After living in India, Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore and Europe, Rajkumar Padmawar was more than ready to put down roots when he and his wife arrived in Victoria.
“But it was a challenge. When we arrived here, we found a beautiful city and a lot of beautiful flowers, but we also found it a challenge to find a house,” he recalled.
“Every single one we looked at needed a lot of work, and the asking prices were huge in 2008, so we didn’t have much choice.”
Finally the young couple settled on a pre-war bungalow in Esquimalt, close to downtown and to community parks, where “the price was almost half what we would pay in James Bay or Oak Bay, so we felt we got double the value here.”
But soon after purchasing it, they had a rude awakening.
“It was upsetting when we came to moving in. We had to face the music … no insulation in the walls, a roof in bad shape, the wiring was pathetic, windows that were mostly sealed and didn’t open. The basement looked finished when we bought it, but we found it was cosmetic. We also found rodents, plumbing problems,” said the owner, who is business development manager at Knowledge Computers, headquartered in Duncan, where he telecommutes to work.
“So we backed off and remained in our rental place for another couple of months while we overhauled the whole house and spent close to $100,000.”
After renovating, they moved in with their two young children, but after about a year, the bungalow still didn’t suit their taste or lifestyle, so they started planning an addition. That’s when they contacted Method Built owner Rajinder Sahota, who made another suggestion.
“When the homeowners contacted me a little over a year ago, they already had a set of plans and were ready to expand out back, create a legal suite below, and a new top floor to live in themselves,” said Sahota. “But it was a very limiting design, and trying to mesh two structures would mean a lot of space wasted on transitioning between the two.”
Since the lot was very deep, Sahota suggested building a whole new structure at the back of the original 1936 house, “to give them more flexibility and volume.”
Sahota had immediately grasped the tech-savvy couple’s desire for a space to fit a modern lifestyle, and also one that would follow Vastu guidelines — a style of Hindu architecture that lays out forms, orientation and location of everything from statues to fireplaces. Sahota came up with the concept and design while Gordon Burdge drafted the plans, and the result is a trendy infill structure.
“You typically see a suite in the basement or on the back of a house, but here we reversed it — and personally, I think it’s positive. Their new home is much better than the one they had imagined … it is a world of difference.”
Sahota noted the new, attached home is not 100 per cent in line with Vastu thought — “Like anything, there was give and take and balancing” — but it does follow many aspects, such as having all the main, large windows facing north.
He said a 15-centimetre gap was left between the party walls of the two homes’ for sound deadening, but the exterior look was married by using the same colour paint and stucco finishes, although Hardie board was also used on the addition.
The builder is an admirer of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and said that was an impetus for this project, which combines an older building with a modern one. “I think the contrast looks beautiful. This was an exciting project and we finished ahead of schedule, under budget and helped create tremendous value for the homeowners.”
The couple couldn’t agree more.
Having lived in the Orient and India, their goal was to bring many of these influences and characteristics together in their new home. For instance, they wanted a Japanese soaker tub: “When I first saw them in 1992 in Japan, I was fascinated,” said Rajkumar, who was born in central India and is an expert in factory automation, design and robotics.
“They were all mechanized. I could turn on my tub and fill it from my work office, so it was ready when I got home in 10 minutes.”
They also had their hearts set on an open plan, where all the inner spaces could connect and the entire family could interact. “We wanted it very integrated, no waste, and so no family member could get lost. Even when only two of us are in the house, you know another person is home. You never feel isolated. The house is very lively and because of all the skylights and different rooflines, as the sun moves, we have different moods inside.
“We wanted the colours to be neutral and earthy, with a balance of earth, water, air, fire, space — and light energy,” said Rajkumar, adding they wanted a Vastu design, too, since they were building from the ground up.
Critical elements of this style house include its construction on a north-south axis with the front door facing due east. An open stairway in the middle creates a column of light, and the roofline’s angles allow space for abundant skylights to tap into natural sunlight and passive solar heat. Visibility and natural light are a huge focus in this house, and all its windows have reflective sills covered in white quartz, like the countertops.
“Everything is digitally controlled — electricity, heat, sound — each room is individually managed, and every single entity is regulated, including locks on the doors,” the owner says. “High-speed Internet is routed through every room and we have a smart television with a camera on top, for house minding and watching the children, who are seven and 12.”
They wanted their home to illustrate how technology has advanced in the past 100 years. The original house had 1,500 square feet while the new one has almost 1,800, plus a studio garage with another 430 square feet.
“We did a lot of brainstorming so this house would suit our lifestyle,” said the soft-spoken Asawari, who has a master’s degree in computer management and works as a quality analyst for a local IT company.
“And this is the lovely part,” she said, offering a tour of her kitchen, which includes an industrial-quality, restaurant-grade fan over the stove. “We do a lot of very aromatic cooking and this takes all the smells away.”
They also wanted a round chimney to take away from all the right angles.
The eating counter is handy for quick meals, and a nearby cupboard opens to reveal stacked laundry appliances close at hand. “While the whole house is not completely visible from here, I have a good idea of what’s going on everywhere,” she said with a smile. “This is my dream house.”
When they came to Canada, a Toronto friend advised the two: “If you really want a clean life, it’s Vancouver you want.”
But another friend who was doing his PhD in Alberta told them: “ ‘If you want to live in the best place in Canada, you need to be in Victoria.’ And so we came here,” Rajkumar said with a happy grin.
© Copyright 2013