A Cobble Hill reno transforms a dated bed and breakfast into a New York-style estate.
By Danielle Pope // Photos by Joshua Lawrence
Eli Nanos never imagined she’d build her dream house in the country.
She was three months pregnant when her husband, Drew, discovered the seven-acre property in Cobble Hill. It was beautiful but had an eclectic style: one part vineyard, one part bed-and-breakfast and two parts cabin-in-the-woods.
As the cofounder of Ivyhouse Design, Nanos was looking for something a little more … The Hamptons. She’d dreamed of having her own white picket fence with all the trimmings and, as her family expanded, she wanted her nest to reflect the styles she’d helped others discover.
Yet there was something about the property that breathed sophisticated potential. It had a picturesque two-and-a-half-acre man-made lake, a private drive and was surrounded by acreage, forests and neighbouring vineyards.
Though it was hard to see at first — through galleried bedrooms, closed off gathering spaces and the private kitchen — the house’s bones were solid. Nanos imagined, with a few adjustments, the home could be the phoenix they were looking for — without the New York price tag.
“This home really came to us, and sometimes when you see an opportunity you just have to jump on it,” she says. “We could see the house had potential and we both thought, ‘Why not?’”
Before they’d even closed the deal, Nanos began drafting plans. As soon as they took possession and moved into the guest cottage, construction began. Nanos was seven months pregnant. Within four months, the house was completed.
Today, the home looks like a dream straight out of The Hamptons. With white siding, cedar shakes and circular windows in the gables, the house has claimed its elegance by the lake.
Finding True Potential
The home’s biggest transformation was the vaulting of the living room and master bedroom ceilings — a task made possible due to the empty space in the dormers above. A hallway was removed to expand the kitchen (which was gifted an archway), and open the living area. Oversized windows reveal views to the water, and the house’s maple floors were redone with knotted wide-plank white oak.
This design process comes naturally to Nanos. From a young age, she’d been designing interiors, even turning her childhood bedroom into a “house,” complete with a kitchen, bedroom and living room she’d constantly rearrange. Her parents encouraged her creativity. Now, the magic of this home is in its rearranged details.
“The details in a home are what’s most important to me,” says Nanos. Those small nuances can easily be overlooked, but I love being able to add them. “This house is a reflection of our family’s personality — I feel like we brought out its true potential.”
The 18-foot vaulted ceilings are adorned with circular lights and a tongue-and-groove pattern, which adds grandeur to the space. Wainscoting, coffered ceilings, bay windows and window seats in the dining room highlight its elaborate nature. Nanos says watching the light reflect off the water and onto the ceiling when she’s lying in bed fills her with peace.
With a basement that includes wine tasting, fly-tying and billiards spaces, the 4,500-square-foot house is heavy on relaxation. The coach house adds an additional 850 square feet, perfect for guests.
A Family Feel
Project foreman Bill Morris of Timberhawk Homebuilders says collaborating on creative details, like the stairwell’s wooden handrails and sculpted newel posts, was a treat.
“The house originally had a rustic, disjointed feel. With a renovation like this, even though you may be confined to the layout, the right design can change it entirely,” says Morris. “We wanted the house to feel like a family home — not a hotel.”
Nanos’ favourite spot in the house is the oversized leather chair in their master bedroom. It’s in this chair that Nanos, Drew and their son Rory read books together every night before bed. As the sun sets on the water, she says it’s a magical time to be there.
The gazebo overlooking the lake is another favourite hangout. Nanos’ dad helped her husband Drew build it last summer, and friends gather there to enjoy the view and sip local wine by the dock.
“We wanted this home to be a place [where] people we love feel welcome to come and swim, and sit by the lake, and bike to the wineries or walk through the forest and just relax. We wanted our own everyday retreat,” says Fast. “I feel proud of what we’ve created. It’s my favourite project yet.”
The living room is an area of pride for Nanos, with vaulted and coffered ceilings adding elegance to the home. The space is inviting, though visitors will have to compete with the family dog, Marley, for the best chair. Large bay windows open to the lake, creating the perfect frame for summertime parties or holiday celebrations around a Christmas tree.
The home’s dark exterior was transformed from a cabin-in-the-woods bed and breakfast to a New York-style estate. Massive trees were removed to allow in more light, and the patio and pathways were refinished to add visual interest to the expansive property — an area Nanos walks daily with her son. The weathered shingles were redone, with trim painted white, and circular windows were added to create a Cowichan country feel.
The dining area was opened to take it from a gallery to gathering place. Nanos hosts family and friend gatherings here, and she sometimes uses the room as a work space when plans need to be spread across a big table with a lakeside view. The window seats are used frequently by Nanos and her son to watch deer grazing in the nearby farmer’s field.
It may be hard for Nanos to pick a favourite spot in this house, but the big Timothy Oulton leather chair in her master bedroom is a sure bet. The oversized chair is where she and her husband and son read books every night before bed, and it’s one of the best places in the house to catch the sunset off the water.
The master bath, with its morning sun, is Nanos’ at-home retreat. Three types of tile accent this space, from C&S Tile in the white Tulip Series used on the floor in a herringbone layout, to Dal Tile in Arctic White used as trim for the wall, and GL Stone Double Basketweave in Thassos White and Carrara for the shower and wall insert.
The kitchen is where this family spends the most time, and Nanos’ husband, Drew, is often found crafting homemade pasta — after buying local produce at the market — while Nanos enjoys a glass of Cowichan wine. The archway was a special splurge to take this room from service area to heart of the home. The space is welcoming and bright, and dual islands allow everyone to feel comfortable taking part. The globe pendant lamps by Minka, from Mclaren Lighting, enhance the luxurious look, and complement the kitchen’s stainless steel appliances.
Backyard barbecues and wine tastings with a lake view are common at the Nanos household. The patio was redone in concrete slabs to offer a spacious landing for outdoor events, and the kitchen’s double doors open directly into this area for easy access.
The family spends most days hanging out at the lake, fly fishing or swimming. The gazebo was made by Nanos’ father and husband last summer, and offers a glorious spot to sit and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the surrounding farm fields and the view of Salt Spring Island.
Contractor: Timberhawk Homebuilders
Construction Manager: Bill Morris
Interior Designer: Eli Nanos, Ivyhouse Design
Engineer: John Scott, Scott Engineering
Doors and Hardware: Slegg Building Materials
Tile and New Floors: Pristine Hardwood and Stone
Painting: Word of Mouth Painting
Counters: Sam Dhaliwel, GNS Granite and Quartz
Custom Millwork: Splinters Millworks
Finish Carpentry: Timberhawk Homebuilders
Landscape: Yorkshire Landscapes
Paver: Jason Edler