Western Living Magazine
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A sweeping window and an understated elegance makes this home in Victoria the perfect balance of timeless design and modernity.
It all began with a window.In 2007, Sue and Stephen had purchased a waterfront lot in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay and were in the early stages of planning their dream house when Sue recalled a window she had seen in a West Vancouver home. It was curved and ran the length of the wall, wrapping around the corners of the house and dramatically extending the vista like the bridge of a ship.Sue says it was an inspiration for their future home: a gleaming portal to the outdoors, framed by the traditional architecture they had developed an appreciation for while living in the U.S.Working with Rus Collins and Lorin Turner of Zebra Group, a local custom home builder and interior design firm, the couple embarked on a two-year building process. Much of the planning revolved around the site itself, says Collins, which set the parameters of the project. A steep slope from the street to the shoreline of Gonzales Bay allowed for two storeys up and, after a successful application for a variance to the residential zoning, a full basement walkout below, creating space for guests, a wine cellar and a bathroom convenient to the pool area.Naturally, each level of the nearly 4,500-square-foot house capitalizes on sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains in northwestern Washington state beyond. The uninterrupted coastal scenery—towering, weather-beaten coniferous trees, rocky outcroppings and blue-grey water—feels suited to a weekend retreat, though it’s a mere five-minute drive to downtown Victoria.For Sue, a dentist, and Stephen, an orthopaedic surgeon, and their children Nicole, 13, and Jamie, 9, the property is an oasis of calm in their busy lives. “We make it our vacation at home every day,” says Sue. “We love the escape it gives us.” A pair of chaise longues in the easternmost corner of the backyard is the perfect vantage point from which to take in summer sunsets that stretch into the night; the charcoal granite tiles used throughout the terrace retain just the right amount of solar heat. “In other areas, or parts of the southern U.S., the tiles would get too hot to walk on,” says Stephen, “but here, they’re the perfect temperature.”For the exterior, Collins took his cues from the architecture of the Eastern Seaboard, incorporating a steeply pitched roofline, white panelling, limestone masonry and shingle siding that was stained—after many rounds of testing—a custom Benjamin Moore colour intended to reference that of driftwood. Over time, it will continue to weather and add to the house’s character. Says Collins: “They wanted the house to look timeless.”Many of the materials and finishes used outside were carefully incorporated into the interiors: the garage doors and the front entrance introduce the rich cherrywood tone used in the engineered hardwood flooring throughout the house; the panelling detail repeats in the main-floor columns and newel posts of the winding staircase and open landing; the limestone reappears in the two-way fireplace that separates the open living room from the dining room. It was all part of a meticulous plan to make the house and the grounds read as one continuous space—albeit one that balances a traditional aesthetic with coastal, family-friendly living. (Photo: Jo-Ann Richards.)For the interior design, once again, the nautically influenced living-room window set a course. Lorin Turner, who oversaw that phase of the project, repeated the window’s curved shape in a custom sofa designed by Victoria-based Kory Larsen Design Furniture. She also added a coffered ceiling to keep the space formal and to delineate it from the rest of the mostly open main floor.In the kitchen, the balancing act continued. Many family meals happen in a rush around the island, so Emeco Navy stools were chosen for their comfort and durability. The stools’ metallic finish was carried up to the ceiling in a trio of mercury-glass pendants by Jamie Young Co. in California, which Sue had seen in a magazine and purchased before the house was built. A run of classic three-by-six subway tiles and face-frame cabinetry with furniture-style kickplates continues to the dining room, where it meets a built-in mirror-backed cabinet designed to look like a china hutch. The couple purchased the dining table many years ago at an antiques fair outside of Chicago; its inset end leaves extend, allowing 10 people to dine comfortably. Overhead, an S-shaped Schonbek chandelier strung with Swarovski crystals keeps the views unobstructed but the formality in place.Upstairs, each of the three bedrooms has its own ensuite and is tailored to its occupants. For Nicole’s bathroom, Turner chose Pratt and Lambert’s bright turquoise Chanteuse for the wall colour, a departure from the rest of the house’s calm palette of warm whites, greys and browns. In the master bathroom, his-and-hers sinks were separated, creating a makeup area for her and creating views from both his sink and the corner soaker tub. Stephen’s schedule often means early rises, so in a clever bit of space planning, their suite flows clockwise from the bedroom to the bathroom to the dressing room and out to the hallway.Now, nearly five years after completion, Collins says the house remains one of his most popular, a sign, perhaps, that everyone involved bridged the gap between city house and summer escape. “We love coming home at the end of the day,” says Sue, adding, “There’s nothing I would change.” (Photo: Jo-Ann Richards.)
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