Falling in love with Victoria is easy after speaking to Audra Fayad, an expat from Saskatchewan, former designer, lover of all thing nostalgic and active mother of five. The soon to be empty nesters, Audra and Jahmil Fayad, were searching for a home to meet their evolving needs somewhere between a spacious house and a convenient condominium. With location at the top of their wish list, they struck the perfect balance in a 2100-square-foot Fairfield duplex, just two short blocks to the Pacific ocean.
It is safe to assume that most families of seven long for additional square-footage. But the Fayads were looking for something different. Natural light, unique architecture and a home that would accommodate their active lifestyle was central to their search. “We travel a lot for work and our daughters’ sports so we wanted our home to have the comforts of a house without the grief of a large property,” says Fayad.
Studying graphic design at Emily Carr in the 1990’s and Indian Art History at the University of Regina, renovating homes in Saskatchewan with Jahmil was a natural fit. After spending the majority of their time with small town farmers (whom they describe as the “real deal”), the Fayads gravitate toward people and things that bring true quality to their day-to-day life. Fairfield answered all their calls.
After previously renovating six character homes together, the Fayads were ready to hang up their hammers and settle into a new build to keep up with the pace of their girls’ athletic lives. What initially attracted them to the three bedroom, four bathroom duplex was its unique architecture and position to the other unit. “It doesn’t feel like a duplex; we have yet to bump into our neighbors,” says Fayad.
However, the duplex provides the freedom that accompanies a low maintenance property, and for this athletic family, quick and easy access to the sea was key. From daily morning runs, afternoon paddles or evening beach picnics, the duplex offers a complete lifestyle transformation. “The indoor/outdoor living aspect of our duplex really reflects what every day is like with children; this is what is most spectacular about Victoria.”
Beautiful ocean location aside, the most powerful influence in their decision was the natural light that floods the open plan duplex. Floor to ceiling windows, entire walls that open to outdoor spaces, skylight over the staircase and the absence of hallways invite a myriad of outdoor light and colour inside. “Deep greens from the surrounding arbutus and fir trees are reflected through the glass onto indoor surfaces. No room in our home is spared the natural beauty of Victoria.”
Four decks allow this outdoorsy family to expand their living space year round. The main floor wall off the kitchen opens up to a covered deck which makes al fresco winter and hot summer dining possible. Two exposed decks on the upper floor perch like treehouses amongst the oaks. “We are literally right at bird level and enjoy watching hummingbirds, eagles, bats, ravens, and woodpeckers.”
Aside from his fine furniture heritage and growing up with music and art in Belize, Jahmil is also a barbecue master. “With five children it was important for us to have a large space for eating.” Dismissing dining sets for their cumbersome nature, the Fayad’s love of nostalgia and closeness was brought together in a custom banquette built by Nabil Fayad (no relation to Audra and Jahmil).
For Audra, interior design isn’t strictly about form and function. Eschewing a particular design aesthetic, she finds beauty in special pieces that hold meaning. A lover of textiles and the beauty that comes with life’s nostalgic relics and patinas, Audra states that “it’s the stories behind farm furniture, natural wood/rock finishes and found objects that really matter.” Live Edge Design in Duncan created a custom dining table with a glass centerpiece to fill with rocks and shells from their travels.
Moving into a predominantly white space posed a challenge for Audra who favours texture and colour over stark newness. Appreciating how gallery white walls accentuate modern architecture, she uses frameless antique mirrors to temper the pale palette and reflect the colour-rich beauty of their natural surroundings. “Each piece of art we own holds personal meaning and is either from our children, past professors, relatives or from our travels abroad.”
Ironically, after buying their first brand new home, the Fayads can say that “we have never bought brand new furniture or decor from a store. Someone has either made it for us, we found it in a thrift/consignment shop or pieces have come handed down from past generations.”
A thoughtful collector, Audra plays with layers, textures and colour in her art and decor. Continually bringing undiluted character and personality to her home, Kay’s Korner on Cook Street in Victoria has helped her fill decor gaps and satisfy nostalgic urges.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to move dinner outside or pitch a tent on the top deck to watch the stars. With deer strolling through your yard, it doesn’t feel like city living, yet we can get goods to go in ten minutes. And really, how many tourist buses have to pass by before we realize how truly special this city really is?”