The Hope Next Door

A neighbourhood move helps one family construct an accessible future for their son.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
When the Hoskins first saw this home in their neighbourhood, they jumped at the opportunity to buy and renovate. The home now offers a safe, wheelchair-appropriate entrance, as well as space to garden and play.  

By Danielle Pope  |  Photos by Jeffrey Bosdet

In 2019, the Hoskins family was navigating the complicated world of travelling back and forth from their home in Oak Bay to Vancouver, where their toddler was receiving treatment at BC Children’s Hospital. 

Every time they arrived home, their house — a quirky character building that once had promise — seemed less appropriate for the family. Its steep staircases, inaccessible corners and a small kitchen made at-home care an impossibility. 

Still, the Hoskins were dedicated to staying put. Their neighbours had become like family, supporting them with pizza dinners and care for their other two kids on particularly challenging days. This neighbourhood had become their home, even when their home itself no longer made sense.   

It was little surprise, then, that when a nearby house went up for sale, the Hoskins’ heads turned.

“We had a quick look at it, but we were sold before opening the door,” says Becs Hoskins. “We could imagine our future there, and we knew it would be better for our son. It would mean, instead of going to Vancouver every week, being at home, with a nurse who could be there for eight-hour infusions. We had the support of our community and we didn’t want to lose our neighbours.” 

Moving with Ease

Simon, a twin, was two years old when he was diagnosed with a rare, progressive genetic disease called Mucopolysaccharidosis type IV (MPS IV), also known as Morquio syndrome. The disease ultimately causes damage to different parts of the body, from his bones and joints to his eyes, heart and lungs. As yet there is no cure, but life-sustaining treatments slow its progression.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The dining area is designed to be a welcoming zone for all family members, and includes seating at appropriate heights as well as a kid-friendly area. 

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The upper-floor kitchen was also renovated to make the area more spacious for ease of movement and to offer storage that keeps floors clear of clutter.  

“With twins, a four-year-old, a dog and two working parents, it didn’t seem like life could get any busier. Then we got Simon’s diagnosis and everything sped up,” says Becs. “We were going to Vancouver once a week and coming home to a house that had stairs everywhere. The steepness just to get inside was ridiculous. To be in our new house was like being in la la land.” 

The new home had plenty of charm, but most importantly, it had a functional layout that could allow for some important modifications — specifically, to the lower level. 

“We had always liked this house and loved the character of it,” says Trevor Hoskins, a home inspector by profession. “The basement was five feet tall, though, and the foundation was old. We knew we’d have to fix it.”

Fixing the foundation of a 1912-era home is as big a job as it sounds, especially because the family didn’t want to raise the house and add stairs. Instead, they chose to lift the ceilings by digging six feet down, then building the floor up with slab services and insulation to create an eight-foot-tall lower level. The aim was to have an entirely accessible suite, complete with a hospital-grade nursing station, which would mean their son could have a place to thrive both now and down the road. 

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The nursing station in the lower level can be easily cleaned to hospital-like standards, making treatments for Simon possible at home.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
Though he faces weekly infusions, the space is safe, accessible and playful for the time he spends indoors. The family dog keeps watch over the goings-on in this busy location. 

The interior design team at Bidgood and their construction division Strong Built were engaged to help maximize the floor plan, improve efficiency and create a lasting interior palette for the home. 

“When dealing with accessible or adaptable spaces, we always want to think about using design to enhance the independence of the user,” says Christi Rivard, principal design director at Bidgood. “We adopted polished concrete for all the hard flooring needs of the basement to reduce flooring transitions, and ensured we had adequate clearances for ease of moving throughout the space.”  

The team added important touches, too, like an expansive bathroom with oversized shower space and accessible mounting heights for hooks and handles.

Just as the pandemic struck and lockdowns froze travel, treatments for Simon could be delivered at home, thanks to a setup that could be accessed by medical staff.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
With accessibility a key factor in the home, the lower-level bathroom was enlarged to include an oversized shower, reachable hooks and handles, and flat, even concrete flooring.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The living room, on the upper level, captures a calm and durable connecting space for the family amidst life’s daily challenges.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The entry to the lower level features a private entrance and gentle sloping grade to accommodate wheelchair accessibility. 

“Simon needs a needle in a port in his chest once a week, and you have to have hospital-like sterilization to access that. You can imagine how unrealistic it would be to do that in a typical family kitchen,” says Becs. “To have a space dedicated to this, that you can clean in less than 20 minutes and you don’t have to push lunch aside, is the best thing we can do for Simon until we find a cure.” 

Along with the foundational overhaul, which included earthquake proofing and drainage work, the family renovated the main floor, transforming the space by adding two bedrooms and a bath, modifying the fireplace and kitchen, and creating a functional rec room, office and mechanical workshop. 

“It was important to us to bring everything up to modern code,” says Trevor. “There were a lot of changes to the structure of the upper level, including removing stairs completely and moving the stairs to the lower level so there’s a more gradual rise.” 

Finding Flow

With the home sitting at roughly 3,200 square feet, there’s room for future proofing as well, like incorporating a lift when needed. “Eventually” wasn’t the only thing that mattered, however. The Hoskins wanted to create an outdoor area filled with edible gardens and places for the kids to play now. For that, they sought the support of Bianca Bodley, owner and principal designer of Biophilia Design Collective. 

“Becs and Trevor were really clear on what they were looking for: a landscape their family could enjoy, pollinator grasses, low-maintenance plants and an edible focus,” says Bodley. 

She brought in coastal strawberries, blueberry shrubs and evergreen herbs, as well as raised aluminum planters for chosen veg. The family wanted the street-facing garden to be welcoming to the neighbours, so sightlines were kept open, kid friendly and beautiful. Bodley also created wide pathways around the property, using concrete for wheelchair accessibility, with smooth turns and a meandering feel. 

“It was important for the kids to have space to be rambunctious and play and not be overly cautious about where to step, so we made many open areas, with a really cool playhouse that Trevor built,” says Bodley. “Access was top of mind: How are the kids going to move here, or get down there? Flow was a big consideration.” 

Becs says that today their house is even more functional than they could have imagined. When grandma takes the kids for a few nights, she stays there.

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
A low-maintenance green space was a wish-list item for this family. Easy-to-care-for plants, like herbs and grasses, and raised beds for veggies offer everyone a chance to interact with nature. 

The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The Hope Next Door - YAM Jul/Aug 2023
The playhouse, built by Trevor, made extra room for the kids to be rambunctious together. Meanwhile, the outdoor area was engineered with broad pathways that kept access in mind. 

“I think the fact that we live on the same block has made this experience seamless, despite so much change,” says Becs. “It was hard leaving the old place, especially for the kids, but coming home here was like we didn’t miss a beat. Their best friends still live next door, and having that familiarity instead of moving across town means the world to us.” 

To learn more about the family and their mission to raise awareness about Simon’s treatment, visit curemps.ca. 

Project Support

Designer: Jacques Boisvert, Bidgood
Builders: Strong Built
Excavators and house lift: Level Lift
Engineering: Unisol Engineering
Framer (interior): Strong Built 
Plumbing and mechanical: Oceanview Mechanical
Electrician: Titan Electric
Light fixtures: Matteo Lighting, Alora Lighting, Liteline 
Doors and hardware: Weiser Lock
Windows: Slegg Building Materials
Tile: Centura Tile 
Countertops: Fir Stone, Vicostone 
Flooring: Engineered Floors, Edgar and Miner Floor Coverings 
Landscape design: Biophilia Design Collective 
Other: D Byrne Construction & Excavating, Red Feather Landscaping and Horticulture