Waterfront Rhapsody

When interior designers Richard and Diane Salter began a project on the Southeast shore of Vancouver Island, they knew there’d be high expectations.

Their client wanted his home to impart “a heritage of life’s fineries,” and feel long established despite being a new, custom-built estate. His design choices would ultimately reflect Old World traditions and a “theatrical approach to life.” Even the landscape design by Twyla Rusnak and Illarion Gallant imparts the grandness of a scaled-down Versailles.

Their client’s dream to own a waterfront retreat took him on a seaside sojourn to find the perfect acreage. While sailing through the calm waters of Saanich Inlet, the mariner made a rare discovery and dropped anchor. As the backbeat of waves soothed the hull, he admired two acres of west-facing waterfront before him, with just the right moorage for his boat, perfect sunshine exposure, and idyllic setting to host large gatherings or quietly savour sunsets with a glass of champagne.

Today, marvelling at the completed 6,500-square-foot residence, which took over three years to design, build and furnish, Diane Salter reflects that “it’s a home that has strength and will survive time, getting richer with the years.”

A cobble drive winds its way to the residence, past magnolias and red maple trees, beside tranquil ponds shaded by white cherry blossoms and a sprawling lawn dappled with blue irises. Just as guests arrive at the circular finish, a fountain with golden cherubim cascades water into its basin, heralding a jubilant welcome to the magnificent Colonial Revival.

Thanks to architect Nigel Banks and builder Michael Knight, the three-storey estate intentionally resembles the centuries-old homesteads on eastern Long Island. Proportion and scale are at play with a gabled roofline, dormers, brick foundation and a cladding of wood shingles. Numerous windows add interest — decorative porthole and diamond shapes, as well as a vaulted Palladian window above the portico entrance.

Detail saturates the entryway, with its classic parquet floors, full-height wainscoting and copper ceilings. Strategically choosing an Old World palette that’s deep and regal but muted for a time-worn effect gives the home its Great Gatsby ambiance, especially when paired with dark walnut accents. The custom stair railing was hand tooled by woodcarver Ben Furse to resemble the knotted branches of a tree, stretching towards the window then swooping to artistically echo its rounded form before continuing upstairs.

“We tried to create a theme with each and every piece that we put into the house,” Salter says. “These architectural elements stand alone but are also part of the whole. It’s like art. There’s beauty and depth.”

To prevent the view from stealing the show, the design team framed the entrance of the dining room with pillars and dressed up the space with gorgeous silk wallpaper by manufacturer Brunschwig & Fils, whose tapestries are featured in grand rooms in the White House and the Palace of Versailles.

“We were after a bold statement that makes you stop, gather in the room and then move on,” says Salter, who fine-tuned the space with built-ins, a crystal chandelier and the owner’s collection of French china.

Orchestrated like a symphony, the home draws on Classic ideals but still responds to the wishes of a modern man — a synthesis interestingly in vogue but impressively difficult to achieve.

Text by Janine Mackie  Translated by Rui Chen  Produced by Brett Price  Photography by Vince Klassen