting an apartment literally on the water in West Vancouver. It was a problem, because we got used to the view. So when we were looking, we had to have a view and also something kid-friendly, but we couldn’t find anything within budget at the time. Then we saw this house and fell in love with the view and the layout and the potential.”
The couple moved in in 2007 and, heeding the advice of family, decided to live in the house as is for several years while starting their family. “Very smart advice,” says the homeowner. The couple “slapped on” some new paint to freshen up the place. They replaced the roof; changed the fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer; but did nothing otherwise. They lived with the mint-green carpets. “We were just happy to be homeowners and to have that view,” the homeowner says.
The couple started thinking about the reno in 2012 when the children were old enough to need space to run around. There are parks nearby but, with both parents being busy professionals with tiring schedules, it was preferable to fix up the space at home.
After consulting with an architect about the renovation, they decided to work with Kennedy Crawford Design and contractor Blackfish Homes. “When I walked in, I was taken by the view,” Brown says. “Within the house itself, there were odd walls here and there, but I could visualize an open, flowing, beautiful space that wrapped around the view. But the house needed plenty of work. To make it beautiful would be more than ‘get the braces off and lose 10 pounds.’ ”
The biggest challenge was the lot. It’s on a steep hillside, with a dropoff. The homeowners wanted as much outdoor space as possible for their two little girls. With the help of Blackfish Homes, they got their wish. There’s a grassy area where the girls play and a place for flowers and a herb garden. It’s a small space, but that makes it manageable.
Both couple and designer are lavish in their praise of Blackfish directors David Adair and Rob Griesdale, and foreman Sean Dickson. “We chose Blackfish after interviewing a few contractors because we instantly got along with them,” the homeowner says. “They’re family men, and they really heard us. They’re very realistic and they’re very organized. And it was Dave Adair who recommended Catherine Brown to us. Between her and Blackfish, everything went smoothly.”
The homeowners now have a dwelling of 5,000 square feet spread over three storeys, with enormous windows and balconies from which to admire the view. Including the green space on the grounds and the balconies, there’s now approximately 1,800 square feet of space for the children to play.
The wife is hard-pressed to choose a favourite space in the home, but she does admit to loving her office and the view it affords her. Her husband is particularly enamoured of the steam shower in the basement bathroom next to the exercise space.
The live-edge dining table is something that the wife has always wanted, and she commissioned Alexis Dodd of Steelwood Designs to produce one in walnut. So happy was she with it (“It’s one of the centrepieces of our home.”) that she then had a live-edge counter made for the main-floor powder room.
Perhaps the major appeal of the renovated home is the ease of entertaining and indoor-outdoor living. Large balconies, patios and play areas are easily accessed from walkouts and, on the main floor, through large windows that can be folded aside to bring the outdoors in. “We’re big entertainers,” the wife says. “I love our expanded balcony and outdoor space created for us. We have a space that flows in and out where everyone can be happy: kids, friends, and my husband, who’s a big barbecue person.
“And downstairs is such an entertainment area: there’s a media room, and a kids’ play area. We’ve got a bar, and lighting for a pool table to be installed. It’s so nice to have extra space for entertaining. It’s the icing on the cake.”