Clever architectural adjustments turn a basic Richmond unit into a multi-purpose master class.

When Travis Hanks and Shirley Shen of Haeccity Studio Architecture started this  redesign in Richmond, they didn’t realize how thoroughly the theme of “transition” would guide the project. At surface level, it was obvious: the homeowners were transitioning from Vancouver to Richmond, from full-time work to retirement and from single-family home to hassle-free condo.

But accommodating the couple’s needs meant creating multi-functional spaces that physically could transition and transform, too: each room and corridor built to adapt.

At 1,500 square feet, this three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse was a block from the SkyTrain, close to the airport and surrounded by amenities—plus, it featured mountain views. The homeowners knew the unit’s location would suit them long term, but they needed a design that could do the same, something that went beyond the suite’s original design, which Shen called “a bland idea of luxury”: the Miele appliances were high end and the finishes were polished, but overall it was deeply impersonal.

So Shen and Hanks set out to swap cold and impersonal for elegant and intentional. And the first step was getting to know their clients’ needs. A visit to their Vancouver home alerted the designers that the owners had a lot of stuff—storage would be a main priority—and their Chinese heritage needed to be considered.

The duo found themselves focused on the entryway and hallway: “In their culture, you exchange your shoes for house slippers; there’s a ritual of changing at the front door,” says Hanks. He and Shen opened unfinished space to the right of the door and added drop-down storage, creating room for the homeowners’ shoes and keys without cluttering the hallway. One transitional need satisfied, they moved on to the next.

“We didn’t want the staircase to be an empty place between the places you wanted to be,” says Shen. So she replaced a utilitarian banister with solid wood in a soft cherry finish, routing LED lights underneath “to light the path to the kitchen,” and upgraded a grey carpet to a merino wool number to keep joint impact to a minimum. “A lot of condo buildings tick the boxes, but don’t think in-depth about how the human body engages with the space,” Shen explains. Bocci lights—an iconic Vancouver touch—add warmth to the dining room.

Upstairs, they wanted to add interest and function into an otherwise blank corridor. They built a puzzle of cabinets with cherry-wood accents leading into the bedroom—which needed some love of its own.

“There were a lot of protrusions in the space; it was generous but choppy,” says Shen. “And the owners were concerned about feng shui around the bed.” Haeccity smoothed out the walls and carried the bed’s colour palette throughout, but storage remained a concern—and since most walls were glass, there wasn’t much to work with. Haeccity built cubbies here and there, capitalizing on every inch. The owners didn’t like seeing hardware, so drawers got integral pulls—a feature replicated in every room.

Back downstairs, the kitchen’s transition was minor (those high-end Miele appliances stayed put). A zebrawood veneer was traded for refined bamboo finishes, and customized inserts were added in cupboards and drawers. Which brought Haeccity to a final transitional space: the owners couldn’t choose between a home office or a guest room, so Haeccity gave them both, building a desk on a track that slides out of the way depending on need.

Fast-forward to today, and while the homeowners’ lives may still be in transition, this penthouse redesign is complete…and ready for whatever life changes come next.