Photos by Jon Adrian.
France Lefebvre may have put the finishing touches on her custom Kelowna home last summer, but in a way, she’s been building it since she picked up a copy of L’Encyclopédie de la Cuisine de Jehane Benoit (“The bible of French-Canadian cooking,” she says) in her 20s.
“I’ve been collecting cookbooks for 35 years,” says the Montreal-born interior designer. “Some people read novels, but I mostly read recipe books. And I buy them regularly.” From Parisian flea market finds to James Beard-winning bestsellers to a 1965 first edition of Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes, she’s amassed a pretty impressive stack over the years. So when it came time to design a home near her daughter in Canada after years living and working in the U.S., Lefebvre started with one focus: a library to house her collection.
And when you walk through the front door, there it is to greet you, with books stacked on shelving built right into the oversized kitchen island. The installation was built to be sturdy so there would be no sagging beneath the weight of 200-plus cookbooks (“I probably bought three in the last three months,” she says); a white waterfall Caesarstone countertop cascades down the side. Of course, to accompany the recipe books is a kitchen designed with some serious cooking in mind. There are no upper shelves (“I didn’t want too much clutter,” says Lefebvre) but matching spice jars from Australian brand Circola tuck into twin alcoves flanking the oversized cooktop. To the right of the stove, there’s a full-sized fridge; to the left, a matching full-sized freezer. Handles from Rocky Mountain Hardware toe the line between contemporary and modern.
Off to the side, a prep kitchen hides behind a sliding door—because one kitchen simply isn’t enough to contain the culinary adventures of someone with thousands of recipes on file—and, here, Lefebvre does her baking and stores additional dishware and gadgets. The backsplash tiles on the wall are the same in both kitchens, but in the prep kitchen they’re laid with a charcoal grout to add some visual interest against the light alder wood cabinets and to contrast with the main kitchen, which has white grout. You’ll find sturdy white Caesarstone countertops here, too.
While the kitchens are the focal point and hub of the 4,150-square-foot house, Lefebvre gave the rest of the custom build plenty of love, too. Moving to Kelowna from Chicago, Lefebvre had everything she wanted from a city (“I wanted to live close to nature, have an airport close by, have great sunset views… and have a Costco nearby,” she laughs) and with a Benchland lot with an unobstructed view of Lake Okanagan, she had the opportunity to embrace a spectacular outlook. “I really wanted to bring the outside inside, and didn’t want to compete with the landscape,” she says. The doors—from the Folding Sliding Door Company—stack to the side to create a huge living room that flows between indoor and out when Lefebvre entertains; sweeping patios are decked out with cozy seating. The interiors are kept neutral: walls are painted a warm white, accented with colours that reference the Okanagan landscape—dreamy blues and sage greens, along with sandy, desert tones.
Everything here was meticulously selected with sightlines in mind. In the living room, a custom DaVinci fireplace (which features a special kit that allows a TV to be mounted safely overtop) is also visible from the upper deck and entryway. “I call it a three-phase fireplace,” says the designer. A pair of Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams grey chairs have a low profile so as to not block the view, and a swivel base, so one can turn to embrace it.
Even the master bath was designed for the view. “I wanted to have a sliver of the lake whether I was in the shower or the tub,” says Lefebvre. “It’s not quite a 180-degree view, but it’s close.” Heated floors and towel bars keep things toasty, and Robern mirrors conceal medicine cabinets that have been recessed into the wall. Madeli vanities purchased in Italy offer easy-to-access drawer storage instead of pull cabinets.
Upstairs, shiplap is found throughout the space, but, downstairs, things get a little more industrial, with corrugated metal lining a third kitchen/bar area. “I was looking for something with movement that would be affordable and create the mood I was looking for,” says Lefebvre.
The lower level walks out to the patio, where a Hubbardton Forge light fixture and Summer Classics table and chairs await: thanks to the heaters above, they create an outdoor dining room (albeit one with a fire pit and hot tub). “I wanted to be able to use the lower space of the house and not just live upstairs,” says Lefebvre. There’s an outdoor kitchen here too, complete with Big Green Egg smoker, and inside, two more fridges plus a dedicated wine fridge. A dishwasher and extra set of utensils makes entertaining seamless.
Lefebvre’s home office also shares this basement level, and features a desk placed right up against the window to take in the view fully. “I get a lot of ideas looking at the lake,” says Lefebvre. “It’s like a different canvas every minute.” Her beloved cookbooks may be upstairs, but in a house this beautiful, she’s created a recipe for inspiration in every room.
More Photos from France Lefebvre's Okanagan Home
Cook Illustrated Designer France Lefebvre in her kitchen, where bookshelves on the island were designed to house her large cookbook collection.
A Layered Approach “I was not afraid to use a lot of different metals within the same area: I trusted it would all come together, which isn’t easy when you’re doing it piece by piece,” says designer France Lefebvre. First came the big silver vent. Then gold handles. Then bronze lamps. And yet, it all works. “Layering just makes a room interesting,” she adds.
Cohesive Collection In the dining room, a Calligaris Italian table is lined with chairs from Lee Industries with custom fabric from Romo and a chandelier from LBL Lighting. Prints from Wendover Art are framed in gold. The upstairs patio features a seating set from Costco, paired with white chairs from Pottery Barn and a World Market coffee table.
Golden Touch Lefebvre’s bedroom is roomy, with space for a daybed in an alcove by the window. It’s a cozy hideaway (she describes the Jordan’s wool carpet as “basically a big sweater”). The upholstered bed is from Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams and the bedding is from Nancy Koltes for Eastern Accents. Above the headboard hangs a ceremonial juju hat from Cameroon, and framed pressed botanical flowers from 1868 purchased at the Chicago Botanical Gardens Antique Show bring in a hit of nature.