The most unassuming house on the block from the sidewalk, this 1940’s bungalow enjoys a west facing yard with a charming back lane in the heart of Oak Bay. Originally designed by renowned architect, Percy Leonard James(1878-1970), the cottage survived a few awkward additions over the years and was ready to be returned to its former glory. The homeowners sold their previous house on the same well-established, tree-lined block and jumped at the opportunity to buy this P.L. James bungalow. With a discerning eye for potential, the couple tasked Todd Martin of Knot-in-a-Box with preserving the home’s original charm while reviving it with a modern touch.
Keeping with the neighbourhood’s existing vernacular, Martin designed and built a 2356-square-foot modern hybrid by maintaining the original facade while bringing the interior into the twenty-first-century. One of the famed architect’s more modest designs (James is also credited with designing The Royal Jubilee Hospital, the Oak Bay Fire Hall and Victoria Federal Building and Post Office downtown Victoria to name a few), the home started its life at approximately 900-square-feet. After assessing the home’s uninspiring additions, Martin decided it was best to remove them and restore the solidly built, 900-square-feet that remained.
With sustainability at the centre of his design credo, Martin proclaims function as the most important element of his designs. “It’s important to us that our clients still love their home ten years from now. We design in 3D and cut all our blueprints directly from our 3D models; what you see in the design plans is what you get. No surprises.”
Without sacrificing the character of the original structure, Martin preserved many features of the living room including rebuilding the cove ceilings, the bookcases around the original fireplace and by reusing the existing picture rail. He adds that there are unique challenges in every renovation project, but connecting a 75-year-old home with a new build raises many issues like seismic upgrades and adding in-floor heating and efficient insulation to the original part of the home.
“Typically our renovation goal is to seamlessly hide or blend our work to look like we were never there. However, in this case, we chose to connect the exterior while keeping the front room as original as possible. It really worked and not only is it a cozy place to hang out, but it gives the home an interesting connection to its past.”
As working professionals approaching retirement, the couple wanted to create their forever home with distinct features allowing them to age in place. Their renovation goals were two-fold: to keep the house as original and intact as possible, yet create a 1400-square-foot open concept addition. The homeowners add that they presented Martin with a multitude of conflicting requests including an open concept with large windows, display space for art, no stairs, wide hallways, a side-opening oven, accessible bathrooms and plenty of storage… all within a modest square footage.
At almost twelve feet in length, a single slab of rare Labradorite granite adorns the kitchen island countertop. The indigo-stained oak island anchors the kitchen and complements the blue pearl tone in the labradorite. Inspired by the homeowner’s treasured linen tablecloth bought in Tuscany, the cabinets are finished in neutral clay tones.
In order to let the owner’s art collection sing, the great room’s palette was kept neutral and simple in design. Connecting the living area to the back patio, sliding doors off the great room create a smooth transition to the back garden for dining al fresco.
Soaring twelve-foot ceilings allowed Martin to add light-infusing clerestory windows to both the home’s exterior and through the centre of the house as well. A thoughtfully placed dual-sided gas fireplace can be used in both the master bedroom and the great room. Engineered ash flooring was chosen for its hardwearing durability and exposed wood grain for a contemporary cottage look.
Low-rise built-ins provide ample storage and display space for the couple’s stunning art collection.
Master bedroom built-ins create a clean, streamlined effect offering storage for linens and open shelving.
A glass door and clerestory windows infuse the master bedroom with natural light and maintain the home’s indoor/outdoor feel.
The iridescent sheen of the Nacare Blanco tile reflects natural light and keeps the space feeling bright and spacious. Stained in the same indigo-grey as the kitchen island, a custom-built, rift cut oak, dual-sink vanity grounds the light space. Hard-working with contemporary appeal, Whitney Cambria quartz finishes the vanity countertop. Natural, bio-based Marmoleum flooring was chosen for its durability and anti-microbial properties. Made from a combination of rosins, linseed oil, pine, limestone, cork flour and wood flour, the non-toxic flooring clicks together without the use of adhesives.
Deco Nacare Blanco tile creates a striking feature wall in the ensuite’s walk-in shower and pairs beautifully with its sister tile surrounding the soaker tub.
- Home Design: Todd Martin, Knot-in-a Box
- Builder: Kent McFadyen, Knot-in-a-box
- Interior Design: Britt Terstappen, Spot Design Co.
- Millwork: Hobson Woodworks
- Electrical: Greenlight Electric
- Plumbing and Heating: Cornerstone Mechanical Ltd
- Roof: A-Z Roofing
- Flooring: Fuzzy Wuzzy Carpets
- Landscape Design: Edibella Organic Landscapes