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House Beautiful: Now that's an open plan!

Is it a house, or is it a cruise ship? Visitors to this contemporary waterfront home on Saanichton’s Turgoose Point may be forgiven if they momentarily imagine that they have stepped aboard a ship.

Is it a house, or is it a cruise ship?

Visitors to this contemporary waterfront home on Saanichton’s Turgoose Point may be forgiven if they momentarily imagine that they have stepped aboard a ship.

When you walk into the great room, your eye is drawn straight across a highly polished concrete floor through a giant 30-by-eight-foot NanaWall window system and out to sea.

The dramatic L-shaped deck thrusts forward like the prow of a ship, offering breathtaking views and a seafaring feeling as guests look over the rocks and out to the horizon, glimpsing hardly a hint of shoreline below.

Inside the great room, suspended above a lifejacket-orange kitchen, is another nautical touch — a promenade deck wrapping around two sides of the room, with a flying bridge over the foyer. Its railing is made of the same materials as those on the pier that hovers like a manta ray over the rocky beach three storeys below, and angles of the top deck repeat those of the pier, offering eye-pleasing symmetry.

The craggy property was surgically blasted to create a building site, patios, a pit for driftwood fires and sloped walkways that curve down to the cantilevered pier, which the owners opted for instead of a floating dock. High above the winter storms, it offers year-round access for boating, crabbing, fishing and diving. Racks along its edge hold the owners’ kayaks, and low-maintenance stainless-steel posts and cables provide nearly invisible railings.

One of the home’s most appealing features is a ground-level terrace for alfresco lounging and dining on more than 600 square feet of covered outdoor space. The no-nonsense floor is highly polished concrete — like those inside the house — and owners and guests stay warm thanks to a trio of fire pits and recessed infrared soffit units that radiate heat that can’t be blown away by breezes.

Rounding out the lower terrace is a stainless-steel outdoor kitchen with infrared and gas barbecue, fridge, recycling centre, granite countertops and 20 linear feet of cabinet — more than most indoor kitchens have.

Just paces away is a non-traditional, corrugated-metal-and-glass wine cellar, which the owners admit to keeping warmer than normal, around 65 degrees F. “That way, the wine ages quicker and I can drink it in five years, not 20,” said Peter, only half jokingly.

Peter and his wife Catherine, who prefer to keep their last name private, are from Calgary, where Peter, a geologist, still works part-time. Although they met rock climbing, he was born in Prince Rupert and had long wanted to return to the coast, where they now enjoy kayaking.

“When we decided to move here, we’d fly out on weekends and see four or five homes a day,” he said. Then Catherine started exploring websites and spied a home she loved, built by Brant Hoff. They got in touch and began thinking about a custom house.

“One day, Brant called and said: ‘You’ve got to see this fantastic pie-shaped property with water on three sides,’ ” said Peter. With the help of Hoff, Kyle Leggett of Java Designs and Tracey Lamoureux at Creative Spaciz, the house took shape.

“We have built three houses before and a commercial property, so we’re not neophytes,” said Peter, who knew what he wanted, and enjoyed the collaboration.

“We understand the process and loved Brant’s work,” added Catherine, who was very particular about finishings and fixtures, and also about lights. She chose to recess many of them in the floor, so at night, it’s like living in a spacecraft. All the lights are pre-programmed, and in the children’s rooms, the kids can hit a switch and illuminate a floor-path to the bathroom, as in an airplane.

Their whole concept was to bring the exterior materials inside, such as the rock and corrugated-metal siding. Cedar soffits don’t end at the windows, but flow into the great room’s ceiling.

“It’s like a beautiful undulating wave overhead,” said Hoff, who is president of Coastal Signature Homes by BTH Construction and says the house was challenging but fun to build. “We all bounced ideas off each other and I was so lucky to work with this couple. They could make decisions in 15 minutes. There was a lot of trust, which was a treat because I barely saw them during the build. We sent a lot of pictures, emails and texts.”

He said the design required a series of I-beams up to 42 feet long — “that’s taller than a telephone pole” — to frame the whole water side of the house. Many of the walls are concrete, but where drywall was used, it is glued not nailed, so there will be no nail pops.

“It was given a level-five finish, which means the drywall was not just mudded at the joints, but mudded and sanded everywhere. So you’ll never see a joint.”

Not surprisingly, the home is being submitted for a CARE (Construction Achievements and Renovations of Excellence) award in four categories, including best outdoor living space, best interior, best home built between $1 million and $2 million, and green building of the year.

The structure qualified for Platinum LEED rating, as most building materials were locally sourced. It has an air-to-water heat pump for domestic and in-floor heat at a fraction of the cost of electric or gas. Landscaping is water-wise and cabinets are “green” teak (plantation grown).

Exterior walls were sprayed with high-density foam to reduce air leaks and wind penetration. RadioRa2 light, temperature and appliance controls could save 20 per cent on energy costs, and an east-facing glass entry taps into passive solar.

Other efficiency features include state-of-the-art fibreglass windows, “which don’t expand or contract, so they resist seal failure,” said Hoff. “The R-value is unbelievable. We did an infrared camera test on the walls, and you couldn’t even tell where the windows were.”

All the doors are solid teak, in keeping with the nautical sensibility, and the home is not short on drama.

A 29-foot feature wall at the entry leads the eye up a wide staircase to a bridge connecting to a catwalk around the living room. Floors are concrete buffed to a high gloss and, like the driveway and catwalk, are inlaid with lights for evening ambience.

The master bedroom is entered through a wall-less ensuite, “and I’ve never seen one like it before,” said interior designer Lamoureux. “It’s like an elegant executive hotel, and eliminates the need for a hallway.

“The owners were incredibly open to doing things that were unpredictable. There was absolutely no resistance, no hesitation about trying new things, and they both have a real flair for design and floor planning.”

Catherine, a graphic artist, agreed the house is unconventional and complimented all the trades for their professionalism. She does chuckle at visitors’ reactions to the concrete walls.

“Every now and then, someone asks: ‘What are you going to do with that?’ or ‘When will it be finished?’ ”

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