Editorial Director Anicka Quin on Western Living‘s 50th Anniversary

Fifty years ago, Western Living was born on a kitchen table, and I can’t think of a more fitting launchpad for the five-decade journey that followed.

As we celebrate this magazine’s half-century of reflecting life in Western Canada, It’s worthwhile to note that its history goes even deeper than that. Its predecessor, Western Homes and Living, still has many a fan for its ’50s- and ’60s-era documentation and celebration of West Coast Modernism. But when it folded in 1970, Liz and Jack Bryan picked up the torch, reinvented, and carried on.

Liz—an editor at WHL—and her husband Jack founded Western Living in 1971, after Liz began feeling disheartened by the lack of B.C.-based magazines. And she soon discovered she wasn’t alone. READ MORE 

1. Cornelia Oberlander, the Connector

By Amelia Sullivan
The thing about Cornelia Oberlander is that, yes, she was a landscape architect’s landscape architect. But she was also a planner’s landscape architect, an academic’s landscape architect and, without a doubt, an architect’s landscape architect. Her talent and skills spanned disciplines and, whether an eager student or a weary professional, you could be inspired by her. READ MORE

Arthur Erickson 008

2. Arthur Erickson, the Rulebreaker

By Michael Green
When I was young, I didn’t know any architects. What I knew was that I loved to build and draw and that certain buildings made me feel different, though I wasn’t sure why. My mother would bring home library books on architecture and I would pore over them. Year after year, Arthur Erickson’s work resonated most for me. READ MORE

3. When Past Became Present Again

Originally built in 1972, it enjoyed a respectful rehabilitation in 2017—gracefully executed by BattersbyHowat—which was featured in these pages. READ MORE

4. Reclaiming the Vancouver Special

Thousands of Vancouver Special-style houses were built between 1965 and 1985, popular for their affordability and the way they maximized the square footage of narrow city lots. But while the ubiquity of the front-gabled, two-storey homes made them seem, well, less-than-special to some critics, as a new generation of architects tackle renovations and makeovers, the oft-maligned form has gained a newfound appreciation. READ MORE

5. All of Our Love for the Infill

How did Calgary, a city whose population density rivals that of Ulaanbaatar, come up with the infill? The engineering and design feat, wherein a single-family home on a standard 50-foot lot gives way to two freestanding homes on their own 25-foot lots, seems like it should be the purview of packed Kitsilano, not rolling Marda Loop. READ MORE

Kelowna photographers. Adrian Photographers specializing in photography in Kelowna, the Okanagan and BC.

6. Confession: We Can Never Resist a Good Cantilever

Show us a home that seems to float above the West Coast wilderness, and we’re swooning. READ MORE

7. We’ll Never Tire of an Open-Concept Kitchen

Here’s a Western Living drinking game you should never play: take a shot every time we quote someone saying the kitchen is “the heart of the home.”

But even with the frequency this phrase shows up in our interviews with designers, homeowners and architects, it never feels cliché or forced. It’s just the truth—the kitchen is at the centre of it all. READ MORE

8. Douglas Cardinal Is a Visionary

There’s a school of thought that if Doug Cardinal had been born in Toronto, he’d be hands-down Canada’s most famous architect. That if the sweeping, utterly original lines of St. Mary’s Church had been in Rosedale, instead of his native Red Deer, his name would be known by high school students. That if the striking regional college he designed was in North York, not Grand Prairie, his name would be spoken with the same reverence used for his iconoclastic inspiration, Frank Lloyd Wright. READ MORE

9. The Material World of Patkau Architecture

It’s a little different today, but for roughly the first 35 years of Patkau Architects’ existence, an observer might have looked at the Vancouver firm’s extraordinary but scant output and thought, gosh, is that all that these people produce? READ MORE

10. James Cheng, the Man Behind the Skyline

By Mitchell Freedland
I’d never planned to run my own business as an interior designer. So when I moved to Vancouver from Toronto back in 1989, I narrowed down my job search to three firms, with the thought of growing within the company. James Cheng’s architectural firm was one of the three, and luckily he hired me that day. READ MORE

