From the outside, this one-level bungalow in the suburban Saanich neighbourhood of Tanner Ridge looks like a typical 1980s-era builder’s special, with a double-car garage dominating its facade.
But look closer and you’ll notice special exterior touches on the home, from the chic black-glass front door with side panels to modern lighting shining down on contemporary house numbers.
It all hints that something special lies inside.
When homeowners Lynn Salituro and her husband, Spencer Aitken, open their doors, it’s to a well-designed home with functionality and beauty.
The couple, who moved to Vancouver Island from Toronto eight years ago, initially lived in a small one-bedroom condo in downtown Victoria, but decided they needed more space.
And this home delivers, with spacious rooms and expansive views.
Initially, they were drawn to the home’s hilltop location, which offers views of Saanich farmlands, mountains and ocean. You can see San Juan Island in Haro Strait from their main living and dining room and kitchen windows.
Yet another big plus was the fact that although it’s in a suburb, the house’s location offers a fair amount of privacy.
“If you look out the window, you won’t see the neighbours looking back at us. We’re surrounded by greenery, so there’s a lot of privacy,” says Aitken, a retired firefighter.
Salituro adds the house size is ideal at about 1,700 square feet, with every room used daily, except the guest bedroom.
The house has two large bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open living/dining room with corner windows that make the most of the views.
There’s ample room in the entryway, a second seating area adjacent to the spacious kitchen and a laundry room off the garage that lets in light from a large window.
“This is just the right size for us,” says Salituro, who adds one-level living proved to be especially convenient after she underwent a recent hip-replacement operation. She’s currently on leave from her job as an exercise instructor with GoodLife Fitness but plans to return in April.
The couple hired friends Robert Kocsis and Patrick Moor from 55DESIGN to undertake the renovation, trusting them “100 per cent” with all the design choices.
“The house style was ’70s before. Not mid-century cool, but the builder’s ’70s,” says Kocsis.
“A lot of builders, especially in subdivisions, have planned and designed two to five years before building, so you can get a brand-new home that’s already dated, design-wise.”
Kocsis and Moore, also former Torontonians, like clean lines and uncluttered homes themselves, so they work with clients to convey that “less is more.”
“We try to show our clients what they really want. Most clients don’t know and that’s why they’re hiring us,” said Kocsis, who moved to Vancouver Island with Moore three years ago to set up their design firm, which was founded in Toronto in 1995.
Aitken and Salituro say they’ve always appreciated their friends’ work. While both have embraced the less-is-more esthetic, they say it takes discipline to stick to the rule of taking something out whenever something new comes in. The benefit, though, is ease of living and an uncluttered life.
When they found this house, both the couple and the designers recognized that it had “good bones,” but that a full gutting was needed to achieve their goals.
Doorways were widened, pocket doors and door headers were removed, and new commercial-grade flooring was installed. While it looks like hardwood, the flooring is actually sturdy vinyl that has the feel of wood grain. It’s used throughout the home, including both bathrooms.
Saved from being demolished were the home’s two fireplaces — the rock-faced fireplace in the living room was left untouched, while a brick fireplace adjacent to the kitchen was repainted black and a thicker mantel was added.
All of the construction work, along with the electrical and plumbing, was done by Greenwater Construction. Baseboard heating was replaced with a more cost-efficient gas furnace and heat pump system.
The designers saved the existing windows, but added new trim and baseboards and painted the walls a uniform white, which helps highlight the couple’s artwork.
The one colour exception was the main wall in the master bedroom, which was painted black to help set off two special artworks Aitken’s mother had acquired: gold temple rubbings from the time their family lived in the Philippines. The designers had the etchings reframed so they can take centre stage in the master bedroom.
There are four similar etchings in the main living room, which is furnished in a modern but comfortable style. The three living-room chairs, two from Gus Modern, look as if they would be equally at home in a mid-century modern home, along with the large leather-top ottoman.
The chenille tweed couch has tight seats and backing, which is much more comfortable than “dealing with a lot of pillows and fluffing,” says Kocsis.
“We like the furniture to be casual but still chic.”
Simple olive green and grey toss cushions add to the home’s contemporary style.
Moore says one of their main design decisions for the house was ensuring its best feature — the view — was prominent.
“We didn’t want to detract from the view,” says Moore, noting the green cushions and green in the artworks bring in the green from outside.
All of the furnishings, rugs and lighting choices were selected by Moore and Kocsis, with the exception of an arc pendant light the couple purchased earlier from Crate and Barrel, and a modern, vertical wood cabinet in the living room from ScanDesigns Furniture.
The transformation was most dramatic in the kitchen, which once had overhead cabinets blocking sightlines and a peninsula in the centre of the room. Cabinets along the window wall were removed, along with the overhead cabinets, but ample storage is still provided by floor-to-ceiling cabinets that line one centre wall that also houses the fridge.
The kitchen sink was also centred in front of a window with better outdoor views, and heavy curtains and valances were removed throughout and replaced by simple white blinds.
Salituro shows off the “before” pics to show just how much the house changed during its four-month renovation, completed in December 2018.
“It was so exciting to see the transformation,” she says. “Neither of us have lived in a bungalow since we were children. But as you age, it seems to be a natural fit to come back to this way of living.”