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Designer Negar Ghorashi saves a mid-century West Vancouver home from the bulldozerand brings it beautifully into the present.
Photos by Ema Peter
When designer Negar Ghorashi spotted this 1959 Lewis post-and-beam in the Whytecliff neighbourhood of West Vancouver, it had been in a relatively untouched state for more than 40 years. But something about its location charmed her, the way it was perched up over the water in the woods yet still a part of a small community. “We were looking for the sense of calm that comes from being so close to nature,” says Ghorashi, who moved to Vancouver from Iran in 2001. “And that sense of neighbourhood that was hard to find in other parts of West Vancouver. When we came to see this house, people were out walking their dogs, and those dogs come strolling in now if we’re home and the door is open.”
And despite the chaos on the surrounding property—she and her husband had to haul out 15 trucks’ worth of garbage and dead trees from the yard once they got to work renovating—she spotted the potential. “We could see the feel we wanted to get,” she explains, “although the home didn’t have much to offer—except for that post-and-beam ceiling. My main concern was to keep the ceiling and work around it.” She was also committed to preserving the exterior look of the home and ensuring that it was in keeping with the neighbourhood; to wit, the addition she built to increase the square footage was kept small, and it was designed to not disturb any neighbouring views.
That extension allowed her some elbow room to create a master bedroom with a view and to rearrange some of the existing floor plan. Upstairs, of the three original bedrooms, Ghorashi kept one as a guest suite and converted one into a piano room and another into an open dining room, removing the walls so it overlooks the kitchen and living room on one side and out to the view beyond on the other. On the lower level, the new addition houses her office and a garage, while the former garage is now a cozy movie room.
And though the space’s design is modern, she kept the palette warm. “I wanted it to have the feel of nature to balance all the grey days here,” explains Ghorashi, whose design firm, Dancing Particles, gets its name from a Rumi poem. To start, the white-painted ceiling was sanded back to its original cedar and given a whitewash to enhance its natural grain. Acacia flooring was selected for its wild movement and the wave-like pattern of its grain.
She opened up the back exterior wall and replaced it with floor-to-ceiling glazing—30 feet of it across the wall that faces the ocean. Everything in the renovation is about preserving the view on that main floor, from the low-slung Rolf Benz sectional in the living room to the raised bar made of glass attached to the kitchen island—itself a rippling granite reminiscent of ocean waves. And when the functional parts of the room couldn’t be transparent—dark wood cabinetry, for example—she designed them to be engaging and sculptural, the darker wood of an overhead band of cabinetry seeming to disappear into a contrasting white lacquered wall of storage; the glossy finish on the cabinets serves to reflect the ocean vistas back to the viewer.
It’s in the smaller guest bathrooms where Ghorashi appears to have had the most fun. Attached to the movie room, a powder room features large-format tiles patterned with different news pages from a single day around the world, as well as a counter made from a single piece of wood. (The wood was selected from a pile of cut trees from the home of her general contractor, Ron Watton—who then cut the counter himself.) The ensuite attached to her lower-level office is tiled in graffiti art featuring the work of Banksy, with metallic-like flooring—a little urban element in an otherwise organic space.
The master bedroom is laid out as the most reserved, private space in the home—quietly designed with just a lounger, a bed, a fireplace and a flower-like reading light that delicately balances over the bed. The room itself is perched slightly higher than the rest of the home and is glass-walled on two sides. From the vantage point of her bed—positioned toward the view, of course—she and her husband can track the sunrise and all kinds of weather patterns over Howe Sound. “It’s the best place for West Coast storm watching,” says Ghorashi. “When it’s rainy and stormy, the whole room gets into the spirit—it’s just like a treehouse.” A perfect spot to take in the beauty of where architecture meets nature, and neighbourhood meets home.
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