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House Beautiful: Couple settles on Shawnigan Lake dream home

Moving to different houses 15 times during their marriage had an unexpected payoff for a Shawnigan Lake couple, who eventually built their retirement home on a gorgeous, lakefront property.

Moving to different houses 15 times during their marriage had an unexpected payoff for a Shawnigan Lake couple, who eventually built their retirement home on a gorgeous, lakefront property.

After setting up homes so many times, which included renovations and a previous new build, Cheryl and Greg Johnson knew exactly what worked and didn’t work when it came to creating their dream house.

The fact they already owned waterfront property didn’t hurt, either. The couple have been coming to Shawnigan Lake for family vacations with their two children, who are now in their 20s, for years.

In fact, Greg’s own childhood summers were spent here, since his parents had owned a cottage on Shawnigan Lake since 1961. His brother and sister now jointly own a cottage where their parents’ place once stood.

The couple bought their own waterfront retreat, near the extended family’s vacation spot, 15 years ago. It was a Tudor style house that was dark and compartmentalized and didn’t take advantage of its waterfront views. The house looked out toward the road, ignoring the panoramic waterfront views in the backyard.

It was the antithesis of the modern contemporary house they now enjoy, which has waterfront views throughout the main floor as well as from all three bedrooms and the primary bedroom ensuite.

The new house was built in 2018 after they realized the Tudor house couldn’t be saved, since it was sinking.

“We put a lot of effort into thinking about renovating it, but every contractor who saw it said you can’t fix it,” says Greg, who retired after 36 years in the financial industry last May.

The couple agreed their priority for their new home was optimizing its location and building something that would last.

“We wanted to take full advantage of the lot and view and build something very durable,” says Cheryl, adding 56 pilings were drilled into the bedrock to ensure the foundation was solid.

Greg says another priority was having an open concept for the main floor, since family and friends would often visit and they wanted to create a better flow in the house than what they had before.

The couple’s first task was choosing an architect who could understand their vision.

That architect was David Lunt of T-Square Designs. Cheryl says they spent an hour with Lunt just walking the 1.26-acre property to determine where to best situate the house to take full advantage of its views and the light.

“The lot is not that big and you have the riparian zone, so you can’t pull the house any further down the lot. With the site plan I had to play with the angles a little bit to make it work and turned everything at a 45-degree angle so most rooms look at the view,” says Lunt.

The designer says he was very happy with the final result, adding “you don’t get to do a lot of houses like it.”

“It’s a great example of how you can bring the outside in and the inside out,” he says.

Cheryl brought many of her own design ideas to the project, after having set up so many other homes from Parksville to Vancouver and London, Ont. during their marriage.

She began gaining her design expertise with the couple’s very first home the year they met.

“Greg’s dad guided us along and it really came together. I had never done anything like that before. Making all the choices really builds confidence,” says Cheryl of her father-in-law, who was a building contractor.

With the new Shawnigan Lake house, Cheryl chose everything from flooring to paint colours and wasn’t intimidated by the size of the project. Their three-bedroom, three-bathroom home is 3,500 square feet.

The only change the couple asked for after seeing Lunt’s initial design was for him to include a wood-burning fireplace in the living room.

The couple said choosing the right construction team was also crucial in having the project completed on time and to their exact specifications. The complete build took just eight months.

Credit for that goes to KD Construction, a Langford company owned by their two nephews, Dallas and Kelsey Johnson.

“They pulled out all the stops for Uncle Greg and Aunt Cheryl. They only wanted the best for us,” says Cheryl, adding Dallas also came up with many innovative ideas for the house.

For instance, three glass panels were placed in what was initially going to be a solid wall between the dining room and the stairway, which helped to flood the main living space with even more light.

“We trusted it would turn out and it did beautifully,” says Cheryl.

He also suggested adding three long windows above the sleek, kitchen cabinets, which highlight a row of maple trees behind the house.

The kitchen is a showstopper and views are highlighted here as well, even in the painted glass backsplash, which reflects the waterfront from seats facing away from it at the kitchen island.

The kitchen island’s granite top has a unique waterfall, raw-edge wood top at the end, which is another signature design statement for the couple.

“We fell in love with live edge and it all began with our collection of live-edge cutting boards,” says Cheryl.

Raw-edge wood pieces are dotted throughout the house and include an architectural display stand, a maple shelf under the television, and a custom, raw-edge table in the living room with twisted metal hairpin legs designed by a neighbor.

One of the most significant wood features in the home is the front door, which opens onto a double-height ceiling and brings a sense of airiness as soon as you step inside the home.

The fir pivot door, with clear glass insert, was custom built by Aaron Stevenot of Karmanah Wood Design.

The exterior of the two-storey house is a combination of ledge stone, hardiplank and cedar accents.

“We’re extremely pleased with the house. It’s very functional and everything is designed to work well,” says Greg.

Cheryl adds that while the other house was a “great summer place,” this is the home where she’s most comfortable finally settling down.

“It’s only been four months, and summer months, too, but we already know it’s perfect for us.”

kpemberton@shaw.ca