When a professional biologist and wildlife photographer was looking for a home in Victoria with his partner, also a biologist, they were thrilled to find a subdivided acre of land tucked away in a Garry Oak meadow in Oak Bay. The couple recognized the potential to restore this endangered Garry Oak ecosystem and collaborated with residential designer, Rus Collins from Zebra Group to design a custom home that would embrace this unique meadow.
Discovering this Garry Oak meadow was the couple’s wow moment when they realized that they could preserve a little bit of this ecosystem, host to many unique species. “The meadow was overrun with invasives which happens when an urban forest gets neglected,” states the homeowner. “Our vision was to restore the meadow and build around the trees in order to enjoy them in their native environment.”
The homeowner went to Collins with a very clear vision of an open plan design with minimal impact on the environment. “With so many Garry Oaks and rock outcroppings to consider, I had to get creative with the angles while also considering factors like sun orientation and privacy,” says Collins, who wanted the main living area to frame the trees in the front yard and came up with a south-facing design with almost no right angles to let in an abundant amount of light.
The front entrance guides you into the open concept main floor that allows you to immediately take in the breathtaking views of the forest through the double-height windows.
The striking all-white residence with natural material finishes is the work of interior designer, Lorin Turner from Zebra Group who chose warm neutrals to complement the organic theme. The furnishings and accents in soothing earth tones, many from StudioYdesign, allow the meadow to take centre stage.
The floating oak treads and glass stairway serves as a design focal point visible from most areas of the open plan main floor. Leading to a catwalk at the top of the stairs, the loft-like area bridges the interior and creates an airy sitting area/library that overlooks the great room.
A fuss-free kitchen with matte white lower cabinets and no uppers keeps the space feeling uncluttered and functional with warms woods to anchor the space. This pared-down design avoids a starkness with its streamlined flow between spaces and wood finishes.
With a strong connection to the outdoors at the heart of the design, the home’s front and back patio doors allow you to walk right through the middle of the house to access outdoor spaces.
Upstairs, the room configuration was driven by the clients’ needs where the stairs lead to a cozy reading nook and three bedrooms. The master bedroom was intentionally built at the far end of the hall to serve as a quiet retreat. The spa-like ensuite with soaker tub and floating double vanity is subtle to allow the window with wood trim to frame the mature Garry Oaks like a piece of art.
Blending architecture and landscape, this smart design embraces the outdoors in all aspects of its design while all the windows in the home saturate the rooms in natural light and celebrate the natural meadow. The home’s long and narrow footprint allows light and ventilation to flow through all rooms.
“You can get lost in all the interesting angles of the architecture, says the homeowner, who adds that other than the architectural interest, his favourite feature is the oversize windows that saturate the home in natural light and set the tone for the overall feel. Add the six skylights in the design and the couple rarely have to turn the lights on.