The central tenets of West Coast modern design are almost always about clean lines, indoor-outdoor connections and muted tones—but rarely does colour take a starring role. The conventional wisdom is that saturated hues—all ‘hey look at me’—tend to be the antithesis of west coast living, which hews low-key and monochromatic.
But when Cara Hansen of Triple Dot Design was hired by a local artist to reimagine a circa 1971 Vancouver Special, she jumped in. “It’s so rare to be able to do a house with colour!” she says. “The owner is a glass-blower and loves vibrant shades, which really reflects who she and her family are because they’re such a fun, energetic family.” The use of colour freed her from the usual design playbook to create an exuberant space that perfectly reflects the personalities within.
While the east side house came with the usual constraints associated with Vancouver Specials—formulaic and boxy—Hansen set to work highlighting its best features—ample space and storied history all with an eye towards bold expression that hits just the right note.
“We wanted the first view of the house to be really inviting,” says Hansen. To brighten up the “dark and basement-like” front entryway, the front door was swapped out in favour of one that featured a glass panel to allow for more natural light. Glass side panels on either side of the door were also installed and light now floods the space.
The designer replaced the “really awful” original linoleum with a bold 8” x 8” Deco Geo Monochrome tile, which was laid out in a customized pattern to create the most fun and interesting pattern. “The family appreciated the charm and heritage of this Vancouver Special,” says Hansen. As such, she opted to keep the original stair railings and simply powder-coat them in a brushed gold.
Pops of blue abound: The custom dining-room table with powder-coated metal base in turquoise was designed by the homeowner herself. She wanted something big to fit the whole family, but not something so precious that her young children couldn’t do their arts and crafts on it.
“Vancouver Special kitchens are usually postage stamp-sized,” says Hansen. The main floor laundry was moved upstairs while a pantry was added to house all the food and small appliances. Because the family loves to cook and bake, the designer created an 11-foot island with prep space, a wine fridge and garbage pull-out.
The back of the island presented a problem: the owner wanted something with personality, but wallpaper presented durability issues while none of the dozens of tiles they looked at “sparked joy.” In the end, the artist owner fell in love with the colourful Summer Garden wallpaper by Milton & King, which was then protected from shoes by a sheet of plexiglass crafted by the cabinet maker. “It’s really bold and fun—and now the showstopper of this kitchen!” says Hansen.
The island was originally going to be a bright blue, but when the designer got the cabinet sample in a primary blue, it just wasn’t right. Fortunately, the client agreed. In the end, they chose Benjamin Moore’s Light Pistachio for the island to complement the grey cabinets. “With colour, it’s important to make sure you love it because it’s a commitment,” says Hansen.
The quartz countertop—“Fresh Concrete” by Caesarstone—ensures a low-maintenance, durable surface while cabinets are painted in a low-sheen Benjamin Moore light Wickham Grey paired with brushed brass handles.
With such a large kitchen island, the scale of the overhead lights needed to be appropriate. The client wanted something dramatic, but simple and so these lights from Schoolhouse straddle that fine line between both. “They checked all the boxes and had gold detail on the top to tie in all the materials,” says the designer.
A blue vanity offers a pop of colour in an otherwise all-white bathroom. “The client wanted something peaceful, but also something playful,” says Hansen. “This tropical “Cool Aqua” still feels classic against a traditional hexagon tile floor and elegant brass detail.
In the master bath, a coral vanity in Tangerine Dream came about when the client fell in love with the moth-patterned wallpaper Midnight Flyers by Kate Rhees. “I thought it would be overpowering,” says Hansen, “but we ended up pulling the tangerine colour from one of the moths so it didn’t compete—we committed to going bold in that room and it works!”
When the designer proposes the colour blue to her clients, she finds that 98% of the time they love it. “I think it’s because we have so much blue in our environment so we’re more accepting of it—our water is blue, our sky is blue, our mountains almost look blue.”