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The owner of Liquidity Winery finds a piece of modern paradise, perched high over Okanagan Lake on the Naramata Bench.
Ian MacDonald can’t resist a big, juicy, complicated project. Almost seven years ago, the Montreal-born, Vancouver-based businessman bought a neglected vineyard in Okanagan Falls with a few friends from Calgary—though he knew next to nothing about viticulture. Undaunted, he took charge of a multi-year overhaul, turning Liquidity Wines into a tourist-friendly and acclaimed operation with a slick new winery complex, bistro, gallery and tasting room.Partway through the rebuild, MacDonald was already looking ahead to his next project. He was eager to build a home on the Naramata Bench, a winery-dense wedge of undulating hills and showy cliffs on the southeastern flank of Okanagan Lake. “It’s a perfect little spot,” he says. “It’s a dead-end road. It’s agricultural land, so you’ll never have a subdivision here on the lake. It’s very private. Every lot has extensive lake frontage—this one has 450 feet of it—and there’s only a handful of them.”He set his sights on an 8.5-acre property with views stretching from Peachland to Penticton and dreamed up a contemporary structure that would showcase the sweeping panoramas. “I’m a modernist at heart,” he says. “I wanted a box that would be a viewfinder to what’s in front of me here.”But executing that vision would be a challenge, to say the least. Steep gullies dominated the lot, which had been on and off the market for several years. The winding ridgetop driveway widened into an area that could barely fit an aging, cramped bungalow. Move three metres in any direction and you’d fall off a steep bank.MacDonald tapped a couple of engineers and Nicholas Hill of Ritchie Custom Homes, who was handling the Liquidity Wines revamp, to figure out whether building there was even possible. The upshot: a new structure would be stable only if it was built on the same tiny footprint as the existing house. In order to maximize the living space, MacDonald decided to cantilever the second floor, and he asked Hill to dig out the basement to create a full walkout. He also wrangled permission to include the attached carport in the home’s footprint.Now a 3,000-square-foot showpiece of cedar, concrete, stucco and glass gleams where the 1,240-square-foot bungalow once stood. MacDonald dubbed the place Flying Leap, a wry nod to the idiosyncrasies of the lot. “Building here was a bit of a leap of faith,” he says. “And if you go wandering off at night in the wrong direction, you’ll go for a very long flying leap.”
“Building here was a bit of a leap of faith.”
The second-floor great room is the home’s showpiece, an expansive living room and kitchen where MacDonald frequently entertains (or enjoys spectacular sunsets). The underlying structure is, according to MacDonald, “basically the first floor of a skyscraper,” a massive steel cage that eliminated the need for pillars, which would have cluttered the room and impeded the gasp-inducing views.The finishes play up those clean lines—there isn’t a baseboard or fussy window treatment in the whole building. (MacDonald brought Calgary designer Connie Young on board to work with him on the design.) The custom walnut staircase has minimalist glass railings, and a five-foot-wide linear Napoleon fireplace delivers a graphic black slash in a mostly white space. Meanwhile, the kitchen, by Vancouver’s Room8, boasts a sleek bank of walnut cabinets that conceal necessities like the fridge and a coffee bar. Two large islands (one for prepping and one for dining) are paired with Kartell’s streamlined white Spoon stools.Still, the stark, modern scheme does make room for a few industrial details. “At one point I lived in a converted warehouse and just loved it,” he says. Two exposed steel beams, lightly ground polished concrete floors, and the rough wood grain of the locally milled Douglas fir ceiling add texture to the space, as does a low-profile Baxter couch in a velvety grey. MacDonald’s extensive art collection also delivers a punch of personality throughout the home. The pieces, which move freely between the house and Liquidity, include works by prominent Canadian artists like Martha Sturdy, Brent Comber and Jeff Burgess, all shown off by gallery-grade lighting.The great room feeds into an office, a small library, a powder room and a pantry, as well as a truly immense master bedroom where the carport once stood. While the bedroom contains a pair of striking light fixtures and a large-scale painting by B.C. artist Vaughn Neville, it’s an oversized soaker tub clad in Calacatta marble that draws the most comments. So is MacDonald shy about taking a bath in front of an eight-foot-wide, seven-foot-high wall of glass? “Well, there’s nobody to look in,” he says. “The nearest visible house is about a kilometre away. It’s really just orchards and vineyards out there.”Visitors have their own space downstairs, which contains two kitted-out guest suites, as well as a media room, a fitness area and a storage space with a chilled wine wall. There’s also a galley kitchen that opens onto an expansive terrace overlooking the lake, a set-up that cries out for leisurely al fresco meals with friends.MacDonald yielded to that impulse last July, when he threw a raucous housewarming bash to toast the close of the project. The outdoor, sit-down dinner for 70 was followed by live music on two stages, plus a light show and a bar down by the water. The highlights: the spectacular views, of course—and a full complement of Liquidity wine that flowed freely all night long.
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