Photos by Janis Nicolay

You wouldn’t know it now, of course, but when Kalu Interiors principal Phyllis Lui first encountered this Vancouver Special in East Vancouver, it was in such pristine retro condition that it was almost unsettling. “Walking into the home originally was like going into a time warp,” Lui laughs.

Everything was in original condition, and although the home had never been updated, the original owner (who was also the original builder) had kept everything meticulous and clean… down to the retro appliances that looked like they’d never been used.

Lui has a lot of respect for the classic West Coast architectural form, but to make the space functional for a modern family, there was certainly some work to be done. “Anyone that has grown up in Vancouver knows of the homes and can draw out the layout from memory, so we wanted to embrace the history while modernizing the home,” she says.

That meant giving that iconic layout a nudge into the 21st century. Lui and design partner Aleem Kassam took out the walls separating the kitchen, dining and living spaces to create a large open space for entertaining.

In the primary bedroom, they took out the walk-in closet and powder room and instead created a millwork closet and a full ensuite, complete with a sizeable shower and trough-style sink with two faucets. Fresh grey-green cabinetry, pops of black and gold and warm flooring (Ames Inspire Winter Wheat vinyl planks) throughout gave everything a new lease on life, and the architectural history still shines through.

“You can maintain the original personality of the home and still have something new and updated to live in when done properly,” says Lui. “An old house can be given new life.”

Photos: Inside a Thoroughly Updated Vancouver Special

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KITCHEN COOL The cabinetry in the kitchen and ensuite (by Luminous Cabinets) were painted a beautiful gray-green, hitting that suite spot between on-trend colour and timeless neutral. The custom kitchen island was manufactured without any seams or joints for a slick, elevated feel. The gold handles on the GE Café fridge and range add an additional level of luxury. On the floors, Lui installed hardwearing vinyl plank.

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NEAT NOOK In the kitchen nook, a Restoration Hardware pendant hangs above a wood table with marble base from Sunpan. The rattan dining chairs are from Mercana.

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DESIGN DETAILS The fridge and range are a matching set from GE Café, while the hood fan is from Smeg. Hinkley lights from Robinson Lighting and Bath illuminate the kitchen. C&S Tile backsplash and drawer pulls from Etsy are the perfect finishing touches; a NuGranite black sink from Pearl Sinks is paired here with a Riobel faucet.

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ISLAND TIME In the kitchen, a wood veneer island is topped with quartz from Alpha Stone.

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vancouver special kitchen

GATHER AROUND A Structube dining table is surrounded by Style In Form chairs.

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TAKE A SEAT In the living room, black chairs from Carte Blanche flank a green sofa from Nuevo. The coffee table comes from Mobital, and sits atop a CB2 rug.

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BACK TO BLACK Touches of black throughout give the space a more modern flair, with new black-frame windows, black-painted doors (in Benjamin Moore Onyx) and a grid-style shower wall.

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SPECIAL TOUCHES Kuzo pendant lights hang by a CB2 mirror. The floor tiles are Form Series hexagons from Ames Tile.

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MAKE AN IMPACT Lui sourced the wall mural in the primary bedroom from Etsy, and the ceiling light from Kuzco. West Elm side tables are topped with Crate and Barrel lamps.

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MAKE A SPLASH Formica laminate countertops brighten up the ensuite; plumbing and lighting was sourced from Robinson Lighting and Bath.

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WOODEN WONDER In the ensuite, wood tile from Olympia Tile covers the floor and feature wall. George Kovacs sconces are mounted about a Wet Style sink.

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OFF THE WALL Wallpaper from Anthropologie makes the laundry room into something special.