Home Tour: Urban Condo on the Ocean

A former hotel condo is transformed into a modern waterfront dream home.

By Danielle Pope | Photos by Ema Peter

With porcelain countertops, luminous light and plenty of room for people to gather, the new kitchen is the centre of Rochette’s home and almost double the size of the original. It includes a Sub-Zero wine unit and in-counter steamer, but aside from these luxe touches, Rochette chose relatively standard appliances and items her clients would have in their own homes. That’s because this kitchen is also the photo/video studio for her Epicure products.

When Sylvie Rochette arrived at the two-storey penthouse suite listed in a former Victoria hotel, it wasn’t her first time in the suite. As Rochette puts it, half of Victoria likely attended at least one party there in the last 40 years.

The suite was, in fact, one of the most famous gathering spots in the city for celebrations and, in its prime, was frequented by local and international notables. It was the very suite that Sam Bawlf, developer of the building, had kept for himself since the structure went up in the 1980s — and it was reputed for its unparalleled eagle’s-nest views of the city. 

Situated between the Gorge and the Inner Harbour, its rooftop terrace was the premium place for experiencing Victoria’s Canada Day, Symphony Splash and New Year’s Eve events. The two-level, 2,300-square-foot unit was on rotation for everything from bachelor parties to executive fundraisers.

Views Across the Water

When Rochette discovered the suite, it was the only one in the building for sale — and it wasn’t heavily marketed because the building was undergoing a glazing and balcony renovation so was literally shrink wrapped. Though Rochette couldn’t even see the views through plasticized windows, she knew its potential. 

“It was just awful when I walked in, but I had been to parties here before, and I knew I wanted it,” says Rochette, who is the founder and president of Epicure. “I wanted a place where I could avoid the commute after dinner parties, and I enjoyed being on the water.”

It might sound like an easy sell, but Rochette had to overlook wrinkled gold carpets, dated popcorn ceilings, heavy Tudor- style spindles and valances and a big, dark oak staircase. It all had to go.

“When Sylvie called me she said, ‘You might think I’m crazy, but I’ve really got something here,’” says designer Bruce Wilkin, who worked with Rochette on her previous home in Deep Cove. “The most remarkable thing about this condo is its jaw-dropping, panoramic views. You look out across the Gorge, the Empress and the ocean and you look down into water. There’s no other place in the city like it.” 

Glass & Light 

To turn the pinwheel-shaped suite into something that could work for Rochette, however, Wilkin had to recover the space’s natural light and strip the interior to the studs. The kitchen would double in size as the centrepiece of the home, and small sitting nooks would be reabsorbed into the design to create a spacious living and dining area on the first level. 

The second level’s three bedrooms would transform into an office, guest room and master, though the master’s thin closet would be expanded into a full walk-in closet (complete with windows) and ensuite. 

Glass and lightness would become the theme throughout the house, including the glass-paneled staircase, complete with Bocci lights cascading like bubbles through the centre. In the bath, custom Garry oak panelling created a heritage wall feature, saved from a fallen tree from Rochette’s former home. One of the most challenging parts of the project came from an oversized art piece by Rande Cook. Too big to fit through the building’s doors, it had to be craned through top-story windows.

While Wilkin had some set building parameters to work with, the team was able to add a disguised HVAC and air conditioning system, water purification system, full-scale washer and dryer, kitchen appliances — including an in-counter steamer for cooking ease — and white lacquered cabinets with durable porcelain countertops for heavy use. 

“There is still so much space for people to gather around, to visit, to celebrate — and it’s luminous,” says Rochette. “At night, the suite comes alive with all the Inner Harbour lights, and we love our sunny little breakfast table in the morning. It’s a space that feels like you can come and go as you want, and that’s perfect.”

Browse Through this stunning Condo on the water

The master bedroom features a unique upholstered wool statement wall, which both mimics the lines of the drapes in this room, and creates an oversized headboard for the bed. The floating bed and end tables were built from the same Garry oak wood product that was used in the bathroom and enhances the natural beauty of this room
Homeowner Sylvie Rochette worked with designer Bruce Wilkin to transform the former hotel suite’s small nooks into an open living area and brought in a sleek white palette and as much glass as possible
Motifs of light and glass throughout the home include a Bocci chandelier, which adds an airy focal point to the stairwell. Expansive white walls add a gallery esthetic, perfect to showcase Rochette’s art collected from around the world. 
The bathroom includes Garry oak panelling, preserved from a fallen tree as a tribute to Rochette’s former home. The before photo reveals the dramatic changes to this room. The redesign required the team to come up with creative manipulations due to challenges with moving the pre-existing plumbing. The shutter wall in the old “honeymoon” bath was sealed off and a new pedestal tub installed next to the opposite oak wall. An Dornbracht faucet adds elegance to the room and hidden LED lighting creates a soft glow, adding a spa-like feel to the space. 

This article is from the January/February 2020 issue of YAM.