For a Victoria couple transitioning into retirement, it was time to transform their 1950’s lake cottage into a full time residence. They hired Mac Renovations as the general contractor to see their vision through, resulting in an airy, open-concept home, with spectacular views of the lake. It is no wonder that the Arbutus Lake House has been named as a finalist for a 2014 Care Award under the category of Best Outdoor Living Space.
As was common of most cottages of the era, the space was dark and broken into small rooms, resulting in a poor layout and awkward traffic flow. The original design hadn’t taken advantage of the view at all. The kitchen was tiny and had a wall across it so you couldn’t see out. There was a massive fire place and the stairwell was right in the middle of the house which interfered with the view and flow.
The main objective of the renovation was to widen up the view so the clients could take full advantage of the vista over the lake. They wanted to make the home feel a lot bigger without increasing the footprint. “The idea was to get rid of all the walls to open things up, says Ed McDonald, owner of Mac Renovations. “You can stand at the kitchen island now and look down the lake.” Since the family does a lot of entertaining and cooking, this was important. The open concept keeps everyone connected and the kitchen island is large enough that there is room for several work areas. Every room was designed to showcase the lake as the focal point.
Considering the view was so important, the decision was made to peel back half the roof and build a parallel truss vault which extends from the great room, indoors, straight out to the outdoor patio area. Large skylights were installed and the deck was finished with slate tile from Vancouver Island. A topless railing system completed the outdoor space and now there is a clear sight line down the lake. Previously, there were a lot of small windows on the wall side of the outdoor patio which “chopped things up,” says McDonald. “We installed a twelve foot door that is eight feet high which brought the outside in without obstructing the views.”
This is one of the main features of the home and required significant engineering to execute properly. When they were extending the deck out the back and breaking up the concrete, they found a dump buried under the land – a very common practice for that time period. Since there was no support to build the deck on (which carried the vaulted overhang), Mac Renovations brought in a company that installed helical piers. On a bobcat they used an auger to drill down and the cylinders were filled with concrete. Some went down as far as sixteen feet.
Since they absolutely needed solid ground to put the foundations on, it could have cost about four times as much to do the same job if excavation was required. Environmentally, this process also didn’t impact the surrounding area or landscaping. The clients were grateful that Mac Renovations had the knowledge and experience to make this recommendation and, as McDonald said, “they dodged a bullet!”
Other aspects of the build that were important to the clients were that the exterior was maintenance free so they could spend most of their time enjoying the lake and being with their family. Most of the products used in the renovation were based on this requirement: metal roofing, acrylic stucco, hardy plank and TREX decking, of which Mac Renovations is a certified TREX pro contractor.
The clients also wanted to maximize the window size to utilize all of the natural light: their half acre property is surrounded by tall timbers. All services went underground, from house to street, to prevent loss of power in the event of a serious storm. They created a grander entrance with larger windows so as you walk down the drive you can see all the way through the house to the lake. New interlocking pavers created an outdoor front patio and the front door was milled, then adorned with a custom carving by local carver, Joseph Sylvester.
Interlocking pavers were used to create a front patio sitting area. Windows were enlarged so that you can see through the house out to the lake. A roof was added over the front door to create a more grand entrance, as well as rain protection for the client’s pets.
Custom granite slab was imported from Brasil by Stone Age Marble & Granite and installed on the oversized island and the kitchen countertops.
Interior walls in the kitchen were removed and the staircase was moved from the centre of the home to reveal a direct sight line to the lake in this open concept floor plan.
Vaulted ceilings in the great room (extending through to the outdoor patio), combined with large skylights created a light and airy open living space without changing the footprint of the existing home.
Ample sized family room downstairs, equipped with an energy efficient wood burning stove, which previously took up valuable space in the upstairs living area. The floors are repurposed from the Glenlyon Norfolk School gym, so the clients proudly boast that Steve Nash has played basketball on their floor.
The enlarged, custom-milled door has two panels (interior and exterior) that were carved for the clients by local carver, Joseph Sylvester, to create a warm and welcoming entryway to the home.