In its untouched state, this property was a castle of rock grown thick with brush, its moat a natural bog. An unlikely place to build a home at first glance, the site sparked the imagination of builder and landscape designer Aaron Wing from Chi Design and Construction. He and his partner, Jasmine, hired residential designer Mike Dunsmuir of Step One Design to create a retreat-like, West Coast contemporary dwelling that would fit naturally into the rugged hilltop landscape.
Dunsmuir worked closely with an environmental consultant on the SPEA (streamside protection and enhancement area) to ensure that “the riparian areas, that actually touch the building envelope, were protected and not encroached upon,” he said, adding that “This was the first major challenge before blasting the site level in compliance with Saanich Engineering.” Wing emphasizes that they were able to use all the on-site boulders to gain useable land by building rock walls during the blast.
Establishing a compact, yet ideal southern exposure placement for the house, Dunsmuir was given carte blanche on the one-level design that required a harmonious connection to the outdoors. He presented the couple with a comprehensive 3D model using CAD software that allowed the homeowners to digitally experience all the angles and finishes before moving ahead.
“This was one of the first homes I started to take the software to the next level in order to show siding with actual colour and texture, with details like wood grain, shadows, and transparent glazing. I emailed the final design to the couple and they messaged me back almost instantly expressing that they loved it,” states Dunsmuir.
On approach, the house is both grand and naturally at home in the forest setting, with the main living spaces flawlessly centred around the garden and koi pond, with walls of glass for unity with the outdoors.
“To reflect the natural beauty around us, we incorporated local finishings on the exterior like Port Renfrew black pearl stone and Western red cedar,” says Wing, while a dramatic entry supported by fir timbers and a custom-built pivot door are all fashioned from trees sourced from the property.
Inside, Wing brought in more timber to build a solid 22-foot fir hearth for the stone fireplace and a custom- built, solid slab dining table that grounds the soaring 18-foot ceilings.
Taking the lead on the interior material selections, Jasmine embraced minimalism in the all-white kitchen, choosing flat-panel cabinets and adding silver elm to shelving and a range hood for warmth that complements the oak floors. The rest of the home’s interior followed suit, with a muted palette of neutrals and wood to breathe calm into the space.
The 2,535-square-foot, three-bedroom plan soars to clerestory windows that flood westward light into the main living area and gym. “The roofs continually plane upward to create higher and higher ceiling heights,” says Dunsmuir.
He tucked the master bedroom into the west side of the house for privacy, with additional bedrooms on the east side of the main living areas. To add to the home’s tranquility, an ensuite bath in soft white and grey contains a walk-in shower and a freestanding tub overlooking the forest. Twenty-plus years in the industry gave Wing confidence to incorporate an all-star cast of plant varieties that lend themselves to a tropical, West Coast feel with Asian influences that tie in with the surrounding native landscape. “Each window has a specified view or a distinctive tree carefully selected to invite you into the space,” states Wing.
The gardens embrace the natural flow of the land, enhanced by mature Japanese maples, pine, bamboo, and palm trees from Wing’s personal collection of specimen trees. Built to replicate Dot Falls, an area in McBride, B.C., where Jasmine grew up, the two-tiered rock waterfall tumbles into a koi pond where the concrete deck seems to float, serene and whimsical, day or night.
Here, Wing fashioned an outdoor theatre with a suspended bed that swings at the edge of the steep slope, with additional spaces to dine or relax around the concrete fire table. Together, the architecture and landscape form a symbiotic connection that illustrates how carefully considered design can transform an otherwise uninhabitable site into an idyllic place to call home.