By Danielle Pope
Chris Stooksbury and Dixie Klaibert were on a walk around the neighbourhood when they first fell in love with the property in Cadboro Bay.
It was a rundown beach house, inhabited by an older man who had been there as long as anyone could remember. Though the building wasn’t much to see, the property was stunning, with an expansive beachfront. The two were on vacation, visiting Klaibert’s parents, and asked the owner if he would consider selling. They were respectfully told to scram.
Fast-forward a few years to the anticipated arrival of their first child, and the two were looking again at properties in Victoria. Just days before finalizing a deal, they heard the man had passed away and the property would be sold. In a few heartbeats, their dream location was a reality.
“We knew we wanted to raise our family here, and it just came together,” says Klaibert. “We’d lived in small spaces within large cities all over the world, so we wanted to create something simple, functional and kid-proof.”
What they didn’t know was, thanks to their work with D’Ambrosio architecture + urbanism, their home would receive the prestigious 2017 BC Wood Design Award from the Canadian Wood Council, recognizing excellence and innovation in the structure’s contemporary design and use of materials.
“This was one of the few houses we do each year, and it was an exciting project because the house required some elaborate site work due to its location on the slope of a cliff,” says Franc D’Ambrosio, principal in charge. “The award certainly marks a high compliment to the interpretation of this design, but the real surprise was because of the modest nature of the house.”
The two had specific requirements for their home. It was to be single-level, small (only 2,500 to 3,000 square feet) and entirely functional, with their growing family in mind. They also wanted it to blend into the existing environment with a modern esthetic, using glass, concrete, stone and wood.
From first approach, you see their achievement. The living roof is a pillar of wildflowers, while the black siding accented by water features and sea grasses creates its own exterior environment. Off the entryway, the kitchen, dining room and living area open into one space, with concrete floors, clean lines, inset Belgium fireplace and sleek white cabinetry streamlining the look. Douglas fir and western red cedar beams adorn the sound-attenuating ceiling, and the windowed wall opens onto the porch, only steps away from the beach. The master bedroom boasts glorious views of Haro Strait, while a small ocean guesthouse offers a playful escape.
As the project took root, unexpected challenges emerged, like a pre-existing low-height zoning covenant, which, fortunately, worked with the couple’s single-level wish. Due to its location, the project would also be monitored by an archeologist for evidence of Indigenous artifacts. And an underground water-main easement across the ocean side of the house altered patio construction.
The most unusual twist, however, was Stooksbury’s hopes of using an ancient Japanese method to treat the siding. Yakisugi is the art of flame-charring cedar planks to create a textured, dark and lustrous appearance. The singe offers natural bug, water, rot and fire resistance, and Stooksbury, D’Ambrosio and a few friends spent hours hand-charring pieces with roofing torches.
“Some thought we were crazy, but the black wood was stunning,” says Stooksbury. “We wanted the house to look and feel organic, and emphasize what we first fell in love with: the views, nature and beach.”
Little wonder, then, that both Stooksbury’s and Klaibert’s favourite elements of the house are found closest to the windowed wall and its views — the “Rolls Royce of fireplaces” for Stooksbury, and the minimalist kitchen for Klaibert.
“Our kids live outside all year round, and the sandboxes and ocean guesthouse are in full use during the summer,” says Klaibert. “This was our dream — to have a place that could capture our lives in the most elegant, simple and functional way possible.”
Architect: D’Ambrosio architecture + urbanism
General Contractor: Lee Taylor, TaylorMade Builders
Plumber: KNA Plumbing
Electrician: Brewis Electric Company
Doors: Slegg Building Materials
Hardware: Victoria Speciality Hardware
Windows: North Glass & Aluminum
Roofing: Infinity Roofing
Drywall: Definitive Drywall Systems
Tile: Decora Ceramic Tile & Natural Stone
Painting: Empress Painting
Kitchen/bathroom millwork: Jason Good Custom Cabinets
Custom millwork: Jason Good (closet/office/built-ins) and TaylorMade Builders (ceiling detail)
Finishing carpentry: TaylorMade Builders
Floor finishing: Rada Resurfacing
Glass: North Glass & Aluminum
Hardscape: Bricklok Surfacing & Landscaping
Landscape: True Earth Landscapes
Living roof: Biophilia Design Collective
Pavers: Bricklok Surfacing & Landscaping
Countertops: Stone Age Marble
Engineers: Ryzuk Geotechnical
Lighting design: Jodi Foster Interior Design + Planning