On a balmy, Indian summer afternoon, theres nothing Graham and Erika Taylor enjoy more than loading up their childrens wagon with a hibachi and some food, tucking towels and paddle boards under their arms, and meeting friends at the beach for a picnic.Both native Victorians love the outdoorsy, ocean-going lifestyle, so when it came to buying a house for their fledgling family earlier this year, they knew just what they wanted.This house has a perfect location, close to wonderful beaches, great parks and good schools, said Graham Taylor, a hospital administrator. The two executives checklist included a low-maintenance home and garden, proximity to other young families, a close-knit neighbourhood and versatile interior spaces, said Erika, a human resources director for the provincial government.They found it all in a brand-new Fairfield home built by Ron Egli, who won a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Vancouver Island CARE awards last month. The Robertson Street house, just a block from the beach, was also nominated for best single-family detached spec home (a house built on speculation rather then designed and built for a specific purchaser) of more than 2,000 square feet a category Egli has won several times before.His company, Ron Egli Construction and Design Ltd., has built local homes for 30 years and he usually has his finger on the pulse of what people want.Ironically, he designed this house with a very different buyer in mind.
I thought it would be perfect for a retired couple who wanted less garden and house to care for, or maybe an executive without children. But here it is being lived in by a vibrant young family, he said. The three-storey house has 850 square feet on each level totaling 2,500 and is on a 3,000-square-foot in-fill lot. Its a good project because the house doesnt look big, but there are actually four bedrooms and four bathrooms, Egli said. Its a very compact design that fits into the neighbourhood because of its traditional style, correct proportions, the simple, classic woodwork and trim. Egli, who admires historic architect Sam Maclure, aims to create timeless homes that never look dated. In 50 years you wont know when this house was built. Egli said buyers are increasingly interested in smaller, easy-care residences, close to the downtown core. Everybody wants this: the public, municipalities, councillors. Broadmead homes are not tempting now because there is too much yard. People dont want big footprints, lots of lawn maintenance.Thats certainly true of these young owners who passed on grass.When we first moved in, our kids were quite upset we didnt have any, said Erika with a chuckle so they added a tiny patch of artificial turf for them to sprawl on.Its about the size of an area rug and now everyone is happy, especially Graham. I grew up in a large lot and spent hours and hours every week mowing the lawn. My wife and I both work and decided wed rather travel, ride our bikes or paddle board.Two other families on adjacent lots have young children, too. There are kids playing in backyards all down the block, Graham said.There is such a strong sense of community here and schools are close, so our kids can walk or ride their bikes, said Erika, adding six-year-old Heath is at Margaret Jenkins School while 10-year-old daughter Lynden goes to Glenlyon Norfolk.Graham likes the homes flow and versatility: We plan to recycle the den in a few years, as our family evolves, turning it from a TV room into an office.A couple of houses ago, they had a formal dining room, but Erika noted we ate at the kitchen island or, rather tragically, the coffee table watching television. So that experience changed our dynamic.We didnt want any formal dining room this time, no space that wasnt used. Instead, they have a theatre room downstairs where the kids hang out.They also wanted a functional kitchen but not a large one. We have a young family, and friends with young families, so we wanted a space that worked for adults and kids.One of the reasons the home seems so breezy and relaxing is its soft, seaside, neutral palette featuring blond oak floors and soft tones on walls and counters.Designer Catherine Fell, part of the Design One Stevens Interiors team, said the goal was to keep the palette light and open feeling, because of the small size of the house.The two-tone coffered ceiling in the dining room gives the area definition and a little pizzazz, while greyed-down, stained wood cabinetry on the kitchen island and cloud white on the others team well with concrete-grey Caesarstone countertops (a man-made quartz) and stainless appliances.Erika loves her large farm sink. A painted sideboard, handed down from her grandfather, stands in the dining area, connecting with the island through colour. The powder room is small, with a snow-white Cambria countertop and nine-inch mitered front to make it look deep; the counter is narrow, the sink juts and doors have ribbed glass. The master ensuite is a spacious surprise. Two pewter-framed mirrors reflect lots of natural light, countertops are white and walls are classic grey. Marble floors are heated and theres loads of storage.Its a house with almost everything the Taylors need, including a roomy laundry area. All we need now is a wine cellar, quipped Graham. Archie Willie of A. Willie Design worked with Egli to create the architectural details and said it was a challenge to reduce the homes visual mass. Previous drawings looked too large with gable roofs everywhere, so we simplified the rooflines and used traditional materials such as cedar shingles, rough stucco with a popcorn look, and lots of trim.The look is Edwardian with wrought-iron fencing and pillars, said Willie, and although the driveway is shared, a grid of exposed aggregate and smooth concrete stops it looking overwhelming.It truly is just a box of a house, but we broke it up with different materials and a porch over the entry, for a little bit of whimsy. B.C. land-use analyst James Duncan, who lives next door and created the small, two-lot subdivision, says hes had great feedback from the city about the two houses.It took a long while for approvals and I think they were worried at first, but I teamed up with Ron Egli, who is very experienced. We squeezed out inches here and there and he was great to work with on both these houses. Its a perfect fit, said Duncan, who has two children as well, but whose wife, sadly, died of cancer while his first house was under construction and never lived to meet the family next door.
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