11. Peter Cardew, the Quiet Modernist

By David Battersby
I met Peter when I was in my mid-20s through my close friend Michael Kothke, who was working with him at the time. As a young architect, I was in awe of Peter and envious of my friend’s opportunity to work with someone held in such high regard. Over two decades of becoming acquainted with Peter, I came to understand that he, for good or bad, completely dedicated his life to architecture and design in a way that most people could not imagine nor have the energy for. READ MORE

12. The True West Architecture of Jeremy Sturgess

In 2003 when we created the Residential Design Awards Hall of Fame, our very first inductee was Jeremy Sturgess. In part, it recognized that, while he often did important commercial work, at its heart the architecture firm he founded in Calgary in the early 1980s was predominantly focused on designing beautiful modern houses. READ MORE

13. The Princes of Bel-Aire

We love seeing how designers create a space when they’re their own client, and for our Designers at Home issue in January 2015, that meant touring one of our all-time favourite houses: the home of designer Paul Lavoie, whose work has appeared regularly in the magazine in four decades now. READ MORE

14. Douglas Cridland, King of the Prairies

By Paul Lavoie
When I graduated from Mount Royal back in 1987, I had two job offers—one was in commercial work, and the other was with Douglas Cridland. I ran the dilemma by my instructor, and she said, “Well, you’ll either get the Hollywood of Western Canada, or you’ll be stuck behind a desk. You know what you need to do.” READ MORE

15. The Classic Elegance of Coco Cran

Trendy, Coco Cran was not. The grand dame of Calgary designers grew up in Europe with a diplomat father (he was Norway’s consul general to France), and even after relocating to Alberta in the early 1970s, she never lost that touch of continental glamour. READ MORE

16. The Enduring Legacy of Joe Wai

Looking through five decades of archives, It’s astounding to see how often a celebrated place seems to embody the famed architect who created it. Bold and unconventional personalities tend to make bold and unconventional buildings. So when one looks at the understated facade of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, is it really hard to appreciate how the creation of this first formal Chinese garden outside of Mainland China sprung from the imagination of the low-key Joe Wai? READ MORE

17. The Undeniable Brilliance of Robert Ledingham

We moved into Robert Ledingham’s former office in Vancouver in 2015, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve looked at some aspect of the space and thought: Bob really did think of everything here. He designed it in 1986—and while we’ve made minor updates to the space, its layout and bones are both timeless and so thoughtfully considered. READ MORE

18. In Praise of Alda Pereira’s Ever-Evolving Design

we’re never more thrilled than when we can peek behind the curtains into the homes of some of our favourite designers, and Alda Pereira‘s Vancouver home was a highlight in our January/February 2014 issue. READ MORE

19. Design Is in Our DNA

Is a passion for design nature or nurture? It’s impossible to say, but the number of design families in our midst seems to suggest DNA may play a role. Perusing the archives, we€™ve been reminded of the handful of design dynasties our region has bred: acclaimed architects who raised a second generation of acclaimed architects. READ MORE

20. The Future Looks Bright, Too

Bring on the next 50 years. We couldn€™t be more excited about the next generation of designers in the West—they’re creative, resilient and ready to take on the world. Here are a few favourites you’ll surely be seeing again in our pages to come. READ MORE

21. We Embraced PoMo…and Then Snubbed It

Eye-rolling at old trends is almost as fun as celebrating new ones. That was certainly the case with this Kitsilano mixed-use home that was called “chic” and “grand” in a 1985 issue and then “possibly a little too perfect” and “certainly a little too colourful” in 2001. READ MORE

22. We Still Want to Live in This Houseboat

Please consider this our formal request to board this Bob Todd-designed houseboat. READ MORE

23. We’re All About the Views

They say life’s about the journey, not the destination—but any hiker will tell you It’s hard to beat the view from the top. Here in the West, we’re blessed with some of the most beautiful mountainscapes, seascapes and even skyscapes in the country, and our designers know how to craft a space that does the view justice. READ MORE

