– Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Don Denton
Deep in Cordova Bay, perched on a cliff overlooking a spectacular view of the San Juan Islands, sits a house that’s been given an entirely new life. With its bright exterior, large tiled patio and open breezeway connecting the garage and main building, the entire home is immediately welcoming, with an airy, beach-house vibe. But it was a journey to get it there.
“We touched every surface, removed every window and ripped all the siding off,” says Chris Lacey, owner of Bowcey Construction, explaining that the entire house was gutted and rebuilt from the ground up, with the renovation taking about a year to complete.
Built in 1969, the three-bedroom house needed an enormous amount of work, but the location was compelling enough that it warranted the undertaking. With cedars, firs and one lone arbutus tree framing the view behind the house, the property is the epitome of a west coast vista, and it’s breathtaking.
“You’d never expect you’d get the views you get here,” says Chris, who grew up in the area. “The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular, and the eagles flying through here are just unbelievable.”
Moving inside the home, Chris leads the way through the walk-in pantry that also serves as a mudroom. We duck around a corner and emerge into the wide open space that houses the kitchen, dining area and sunken living room, all of it suffused in an incredible amount of bright, natural light. It’s a typical grey Victoria day, but between a bright palette, a wall of glass overlooking the ocean, vaulted ceilings and skylights, it’s cheery enough to dispel any early spring blahs.
The overall vibe of the design is light, airy and beachy, a perfect meeting of homeowner and designer visions.
“The homeowner really wanted to create a home that was relaxing and a bit of a blank slate, not too much pattern, contrast or busyness,” says Adrienne Hempstock, interior designer with Jenny Martin Design.
“Given the original era of the home—the tail end of the mid-century modern era—it was important that we worked within the existing feeling of the home, namely its beams, vaulted ceilings and cedar paneling. Whatever we added had to feel cohesive with the original bones, but also updated, fresh and new. And this is also a beach house…With these aspects in mind, much of the inspiration came from Australian design, which is inherently light and bright and beachy, but still warm and sophisticated.”
The kitchen embodies that “warm and sophisticated” aesthetic particularly well. Multiple subtle texture changes throughout create a homey atmosphere while keeping it from feeling too slick or modern. Slatted cabinet doors call to mind a hint of a more traditional era, while the light quartz countertops provide a clean and uncluttered look. Behind the impressive six-burner range, bold marble tiles done in a herringbone pattern stretch from counter to ceiling, creating a gorgeous feature wall set off with two display shelves and a unique—but very effective—use of desk lamps as spotlights.
The island extends gently past the border of the kitchen, easing the eye and body into the dining area. Just beyond, two small steps lead down into the living room, where one of the biggest transformations of the renovation took place.
“The view was incredibly important to the homeowner, so where possible we oriented aspects towards the view, added windows or expanded them,” says Adrienne.
The living room sliding doors were expanded and a Cero wall installed, allowing two of the three panels to slide fully open and extend the living space out onto the extended deck.
In the original build, a massive rock fireplace also dominated the south-east exterior wall, creating an incredible focal point for the room, but completely blocking the view. Built from Vancouver Island blast rock, it was an incredible piece of craftsmanship, but the wood-burning fireplace was too old and too inefficient to be saved, says Chris. When it was taken down, the view suddenly opened up in an incredible panorama.
A new gas fireplace, surrounded by small white vertical tiles and a songbird marble hearth, was installed instead on the opposite wall, preserving the view and adding a more unobtrusive cosy and grounding feel to the space.
The lighting throughout the home and the living room in particular was a bit of a challenge, adds Adrienne.
“We needed to incorporate lighting in the vaulted areas that didn’t include recessed downlights [potlights], as there wasn’t sufficient space between the cedar ceilings and the roof,” she explains.
Instead of dropping the roof down to build out the space, indirect uplighting was installed to shine up at the now-painted cedar ceilings, as well as lighting along the two steps leading to the sunken living room, resulting in a soft, warm glow in the entire main living area of the home.
On the other side of the main floor, the master bedroom received a significant facelift with bright whites, larger windows and automatic blinds. But it’s the en suite that amounts to the biggest change. Formerly an office space, the en suite was expanded with an addition specifically to house a soaker tub, and framed in with huge windows to capitalize on the view.
Heated porcelain tiles ground the space while the vaulted ceiling and high windows preserve the airy feel.
Downstairs, two spare bedrooms also sit along the south side, their expansive windows taking advantage of the ocean view. A large bathroom with double sinks provides ample space for guests, and the office has been outfitted with a Murphy bed as well.
“The media room downstairs was given a major facelift, with a linear fireplace, custom millwork housing a large-screen TV for watching games, and a wet bar,” adds Adrienne.
The black Carmanah marble hearth here is the darker foil to the songbird marble upstairs, creating a sense of continuity through the design. And the cabinetry and millwork, done in black downstairs, echoes that same slatted texture of the kitchen cabinetry.
At the end of the massive overhaul, the house stays true to its mid-century foundations even as it’s been brought up to a contemporary, fresh finish, and now has a long life ahead.
Construction & Interior Finishing:
Bowcey Construction Ltd.
Architect/Design: Step One Home Design
Interior Design: Jenny Martin Design
Interior Drywall: Definitive Drywall
Painting: Amira’s Painting
Cabinetry & Millwork: Splinters Millworks, Dave Sheridan
Flooring: Hourigans Flooring
Tiling: Hourigans Flooring
Interior Doors: Slegg Lumber
Front Door: Karmanah Wood Design
Windows: Marvin Windows and Doros
Lighting: Supplied by Jenny Martin Design; Custom chandelier made by Bocci Lighting
Plumbing Fixtures: Brizo, Kohler, Blanco, Blu Bathworks
Bathroom Hardware: Rejuvenation
Fireplace Hearth & Bar: Songbird Marble, and Vancouver Island Black Carmanah Marble
Fireplaces: Valor Fireplaces, installed by Ark at Home
Exterior Siding: Mudslingers Stucco and Bowcey Construction Ltd.
Home Automation and Electrical: Gorge Electric