A juxtaposition of vintage and contemporary design transforms a tiny 1950s cottage into a home that blends comfort, style and function.
BY DANIELLE POPE | PHOTOS BY JODY BECK
On a spring day in 2020, Gray and Alana Eakins were in the Quadra neighbourhood picking up tomato starts when they noted how much they liked the area. The tomato merchant joked with them that, if they were really interested, a sign had gone up for the house next door just an hour earlier. The couple hadn’t planned on house hunting that day, but both remarked what a cute bungalow it was.
Fast forward through a few details and before long the Eakins were moving in.
“We actually had a condo on the Songhees [Walkway] and had been there for six or seven years, but you get to a place where you realize this isn’t the lifestyle you want,” says Alana. “We wanted a bit of a garden and the person who owned this house had a beautiful Southern Hemisphere garden. We love that look. The home was small, though — it had a tiny kitchen and only one bathroom, but we thought we could work with it.”
The 1950s home was built in a classic English cottage style, with period millwork, coved ceilings, a pitched roof and the limited storage and living space standard to the times. The entire house was only 814 square feet. While both say the home was perfectly livable, they wanted something that reflected their unique tastes.
“We both gravitate toward Scandinavian design; bringing in light and not too decorative,” says Gray. “But we also wanted to hold onto the home’s feel, so our intent was to leave as much as we could to honour that cottage comfort.”
A Creative Vision
The Eakins sought the support of Atarah Humphreys, designer with Urbana Kitchens, who had worked with them on their previous home. Humphreys knew the couple was willing to take some creative risks, and she could see the vision they wanted to bring forward. With the support of the team from Green Island Builders, Humphreys worked to create a plan that would optimize every square foot available, maximize storage and give a more open feel to the house.
“We first worked by removing an inefficient laundry room to expand the kitchen,” says Humphreys. “The laundry facilities were built into a functional hallway storage cabinet. The former master bedroom was expanded through a new addition off the back of the home and reconfigured to add the primary ensuite and a bedroom large enough for a king-sized bed, as well as access to the backyard.”
That addition added 210 square feet to the home and its purposefully modern contrast is the single most striking thing about this renovation — it’s also what Humphreys says earned this home the title of “mullet house.”
“We wanted the new addition to be intentionally modern and a complete contrast from the front of the home: ‘a mullet house,’ as Alana joked,” says Humphreys. “Keeping the front of the house in white, with a standard pitched roof, and the addition in black, with a flat roof, created a stark contrast, both in colour and style.”
Naomi Reinhart, project manager with Green Island Builders, supervised the build and recalls this project as particularly special. In order to pull off such dramatic style shifts, the team replaced the home’s existing deck to blend both sections together, using board-and-batten siding. With glass doors out to the south-facing yard, the primary bedroom basks in light and feels airier and larger than its actual size.
“The [Eakins] are very creative people with naturally good eyes for design,” says Reinhart. “They love the juxtaposition of old with new. While the addition is obvious, it looks purposeful and was designed to blend together. The deck becomes the transitional style link.”
A Forever Home
Because the home’s renovations were made with aging-in-place in mind, strategic choices created an accessible environment, and one that could support the idea of a forever home.
“This was a very small home, so we built in an open flow to places like the bathroom and included elements like in-floor heating, a curbless shower and grab bars so this could be a space the couple could grow into,” says Reinhart.
The layout of the new kitchen worked to bring in more south-facing light, says Humphreys. The stark contrast of black, white and natural oak materials carried throughout the house brings consistency and cohesion to the space. The angled details were also repeated throughout the home in the cabinetry and waterfall gable on the peninsula.
“Ensuring every space was properly utilized, while concealing necessary features like the electrical panel in the kitchen, plumbing and venting for the stackable laundry in the hallway closet was a challenge,” says Humphreys. “As was ensuring the integrated appliances were the correct scale for the home to provide functionality, while not overwhelming the space.”
Humphreys took serious inventory of how each area needed to function so every nook could be properly allocated. Pantries in the kitchen, for example, were used for food storage on one side, and as a closet on the other.
In addition to its utility, the space holds a cultured feel thanks to the Eakins’ appreciation of art and travel. Despite its clean simplicity, space was made for showcasing the couple’s collection of pieces acquired during their travels. Along with the more dramatic addition, changes were made throughout the home, including new millwork, a modern fireplace mantel, revised flooring, paint and fixtures, to bring the space into alignment with the couple’s style.
“Coming here was in keeping with our goals of having a smaller footprint and a more compact downsize to one level,” says Alana. “We’re getting old, so it’s important we have a place that will work for us into the future. We wanted that accessibility right outside the kitchen — a garden we could step down into and a fire pit we can sit around and just enjoy.”
Designer: Atarah Humphreys (Urbana Kitchens) / Dan Foster (Drafting)
Builder: Green Island Builders
Framer: Dave Taylor
Plumbing: Solid Plumbing & Gas
Mechanical: RedBlue HVAC
Electrician: VIP Electric
Doors, Windows and Hardware: Slegg Building Materials
Roofing: Shoreline Roofing & Exteriors
Fireplace and Backsplash Tile: Hourigans Flooring
Kitchen Appliances: Coast Appliances
Countertops: Colonial Countertops
Plumbing Fixtures: Splashes Bath & Kitchen
Flooring: TDI Flooring
Drywall: Devlin Drywall Contractors
Paint: Capital City Drywall & Painting
Engineering: Munro Engineering