Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

House beautiful: Eye-popping view dominates decor (with video)

Homeowner avoided any distractions from the main attraction


Writer Grania Litwin and photographer Frances Litman are known for their sense of style and knowledge of outstanding design. They tour homes around the south Island, talking to homeowners, interior designers, architects and artists who influence the way we live.

? impressive sound system, excellent lighting, large dance floor and striking venue are some of the key elements in a great nightclub.

And it's small wonder this homeowner has incorporated all these features and more into his Victoria water view home.

Darrell Zakreski retired from his Calgary commercial property and nightclub business seven years ago when he and his partner decided to retire to Victoria, but he still wanted a cool vibe in his new residence.

So he poured all his entertainment flair and renovation know-how into his two-storey, 4,000-squarefoot home. Perched on a hillside above Beach Drive overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait and Trial Island, it exudes a warm, well-groomed, relaxed style, with dashes of humour.

Darrell and his partner, a former diplomat who died three years ago, first dipped into the Victoria housing market by buying a vacation property on Hampshire Road in Oak Bay.

"Then one day I thought, here we are living on an island, with coastline all around and we're not enjoying any water views," said Zakreski. "We loved our Hampshire home and it had beautiful vegetation but we felt tree bound. And really, the house was too much like what we had in Calgary, so I thought, let's have an ocean view."

At the time, his partner of 32 years was dying from cardio vascular disease and emphysema, so they needed a home with an elevator. After an intense search they found the perfect house, but it wasn't exactly a dream home, said Zakreski, 54.

"Neighbours called it the Taco Bell because of its pink stucco and clay tile roof. The style was art deco meets Spanish wannabe," he said.

'We totally fell in love with the view and we could see the potential, but it was very dated, even though it was built in 1993. Everything was starting to fail. For instance, the stucco was leaking, so we applied new rainscreen technology, which I think should always be used anywhere near the water," said the owner of DMZ Productions.

Zakreski - who has restored and redesigned half a dozen homes, as well as several commercial buildings - dived into the project with gusto. "We totally gutted the home. All the windows needed replacing and re-sizing to optimize views and meet hurricane-wind rating standards."

He installed engineered beams, which resist warping and shrinkage, as part of the renovation, which took more than 18 months. "My structural engineer told me this house is now overbuilt by about a factor of three," he said.

"I wanted to put solid integrity back into this home. My renovation goal is always to maximize the potential of a property and space, while accenting its best features."

He also applied some of his nightclub experience: "The whole aspect in that business is to stay one step ahead of your clientele, musically and visually. You have to stimulate people, pay attention to esthetics and the energy of an environment."

Everything in the home is leading-edge and top-of-the-line, says Justa Kendall, whose company, Urbana, did the cabinetry in the bathrooms, laundry, butler's pantry and kitchen. "Darrell is very driven, very focused on his vision. Every home he has done is perfect. He is super-picky and super-talented."

The cabinets are made by Columbia Cabinets in Abbotsford and the colour is "rustic" on maple slab. Zakreski bought extra stain to match the interior doors, including the elevator, and white Corian countertops are set off by a granite-and glass-tile backsplash.

The living room is furnished with two contemporary French sofas and several marble-topped tables. A discretely tucked-away television is located high on a short wall.

"I think of it more as an accent piece than a centrepiece," said the owner. "It's there in case people want to check the score in a game, or keep track of a special event - This way, they don't have to leave the room."

All the carpet was replaced with 22-inch ceramic tile "for cleanliness, a more contemporary look, and it's easy to dance on." The mushroom-tone floors were the starting point for his interior and exterior colour scheme.

"I wanted the floors to blend with the rooflines of houses outside." A floor-to-ceiling amplifier stack, the home's entertainment brainstem, adds a techno feel to the living room and facilitates all the audio-visual needs, along with 35 unseen speakers inside and outside - backed up by five sub-base speakers.

"When the wine sets in, the music flows and dancing begins," Zakreski said with a chuckle, adding the home changes "drastically" at night, with different lighting. He loves to entertain and cook - his specialty is tarragon chicken made with fresh ingredients from his herb garden out front.

Near the kitchen, in the former master bedroom, he created a den complete with office station and floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto a water garden. Awning windows high in the wall open to allow the sound of splashing water to trickle in.

A butler's pantry is located off the den rather than in the kitchen: "I added it really to facilitate a bar fridge, wine fridge, microwave, cappuccino machine, warming drawer for mugs, a steam oven and dishwasher.

"I will never live in a house again without two dishwashers and I couldn't live without a steam oven. It can cook, reheat, defrost - I cook all my vegetables and seafood in one."

Three massive "pillars" on the main floor are clad in stone and not only define living areas but hold everything from electronics to elevator.

The elevator is painted white inside - "I didn't want wood paneling; it reminded me of a casket" - and its handsome door matches the kitchen cabinets.

The house has lots of humour too, such as a huge portrait of the Queen in the powder room, along with Buckingham Palace monogrammed towels recently purchased in London. A small sculpture of a rock climber is forever toiling up the side of one of his interior stone pillars, and lighting fixtures in the garage look like shiny hubcaps.

The garage is where Zakreski recycled all the former kitchen's forest-green cabinets, countertops and sink. He also moved the old microwave there, so he can reheat a mug of coffee while working outside.

He installed a urinal for tradesmen, a shower hose bibb so he can give his cars a hot-water shower, and a deep sink for flower-arranging or cleaning seafood.

When the garage door opens, the views are spectacular, so this is where he put all his exercise equipment. "Who wants to exercise in a dingy hole in the basement?" asks Zakreski, who also runs six to eight kilometres a day along the water.

He has thought of everything upstairs, too.

Each bedroom has its own ensuite and all the doorways are extra wide and eight feet high - even in the bathrooms. Walk-in closets are accessed through bathrooms, which include items such as mini refrigerators and coffee bars.

Walls are inset with shelving to display everything from his glass collection to glowing alabaster sculptures from the Ukraine.

And all the bedroom televisions are mounted high on the walls, above the windows. "It's a great design faux pas to put a television or fireplace in front of a view," says Zakreski, who is clearly into entertainment, but not at the expense of his new waterfront vistas.