Designed in 1962 by award winning architect, John A. Di Castri, this mid-century split-level, at Ten Mile Point in Victoria, gets a striking twenty-first-century modern revival. A modernist who studied at the University of Oklahoma, with one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students, Bruce Goff, Di Castri was one of a handful of architectural leaders of the post-war modernist movement in Victoria.
Averse to square boxed buildings with conventional windows, his open-plan designs can be seen all over Victoria including several buildings at the University of Victoria (UVic’s Interfaith Chapel, the original student union building and the Cornett building), an addition to the Royal B.C. Museum, the Crystal Pool, the CNIB building and numerous residential homes. Named an honorary citizen by the City of Victoria, Di Castri injected pure form modernism into Victoria’s architectural landscape.
Looking for an improved quality of life on the west coast, Peter and Susan Stanford saw the Di Castri house online from their home in Ottawa. “What drew us to the property was its location, specifically the combination of the great ocean view and the wonderful environment of Ten Mile Point. We also wanted something that called for an update, something we could work on together and make our own,” says Peter.
The Stanfords found themselves in a bidding war and emerged as the successful owners after offering above the listing price. All before seeing the property in person. “We flew out to Victoria immediately and had no hesitation in removing the one purchase condition — a professional house inspection, within 24 hours. We’ve been very pleased with our decision — we just love the setting of Ten Mile Point, with its older homes in a country-like setting without sidewalks or street lights,” Peter states.
In love with the fir-beam cathedral ceiling over the kitchen and dining area, the couple was bemused by the home’s quirks and less than inspiring layout. Inefficient staircases, small bedrooms, no ensuite and the real puzzle: a gorgeous waterfront property with obstructed views.
With a significant renovation done in the late 1980’s, the Stanfords were perplexed by the home’s view focused on the green space beside the house rather than on the vistas across the Haro Strait. Inspired by the potential, the couple wanted to restore the mid-century marvel to its former glory and reorient the home to capitalize on the views of Mount Baker and the San Juan Islands.
The first consult meeting led Mackenzie to the million dollar question: to demolish or not to demolish. “There is a fine line between what makes sense financially and what is feasible when faced with choosing to demolish and start fresh or partial demolish and renovate. Because the house was designed by a renowned architect, we wanted to maintain the original design concept and at the same time, avoid the obvious renovation look,” says Mackenzie.
Some of the biggest challenges of working on a midcentury house are the extent of water damage, rot and structural upgrades that are often unforeseen. “Of course, we want to salvage as much as possible but you have to know what you are working with and these unknowns can pose the biggest challenge,” Mackenzie states. Not only was the Falcon Heights team working with the original bones of the house but they also had to consider the awkward addition that had been built in the 1980’s.
Another consideration Mackenzie emphasizes in a renovation of this scale is excavation versus hand demolition. Mackenzie states that “you can’t just go in with an excavator and start demolishing; demolition on a reno like this is all done by hand which can be tedious and expensive.” The home was deconstructed right down to the frame so most of the house was demolished by hand while some larger areas had to be removed with a machine.
For design expertise, Mackenzie turned to residential designer, Ryan Hoyt at Ryan Hoyt Designs to create a design that would maintain the original concept yet completely modernize the layout and uncover some of the original beauty. As Hoyt states, “the focus of the design was to reorient the living area and kitchen to maximize views, improve the flow between the split levels and modernize the layout to something more functional.
The final design maintained the west coast modern post-and-beam look with 3056-square-feet of natural light-filled space. The main floor includes an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area, master bedroom with ensuite, laundry and mud room. Upstairs contains a sizeable guest suite and downstairs boasts a spacious media/recreation room.
“We can only speculate why the original house was set on an angle that didn’t capture the ocean view. It just doesn’t make sense to have a house on the water with no actual views,” says Mackenzie. Pushing the proverbial envelope in this design challenge, Hoyt managed to work within the original structure to rearrange the layout and maximize the vistas across Haro Strait.
“We did maintain a slight elevation change between the main level and upper floor, but we eliminated the double split in the house to create a more functional layout. We maximized some of the rooflines and vaulted them inside to capture the 180-degree view of the Haro strait,” states Mackenzie. With natural timber accents, Mackenzie used structural glulam beams to emulate a timber frame feel and echo the original character of the home.
Mackenzie states that “our clients in today’s market are eco-conscious and I believe building to a green standardenhances the overall finish of the house and the value of the home.” Integral to all of Falcon Heights’ renovations, energy efficiency upgrades in the Di Castri house range from new windows and doors, insulation, low voltage lighting and radiant flooring heat.
“We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet the original owners of the home who had worked with Di Castri in the construction of the house in 1960’s. It was very interesting to hear them talk about his personality and his approach to the issues which arose during the project,” Peter states. Obtaining a more efficient, open-concept design and gaining more natural light throughout the home was a major goal and we definitely achieved that,” says Peter. “In fact, we’ve actually ended up with an even higher ceiling over the main living area and front entry. With very large windows facing the ocean view and multiple skylights in the roof, virtually every room is awash in natural light.”