24. We Love Tiny Homes

Tiny homes may be trending in 2021, but the idea of living small—especially in forever-overpriced Vancouver—has had appeal for decades. Back in 2001, we ran a feature on a trio of sub-1,000-square-foot lots (bottom right), with homeowners who managed to squeeze Japanese sculptures, chandeliers and, heck, even a kid into spaces that looked far roomier than the floor plan would have you think. READ MORE

25. When Mr. Christmas Opened His Doors

Back in August 2015, a photo crew piled into proud Burnabarian Michael Bublé’s home with evergreens, packages tied up with string and plenty of warm-weather clothing to style up Christmas’s favourite crooner for our holiday issue. We€™d had access to his house a little earlier, so by the time he opened the door to his own home, it had been transformed into a winter wonderland—during a summer heatwave. READ MORE

26. A Jeweller with a Passion for FLW

Karl Stittgen was nearly 40 years into his career as a successful jewellery designer when he decided to take on an altogether different kind of project in 1991: a home on Pender Island that was a tribute to his architectural hero, Frank Lloyd Wright. READ MORE

27. We’re a Dog’s Best Friend

Dogs have always had a special place in our hearts, but they also have a special place in our homes. READ MORE

28. Cottage Country Has Nothing on Us

Ontario, you can keep Muskoka. we’re happy with our own take on cottage country: the heaven-on-earth that is a West Coast cabin. READ MORE

29. Martha Sturdy’s Enviable Style

The polyglot that is Martha Sturdy is definitely in the running for most consistent presence in WL over the years. There she is in March 1984 as a model, rocking her own soon-to-be-ubiquitous oversized jewellery. And then, ten years later, there’s a page of her on-point experiments in resin. Then, another seven years later, her furniture design is front and centre, and countless times in between too numerous to mention. READ MORE

30. Our Furniture Designers Bring the Outside In

Yes, yes, making furniture out of wood is nothing new. (“Have you heard of chairs?” You’re probably screaming at us right now.) But hear us out: there’s something uniquely West Coast about the celebration of this material in all its raw, rugged glory—and there’sno one who does it better than Brent ComberREAD MORE

31. Judson Beaumont’s Toontown World

“If you look in the dictionary, under which entry would we find you?” we asked furniture designer Judson Beaumont in our Summer 1999 issue. “Wacky,” he responded. As anyone who’s toured 1000 Parker Street in Vancouver knows, the first time you stumbled into Beaumont’s studio, Straight Line Designs, was a trip. READ MORE

32. The Collective Soul: Hothouse vs. Pure Design

What are the odds that early-1990s Edmonton would birth not one but two acclaimed design collectives that achieved a meteoric rise to international prominence and have seen their work shipped from Alberta’s capital to all corners of the globe?  READ MORE

33. The Design Genius of Omer Arbel

Like most of the design industry, we’ve been fans of Omer Arbel‘s process-driven work for a very long time. We featured his 2.4 chair—designed two years before his 14.0 Bocci lights became the new modernist standard for pendant lighting, materializing anywhere a space needed a hit of glassy drama—back in 2003. READ MORE

34. All in the Family

Given that Western Living has inspired generations of readers to design their dream home, is it any surprise that some of our favourite designers would have been similarly inspired by the magazine—albeit from the other side of that dream-home equation? Propellor Design‘s Nik Rust saw his family home featured back in 1974. READ MORE

35. We’re Into Art

If you look at the walls of the homes we’ve featured, it seems like we’ve shown more Shadbolts than the VAG and more de Grandmaisons than the Glenbow. READ MORE

36. We (Unofficially) Declared the 2010s the Decade of the Moooi Random Light

There’s something about the Random light that Western Canadian designers can’t get enough of… but we don’t blame them. The playful piece from Dutch design firm Moooi has seemed perfectly at home in dozens of different projects over the years. READ MORE

37. Wallpaper Is Always In. Always.

The design detail that seems to get rediscovered every decade. READ MORE

38. Wood Panelling Is Also Always In

Wood you dare to disagree? READ MORE

39. Remember the Time We Went to Trevor Linden’s House?

Turns out, he likes wood panelling too, if this 2012 story about his Evoke-designed Whistler townhouse is any indication. READ MORE

