House Beautiful: A thoroughly modern beach house

With mellow shades of honey gold, pale cream, soothing caramel and sand, the owners of this new custom home have brought a palette of beach colours into their home, ensuring the blue sky and water views outside are never upstaged.

From decks, patios and great room, where a full-wall window has doors that slide wide open, the owners can enjoy nature’s unobstructed and ever-changing beauty, while on the non-water side of the house, they can shoot hoops from a swooping blue wave embedded in the drive.

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These are just some of the details that have earned this home a dozen nominations in Victoria Residential Builders Association’s up-coming CARE awards, including best accessory building, best outdoor living space, best customer service and people’s choice award.

The winners will be announced at the CARE gala on Sept. 29.

“We had an amazing, really positive experience building this house,” said the owners, who didn’t want their names revealed but are eager to talk about their builder, Chris Walker of Christopher Developments

“We knew exactly what we wanted in terms of finding a property with beach access,” they said. “We didn’t want to walk down a cliff to the shore. We wanted to be able to walk out onto the beach, and we like a home that is contemporary, not cold, and really liveable.”

Their previous home was a rancher, also in the neighbourhood of Cordova Bay, where they wished to remain. “We love the beach here and we’re all into paddle boarding and swimming in the ocean.”

Part of the appeal of the new home for the family, which includes two daughters — a teen and a pre-teen — is how it allows them to spend time together outdoors.

“We had known Chris for a few years and knew he was the one builder we would work with. We knew about the great houses he has done. That’s the beauty of Chris — he can design and build your home. And he has such great trades … his guys were fantastic.”

He also put them in touch with Zebra Design Group’s principal designer, Lorin Turner, “who was a great fit and a great listener.”

Walker said it took months to help the owners find a building site on the water, “and it was definitely a challenging property.”

First, he had to demolish an existing older home, which was time-consuming and expensive, as it was loaded with asbestos. New laws require builders to have a Hazmat team remediate all the hazardous material, found in the drywall and attic.

Next came the challenge of how to deal with a steep, geotechnically unstable bank, and develop a landscape plan to meet a rigorous Environmental Development Permit process, said Walker, a custom homebuilder for 26 years.

He had to seek a slight height variance, too, to gain a couple of extra feet, since the lot was so constrained.

“One of the biggest challenges was the transition down to what is basically the main floor now, on the lower level.

“The lot is only 40 feet wide and the home is just 25 feet wide, with a 10-foot setback on one side, so that is where we created the entry and stairs to the lower level.”

Located on the main living level are the media room, office, laundry room and living area, including a dramatic entry with a central staircase that rises to skylights.

“I knew the focus had to be around the entryway, so it was really important to have planters all down the walkway, to make it feel special,” said Walker.

For the staircase, Walker made it look as if wood treads project right through the tempered, laminated glass. In fact, it’s an illusion, as the stair ends are attached on the outside of the glass, and help give it structural support.

“The interior width of the house is only 24 feet, so much thought was given to the layout,” he said, adding ocean views and access to the beach were critical to this outdoorsy family.

The builder installed a 20-foot-wide wall with lift-and-slide patio doors. Three panels create one large opening, and an overhang has heaters built in.

Walker created a concrete suspended slab patio with built-in storage underneath to hold kayaks and paddleboards on a pull-out rack.

Hobson Woodworks did all the cabinetry. White oak engineered floors came from Hourigan’s Flooring, while Royal Oak Glass did the glass.

Despite plenty of glass, the house is a dream to heat.

“The energy efficiency of this home is over the top, with a full 10 kilowatt solar system producing energy equal to a net zero home. It is pretty much self sufficient, and feeds excess power into the grid.”

Walker said the home exceeds Built Green Gold standards, with water-conserving toilets and plumbing fixtures, as well as energy-efficient foundations and exterior insulation that minimize thermal bridging, or areas where heat can escape.

The home’s Control 4 system looks after everything from lighting and heating to sound system and security.

One of the most attractive features is a detached garage. Walker said the owners didn’t want a big bank of garage doors across the front of the house, especially with such a narrow frontage, so he created a detached building for cars and bikes, with a large window that turns the storage area into an attractive asset.

This solution had the added effect of creating a courtyard at the front.

The owners and daughters love basketball, so Walker designed a basketball hoop and key in the driveway.

A family favourite is the open living area and kitchen that leads onto the patio. It has a big island and lots of counter space, with different wood for upper and lower cabinets. All the surfaces are easy-care.

Cabinets feature a recycled veneer product reconstituted from wood pulp, said Turner. “It has a really nice, tight linear grain to give it a contemporary look.

“We wanted something that didn’t fight with the rustic-look floor, which has a lot of movement and character. It’s part of what makes the house special and individual.”

A horizontal stone is used for the backsplash, running right up the wall behind the stove as a focal point.

“The owners also have a very clever walk-in pantry tucked behind the big fridge-freezer combination. It’s where they have all the small appliances and open shelves,” said Turner.

The owners say the home has exceeded their expectations.

“We’ve been in the house for a year and it’s been everything we wanted and more. It is not elaborate or over the top, but it suits our needs and the finishing is great.

“We wanted to keep things simple and we are thrilled with the results.”

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