“At first what caught my eye about this home was its scale,” says landscape designer Ryan Donohoe. “It was clear from the beginning that everything about this home was going to be grand, and it was important that the finished landscape matched the home’s grandeur and was seamless with the architecture.”
The new owners of the early-1980s residence put their modest renovation plans on hold for personal reasons. But one year later, expanded plans ignited what would become a beautifully transformed family oasis that lies — shielded from the world by a 40-foot-high cedar hedge — on one of West Vancouver’s rare large flat lots.
“Initially, the project started as a much smaller reno, essentially changing the floor tile throughout the home and putting in a new kitchen,” says architect Karen Kallweit of Kallweit Graham Architecture.
But then the scope expanded tremendously and very quickly. “Before we knew it,” she says, “we were adding significant spaces, taking off roofs, tearing down the tennis court to accommodate major landscaping, and scrambling for permits.”
The project, which started in 2010, was delayed by extended landscaping and working around existing hydro right-of-way limitations, which created side-yard setback and access issues. This also prevented electrical power to the property for the first few months, necessitating the use of generators. The project was completed in 2015.
The pace became hectic to the point that many of the design details were sketched on paper by hand, with the exception of the curved arched ceiling in the living room, which required exacting computer-construction drawings with detailed curves down to a sixteenth of an inch.
The renovations — skillfully executed by Kingdom Builders, Vancouver — increased the overall living area from 7,100 square feet to 8,700 square feet, incorporating a fitness room that could be utilized as a caretaker suite, a small poolhouse, five bedrooms, all with ensuite, and a health spa.
View lines extend from all vantage points within the two-storey house to the gardens, creating private little realms amongst the larger family living areas. Kallweit took what she felt worked from the old structure in terms of the existing stucco finish, dark brown window frames and wrought iron accents, then leaned towards a West Coast/Asian craftsman fusion with a respectful nod to the home’s original Spanish influences.
The home was designed to accommodate not only extended family members who congregate from around the world, but the owner’s passion for gardening. Ryan Donohoe, of Donohoe Design Inc., completed the garden design, creating an ethereal feeling for the clients by incorporating multi-sensory elements throughout. The clients also requested an ergonomically correct vegetable garden laced with fruit trees and a custom-built stainless-steel planting station.
Donohoe flew to England to collaborate with David Harber, one of the world’s top garden-sculpture artists, to create the landscape centrepiece, a corten steel wind-chime sculpture.
“Towering over the garden like soldiers protecting the family,” he says, “eight laser-cut corten steel blades and eight beautifully spun stainless steel rods, set to the pentatonic scale, move together in the wind in a harmonized fashion.” At the top of each blade of steel on the wind chimes sits an engraved brass plaque with a Mandarin symbol for each of the words: respect, reflection, humility, peace, effort, manner, honesty, and kindness.
If it’s true that a garden becomes an extension of one’s home and mirrors the personalities and emotions of the residents, Karen Kallweit and Ryan Donohoe have captured the core essence of this family flawlessly.
Written by Alastair Barnett Photography by Ina Goetz Van Tonder, of Inavt Photography Kingdom Builders, Paul Lilley