A couple with an affinity for being near the water found a perfect Victoria location for their West Coast retreat, on a property perched above a beach with sweeping views of the ocean, islands and mountains beyond. They set to work with Maximilian Huxley Construction and designers Stephanie Brown and James McIntyre to redesign the existing interior, creating an elegant beach getaway to share with family and friends.
It was a dream come true for the homeowners who never lost sight of returning to Victoria. On their first visit, while staying at the Empress Hotel, they fell in love with the Island and the ocean, and they knew it would be in their future.
While the location was perfect for the couple, who divide their time between two other waterfront residences, the home was not. Because of the home’s close beach proximity, wind, sand and salt had taken their toll. The small deck had been invaded by carpenter ants; window frames were corroded; and its dark seven-year-old interior showed wear.
Creating the Vision
To overcome its flaws, the structure was taken right down to the studs, reframed and rewired, with new plumbing and gas works.
While some would think twice about investing in an extensive redesign, the couple jumped at the chance to realize their vision. “I wanted the house to be the setting,” says the owner, “and the jewel, the view.”
The multi-faceted project began with layout changes from the original plan, rearranging walls to gear all the rooms to the ocean’s view. Bringing the outside in was an essential design mandate.
Floor-to-ceiling windows provide unobstructed views, opening onto balconies on both levels of the 3,500-square-foot home, spacious enough to accommodate al fresco dining or to watch the world go by. (To extend the lower-level deck, which sat on sloped land, workers had to dig, by hand, 12 feet down to secure the footings.)
Main-floor skylights maximize natural light,complementing the neutral palette. To celebrate that connection to the water, the designers channeled colours and materials inspired by the seashore: chalky, light cream and sandy tones for custom furniture and accessories, limestone flooring to mimic beach stones, grass weave wallpaper in the powder room and sisal fabric carpeting on the curving stairway add textural dimension.
And, in the entranceway, an immense chandelier is coral-like in appearance (and can be lowered to dust or change bulbs). No sea monsters here: the look reflects what designer James McIntyre describes as “stroll-on-the-beach comfort.”
Ingenious Design Details
The connected kitchen, living and study on the main floor are designed to give a feeling of spaciousness. The trick is not only in the floor-to-ceiling windows and large deck, but also in design details: a vaulted barrel ceiling over the kitchen table adds depth and elegance; appliances are cleverly hidden behind cabinetry.
Storage is carved out of every useable space: two structural pillars in the kitchen perform double duty as shelving for wineglasses. To keep the view unobscured and the interior clutter-free, televisions are concealed when not in use. One pops up from a built-in cabinet for living room viewing and can be spun around for viewing from the study’s custom leather club chairs. The other drops down above the kitchen cook top.
Cozy comforts abound: heated floors, a long custom living-room couch for stretching out by the Rumford-style fireplace and a two-sided fireplace that heats the master bedroom and master bath.
“We had a vision for this location and it came together to produce a lovely and liveable beachside residence, enjoyed by our family on special occasions,” says the owner. “It can be the most brutal of winter storms or the most beautiful summer day … it’s perfect.”
By Shelora Sheldan
Photographed by Joshua Lawrence