Nestled within Vancouver’s semi-rural Southlands neighbourhood, where time seems to stand still, a chateau emerges from the surrounding landscape, dappled by ferns and ancient evergreens.
This is the private residence of Eric Lee, a self-taught architectural designer with a philosophy to craft distinctively traditional homes with modern execution.
While many of his clients are partial to the ornate curves and embellishments of classical architecture, Lee has an affinity for the contemporary.
“A love for the authentic use of materials, void of makeup. The clean simple lines. The symmetry. The realness of it, that’s what I love,” he says.
With ambition to create a traditional show home for his firm, VictorEric Design Group, that would equally serve as a home for his own family, Lee took his dreams to the drafting table.
“It was a challenge to execute, because you have to walk that fine line between formal and informal, elegant and rustic,” says Lee, reflecting on the process of crafting the 4,400-square-foot residence.
Tall rectangular windows stand in perfect symmetry alongside an arched portico and stuccoed second-storey facade. Together, they belie a welcoming Old-World charm, to which Lee layered modern texture: aged brick, white-washed for heavy contrast, and windows framed in black metal — a departure from the quiet tone-on-tone palette that is typical with French design.
“I was inspired to unite genres,” says Lee, as he opens the door to the home he shares with his wife, Janey, and two young daughters. “My family is very casual and down-to-earth, so to imagine us living in a home where everything is ornate and fussy did not fit well.”
The interior is infused with French joie-de-vivre — literally the “joy of life,” nurturing both formal spaces and everyday family rooms.
Pure, untainted white walls form the subtle backdrop, where mouldings and embellishments are intentionally minimal, apart from the dining room’s coved ceiling. The elegant plasterwork there is a focal point, paired with an orb-style crystal chandelier, inspired by the 19th-century French experimental physicist Léon Foucault, counterpoised with polished crystals within a rustic iron frame.
“We do a lot of entertaining, both for business and family, so I wanted to create something really special here,” says Lee. “I love how the lighting plays off the ceiling detail.”
He opted to forgo a formal living area, “often redundant and never used,” he says, in favour of a cosy music studio instead, where his girls play piano, he plays guitar, and Janey curls up to read a book.
Warmth, history, and meaning are imparted in the family room with authentic materials: beautiful book-matched Statuario marble slabs as fireplace surround, and rustic, reclaimed ceiling beams, sourced from a barn in Oregon.
If one rooms spurs joie above the others, it’s the kitchen — the heartbeat of this home, where roasts are basted, recipes filed and homework checked.
“I wanted to design a showpiece,” says Lee, “and bring in that farmhouse element, with handpainted floor tile, a wine fridge concealed behind what looks like an old French armoire, and this amazing hood fan with custom shroud for big impact.”
As his daughter disappears upstairs, Lee has no doubt where she’s headed. “We got her this fabulous canopy bed, but she’d rather sleep in the toy loft … that’s her favourite spot.”
The house is new, but it has soul. Its beauty is in the authenticity of its bespoke design, infused with a dose of practicality and whimsy.
“The house feels like it belongs to all of us, and each of us. It’s a home where a family can live in harmony.”
Text by Janine Mackie Translated by Rui Chen
Images Courtesy of VictorEric Premium Homes Produced by Brett Price