On a private corner lot in the Uplands, at the turnaround point for the historic Upland’s streetcar, a Calgary couple have built a sensitively designed, contemporary-style home to take them into the future. The well-established Uplands area immediately conjures images of sleepy, tree-lined streets with stately homes on expansive properties. Relocating from Alberta, the owners are anything but somnolent and have built a carefully crafted, thoughtfully designed home with entertaining and play in mind. Representing a growing constituent of baby boomers from Calgary, the couple was poised to savour Victoria’s clement temperatures and relaxed energy as they move into the next phase of life.
With years of experience renovating previous homes in Calgary, the design-wise couple was crystal clear on the new build’s criterion. Consulting with builders on the island, they weren’t quite satisfied with house designs until they met Christopher Walker at Christopher Developments. Based on a brief discussion with them, Walker requested a week to assemble a preliminary floor plan. “Initially I developed a contemporary plan that she loved but her husband had some reservations; with an inclination for more traditional design, he requested a few modifications. I developed a hybrid plan: a contemporary aesthetic including some traditional elements and, after presenting a 3-D model of the design, including the landscaping, they loved it and were ready to move forward,” says Walker.
The couple bought the property in 2006 and as Walker adds, “the original bungalow was on the site where thehistoric streetcar came into the Uplands and turned around to head back into Victoria. They are settled on a piece of Victoria’s history; we discovered the original tracks just below the surface when we dug for services,” says Walker. The design got the green light from the Oak Bay Advisory Design Panel but the challenge was protecting the centuries-old sacrosanct Garry oak trees. Walker explains that, “complicated concrete foundations were engineered to span across protected root structures, but we managed to save them all which was an important aspect of the build.”
With elderly parents in Victoria and considering their own future to age in place, this Calgary couple had specific design requirements: all principal rooms were to be built on the main floor including a master bedroom, generous kitchen, and living room. In addition, they requested that all main floor rooms open up into the backyard. Two bedrooms, a media room, and a loft sitting area would be built upstairs to accommodate visiting children and guests. Walker overcame setback and height restriction challenges with a site-specific, story-and-a-half, design with floor space built into the attic.
Opposed to the expansive, McMansion home trend, the couple wanted to use their space wisely, capitalize on their expansive outdoor space and create a contemporary, multi-functional space in just 3600-square-feet. “They wanted to set a budget so, from a construction standpoint, I knew we had to keep the design simple. Simplicity had to rule. It was a fairly cost-effective house to build at $247/square foot including landscaping,” adds Walker.
Walker created a stunning, natural-light infused, open plan and was able to fulfill the couple’s request to connect each room on the main floor to the natural surroundings. Designed to maximize views of the back patio and surrounding gardens, Walker created an east-facing, open-concept, contemporary kitchen with an ease of transition to the outdoor space. Ideal for entertaining, french doors open from the dining room to the outdoor living space while private patios are accessible from both the living room and master bedroom.
The couple turned to Interior Designer, Lorin Turner at Zebra Group to fashion a contemporary aesthetic balanced with a refined elegance for an open-concept home perfect for entertaining. “Our goal was to create a contemporary home that was warm, not stark, with pure white walls and minimal decor,” says Turner.
“We started with the flooring selection to set the tone for the open space. At the their request, several types of wood finishes were incorporated into the design which can be challenging,” adds Turner. The marriage of a variety of woods in one home can look disjointed, dark, and dated. Think 1980’s ski lodge. With thoughtful planning, Turner seamlessly blended fir, walnut, cherry, and white oak to create a contemporary home infused with a natural warmth and comfort.
The kitchen cabinets are crafted from Brookside Veneer, a composite edge-grain fir, an FSC certified sustainable product utilizing plantation harvested trees. “Italian persa avorio granite countertops pick up the taupe and grey accents of the flooring and reflect the warm tones of the cabinets. Grey-stained wide plank oak hardwood flooring and large format black porcelain backsplash tiles add to the home’s modern appeal. A beautifully lit dropped ceiling defines the dining area giving the space a presence without adding visual weight to the room,” explains Turner.
“To avoid a rustic cabin look with wood flooring paired with wood cabinets, we ordered extra white oak hardwood and the installer minimized the contrasting colour variance between planks with strategic placement,” adds Turner.
“Pairing floor-to-ceiling ebony-stained, cherry cabinetry with a natural ledgestone fireplace, also used in the home’s exterior, showcases the eleven-foot ceilings in the living area. The custom millwork in the living area, by Hobson Woodworks, was designed to be wall hung; floating shelves and white laminated glass fronts add a lightness to the space while the ebony-stained cherry cabinetry provide contrast with bolder notes. The stainless steel fireplace surround stays true to the home’s contemporary roots,” says Turner.
“A white onyx slab was backlit to add drama to the built-in wet bar. Rectangular onyx pieces, above the bar, pass natural light from the great room to the upper hallway and library niche.”
Upstairs, above the rectangular onyx light infusers, Walker expanded the hallway to create a unique reading niche with built-in book shelves and a bold red reading bench, giving an otherwise pedestrian hallway the feeling of a welcoming room.
Custom designed glass, oak handrails and curved vaulted ceiling define this stylish staircase and make it a prominent feature of the main floor. Skylights drench the entire main floor with natural light and the two-story vaulted barrel dormer over the entry allows natural light to suffuse both upper and lower floors. A conversion room to the right of the front entry, generally used as an office, was built with a murphy bed in the wall to function as a third bedroom if necessary.
“Bold and dramatic, white and black marble slabs pair with an edge-grain, natural walnut vanity, tub apron, and built-in bench to give the ensuite bathroom a luxurious, spa-like feel. Large format marble tiles were thoughtfully coordinated to showcase the natural stone’s variation and provide a feeling of movement without looking too busy,” says Turner. The walnut vanity, custom built by Hobson Woodworks, grounds the airy space and offers a generous amount of storage.
With an expansive, lush property and a penchant for entertaining, careful consideration was given to the home’s outdoor living space. Both the landscaping and the patios were designed with the aim of preserving and protecting the mature Garry Oaks on the property. Illuminated Garry Oaks take centre stage and create a lit garden backdrop for evening mood lighting.
Considering a topography slope of four-feet from the front of the property, Walker created a gentle transition with a two-tiered back patio. Walker’s custom built outdoor fireplace anchors the space and beckons guests to a the L-shaped sofa for relaxation. The custom designed, low profile, concrete water feature adds visual interest and, without competing with the entertainment area, offers a calming sensorial experience.
French doors from the master bedroom lead to a peaceful sitting area beside the water feature. Cost effective and low maintenance, concrete was the dominant material used in the back to create a contemporary, welcoming feel. Soft lighting, water feature, and greenery aim to soften the space. Inconspicuous fencing hidden in an established laurel hedge prevents deer from entering the garden areas.
Energy efficient LED landscape lighting along walkways and steps offer a comfortable, inviting feel. The large roof overhang provides shelter over the barbecue area on rainy evenings. French doors, with sconce lighting, from the three-car garage adds architectural interest and provides easy access for this car enthusiast.