– Story by Darcy Nybo Photography by Don Denton
# bedrooms: 3
# bathrooms: 3 full, en suite and 2 half
1 media room
Sq. ft. of home: 5,000
Sq. ft. of deck: 1,800
fireplaces: 2 – 1 wood and 1 gas
reno/build time: 16 months
items saved: fireplace and structural open beams
Every now and then you find the perfect lot with a home that screams for a renovation. Clare and Brent Carson found just that in a six-sided home in Ladysmith.
“We fell in love with it immediately,” Clare says. “[The previous owners] had taken advantage of the ocean views and the small peninsula on the lot, but not as much as they could have. We went one step further and opened up the space to take full advantage of the views from the property.”
Indeed, the views are breathtaking. A pair of deer wander onto the small wooded peninsula in front of us as Clare describes some of the activity they see from their home.
“Just the other day we had a pod of four orcas come through. We’ve seen gray whales out here too. There are usually seals in the bay as well as sea lions, otters, deer, eagles, herons, woodpeckers, loons and dozens of other birds. We are keeping the whole area off the deck in its natural state for the animals.”
No matter where you are — in the kitchen, dining room, office or living area — there’s a view of the ocean. Nature is in full abundance here. The lot has a microclimate perfect for Garry oak and arbutus, making it highly representative of life on Vancouver Island.
“Brian Hemingway, a noted Vancouver architect, was an integral part of the team and conceptualized the design of the house as per the owners’ vision,” Chris says. “It was a great design — and then we had to make it work structurally. There were areas of the house that weren’t square and a lot of math and geometry was involved. We took the entire home down to its original framing. There was also an intensive seismic retrofit to meet current codes.”
“When we first saw this place, I envisioned expansive decks,” Clare says. “The deck is my favourite place. It’s a living space for us. It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing … It faces so many angles that we can always find a comfortable area. There is also a glass overhang to protect us from rain. Every morning the sun rises over De Courcy Island and it’s stunning.”
But there is more to this hexagon-shaped house than the views.
“We love the work Mari Kushino Design did on designing the interior of the home,” Clare says. “I love to cook and I love a big space to cook in. I’ve always wanted a house where it’s possible to talk and cook at the same time. Besides, people always gravitate to the kitchen. There is enough space in here that I can have four people chatting with me on the other side of the island.”
“We wanted all our appliances behind cabinetry,” Clare says.
The magnificent 21-foot-high stone-faced fireplace is the core feature from which the living area, dining room and kitchen flow. The actual firebox opening is an impressive four feet high by six feet wide.
“The fireplace is a central structural component in the home as all six of the exposed Douglas fir timbers meet up at the fireplace,” Clare says. “We refaced the fireplace with 80 per cent natural-edge stone and 20 per cent ocean pearl stone from K2 Stone here on Vancouver Island.” She adds, “My favourite part of this build was combining the existing structural timber with new timber. Brian Hemingway took a very average design and turned it into something spectacular. We created continuity with the exterior timber as well as the additional timber used above the doors and windows. They all match the colour of the arbutus trees in a small grove to the left of the living area. This house blends perfectly with the headland of the property.”
While building a six-sided house is not common, it is quite doable. The architect created a nice flow by using the same shape and slightly different sized tiles on the main living area and the outdoor decks, making the transition almost seamless from indoors to out.
“There were so many people helping us create our dream home,” Clare says. “It was obvious that many of the trades took great pride in what they brought to the build. Even the people who did the insulation took pride in their work.”
Clare wanted to create a hotel feel in the master suite.
“I loved the idea of floor-to-ceiling windows to be able to see the water when you are in bed. We also wanted the steam shower and the tub to have ocean views. We installed a Fleurco freestanding bathtub at an angle to one of the glass walls for a relaxing view of the ocean.”
The master suite also has a gas fireplace. Add that to a large, walk-in closet with matching his-and-hers dressers, and the resort atmosphere is complete.
Also on the upper level is a butler’s pantry, which leads into a large mudroom and shower area created for holding wetsuits. There’s also a laundry room with cubbies for the kids and space for the pets. Off the mudroom is a gym with ocean views.
To the left of the front entrance, off the great room, sits an office area and a staircase that leads down to two bedrooms, each with their own en suite. To the far right of the entrance, off the kitchen, is another set of stairs that leads down to a theatre room with two levels for seating. There’s also a wet bar, mini fridge, sink and a half bathroom.
While renovating a home of this shape was a large job, Clare and Brent never felt too stressed out.
As Brent notes: “We had an on-site foreman, Chris Defoe. He was instrumental in problem solving and marrying architectural details with structural details. Having him on site made the build less difficult.”
“Oh, I agree,” Clare says. “It was great having him here because there were so many areas where we had a hard time envisioning how things would work, and Chris would find a way to explain it to us.”
Chris Lundy agrees that while complicated, the renovation was fairly stress-free.
“A renovation of this magnitude takes on a life of its own and the entire team has to be constantly adjusting during the process. There was great collaboration on this project between all the trades and the owners. There was a lot of problem solving and delays due to unforeseen structural problems, but at the same time there was this mutual trust between the contractor and the client.”
With the renovation now complete, the Carsons are content to watch the ever-evolving show Mother Nature provides.
“We love the privacy and the close connection with nature,” Brent says. “Everything out there changes as the tides go in and out. You never know what you’re going to see next.”