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Project 22 Design transforms an outdated, inefficient abode into a creative home for a modern family.
When a client walks into a meeting wearing a pair of oxblood-coloured shoes, an observant designer takes note. And for Denise Ashmore, principal of Vancouver-based Project 22 Design, those deep red shoes were a beacon of inspiration for a rather gloomy home.
The Kitsilano house, which had been broken up into four suites over its 109-year history, was in “a great state of disrepair,” says Ashmore. In fact, she elaborates, it was “hacked up,” “butchered” and “lacking all of its former charm”—in other words, in need of a major reno.
Still, the clients—a couple with seven-year-old twins—weren’t discouraged. This would be their first family home in Canada, and they saw the potential the space had to grow with them. Ashmore and her team brought their vision to life by puzzling together modern design elements with traditional details and plenty of colour. And that’s where those shoes came in.
In the kitchen, oxblood millwork clads the island, and the hue translates down into the terrazzo-tiled floor. “The clients wanted to have a playful house, nothing boring or expected,” says Ashmore. The purple-y red continues in the door to the wok kitchen, a hardworking room that was cleverly designed to fit under the staircase. The breakfast nook stands in memory of the pre-reno space: it’s the same shape and size as the original nook, but reclad in a dramatic stained oak.
The stained-glass windows are also a nod to the past—Ashmore and her team removed them, documented their positions and reinstalled them to preserve an element of the home’s history. Those windows shed a whimsical light on the kids’ homework zone, and frame the statement-making limestone fireplace in the living room.
It was important to both the designer and the clients to have functioning space for every family member: even ones who don’t live in the house. The goal for the basement was to turn it into a separate suite for visiting relatives, but low seven-foot ceilings made it feel dark and cramped. The solution? Picking the entire home up and placing it on a new foundation on the same property, which created an extra two feet of headroom.
Rooms that didn’t serve the family’s needs were scrapped and replaced (for example, what was once a tiny office by the stair landing is now an airy reading nook for bedtime stories) and new, practical spaces were created (for example, the storage-heavy mudroom). “The kids are really into sports and swimming at the beach—you know, all the things that require space and gear and different shoes,” explains the designer.
And through it all, there’s a mix of colour, pattern and texture that feels fresh. “The clients liked the classical form of the house, but they definitely love an international flair,” says the designer. That flair is especially evident in the home’s bathrooms. The powder room is dressed in a striking jungle wallpaper and has a gorgeous emerald green-tiled shower. The primary ensuite bathroom sports a geometric Mutina tile and a bright bathtub—the tub is original, but was re-enamelled and painted… in oxblood, of course. The double shower is enclosed by glass and a modern, clean-lined metalwork frame that’s repeated in the home office (notably with frosted glass, to preserve privacy while still welcoming in natural light).
Perhaps the greatest example of atypical but functional design in this home is the primary bedroom: rather than having the headboard cozied up to a wall, the bed stands proudly in the centre of the room. The placement ensured that the balcony view was visible from bed. “We talked about putting a screen behind it,” says Ashmore, “but in the end, having a vaulted ceiling and a super dramatic light fixture made it feel more sculptural.” Instead of being included simply as essential piece of furniture, the bed acts as a work of art.
The renovation embraces radical but mindful change: parts of the original home were carefully selected for preservation, while contemporary furnishings and unconventional solutions combine to create a space that will serve the family for decades to come. “This is a very special place that they are going to raise their family in,” says the designer, “and it was such an amazing opportunity to be a part of it.”
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