40. A Spiraling Home, Times Two

A place so nice, it was featured twice. The Spiral House, designed by architect Rol Fieldwalker, first appeared in Western Living in November 1976. At the time, we described the West Vancouver home’s circular design as “like a whelk shell or chambered nautilus”—which is 1970s code for “looks like a snail, in the best way.” READ MORE

41. We’ve Always Embraced Staying at Home

While flipping through our archives, we did find a surprising number of stories that were pandemic-friendly. It was a striking reminder that, for us, home has always been important—even when we weren’t forced to stay in. For example, there’s “50 Reasons to Stay Home This Summer” by Jim Sutherland in our May 1992 issue, including “fresh corn, straight from the field” in every province, feeling the earth shake at Skookumchuck Narrows on the Sunshine Coast, the 200-plus flavours at (the still churning) MacKay’s Ice Cream just north of Calgary, and—weirdly—watching kangaroo rats scamper around in Osoyoos. READ MORE

42. A Brief History of Western Living Fashion

We tend not to cover much fashion these days in the magazine (save for our celebration of the West’s most talented fashion minds in our annual Designers of the Year awards), but that hasn’t always been the case. Throughout the years, the magazine has dabbled in sartorial coverage—and while the looks may not all have aged well, the timeless creativity of the art team still shines through. READ MORE

43. We’ve Thrown Some Epic Dinner Parties

From “The Thursday Night Feast” (February 1978) to “Paella by the Pool” (June 1984), Western Living recipes have always aimed to serve up a good time. READ MORE

44. We Have the Best Home Cooks Around

While rooting through old issues of Western Living we found plenty of columns worth reviving in print (our Letters to the Editor was not one of them—turns out mean comments have been a thing long before the internet). One of our favourites is the recipe contest. We challenged home cooks across the West to send us their best recipes, and printed the winners. READ MORE

45. As Much as We Love Modern Cooking, We’ll Always Have a Soft Spot for Classy Chicken

Best of Bridge is a Western Canadian classic: a collection that started as a handbound book of recipes from a group of bridge-playing Calgary pals back in 1975 and has evolved into one of the West’s bestselling cookbook brands. So when we posted the Classy Chicken recipe up online a few years back in an off-handed post about comfort food, should we really have been surprised that it became one of our most-viewed recipes everREAD MORE

46. Our Chefs Are True to Their Roots

In this 1996 feature, called “A Japanese Picnic,” chef Daryle Ryo Nagata says he grew up eating his grandma’s cooking: “Japanese versions of western things.” It’s a menu that rings true for many children and grandchildren of immigrants.  READ MORE

47. Growing Step by Step with B.C. Wine

Wine has always been part of WL, from the earliest days. Back then, the options for the Western Canadian consumers were… sparse, but our esteemed columnists—David Rodger and then Sid Cross—made sure our readers knew the difference between brunello and beaujolais. READ MORE

48. Our Writer Crashes on the Most-Feared Climb of the Tour de France

One of the great joys of this magazine is when we get to send Western Canada’s greatest writers on travel assignments around the globe to bring the essence of a place back to our readers. One such memorable piece followed Edmonton’s Curtis Gillespie as he trekked to France to attempt to ride a bike up the Alpe d’Huez, the most feared climb of the Tour de France. On the upside, he made it. On the downside, he crashed on the descent, destroying a $10,000 (borrowed) bike in the process. READ MORE

49. We Came, We Saw, We Partied

Designers of the Year launched in 2008, and it’s been one terrific party ever since that first night in a show suite for the (never to open, it would turn out) Ritz-Carlton Hotel. READ MORE

50. We Covered it All

That’s a wrap, folks. After months of brainstorming, rooting through archives, writing up stories, scanning old issues and piecing it all together, we’re ending where it begins—the covers. While some are dated (“Great Kitchens for Men Who Cook”) and some are ridiculously on-the-nose (“Strawberry Fields Forever,” featuring an adorable redheaded kid), all are a part of our history. We hope you enjoyed this journey through the past as much as we did. READ MORE