The kitchen is the heart of this airy, ocean-view Parksville home
Words Don Descoteau
Photography Dirk Heydemann
- 3,141 square feet of living space
- 883-square-foot garage
- Waterfront access and views
- Step 4 efficiency rating on C Energy Step Code
- 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms
- Fully equipped woodworking shop
When a property two lots down from their large West Parksville waterfront home came available several years back, Dawn and Allan Vermeulen saw it as a golden opportunity to build the perfect empty-nester home.
A more manageable size, energy efficiency, easier patio access and preservation of their spectacular views were high on their list of must-haves.
“We wanted some really nice outside areas, and we wanted them tied in with the rest of the house, but in particular the kitchen, which is the nerve centre of any home,” Allan says.
In their larger home, he adds, it feels like “you have to walk a quarter mile to get to that fantastic patio from the kitchen.”
Such is not the case with their new home. The covered deck, built onto the west side, is accessed through the living room via a sliding glass door located just steps from the kitchen. The door is among a bank of large windows, beautifully encased in cedar, which flood the living room with light and provide breathtaking views of the Salish Sea and French Creek Marina.
Dawn and Allan initially envisioned a smaller kitchen, but as the design phase progressed for their custom home, they realized the new dining/meal prep area would be larger than the one in their other home. Noting how much time they spend in the space each day, they appreciate having worked out a great solution with home designer Dan Connolly at Saturna Studios and the team at Pheasant Hill Homes.
The couple, who moved homes in February 2023, are avid cooks and often start their day relaxing with a coffee, checking the news and chatting at their breakfast nook, a cosy partial alcove with a small table and two chairs.
The nook wasn’t in the original plan, but the area had the ocean view they craved for such a spot, so the home’s northwest corner was bumped out by more than two feet. It accomplished the primary request and added space to the living room.
The central heart of this modern cliffside house has an airy, north-south configuration designed to take advantage of the sun and the spectacular view. At the front is a series of floor-to-ceiling windows, including a sliding door that opens onto a garden patio surrounded by lush native plantings. The dining table sits just inside—Dawn wanted to avoid a formal dining room. The adjacent kitchen features a large island with low seating on one side and a range/oven on the other. Generous walkways flank the island and lead to the sink/dishwasher area and the nook.
“It is hard…when you’re looking at plans, to envision it, and so when this all took shape, there was a lot more room than I thought there would be,” Dawn says, without any tinge of regret.
It’s the fourth kitchen design or renovation she has led in their homes over the years.
While the plans called for a galley-style kitchen, the couple was pleasantly surprised as it took shape, Allan says.
“We thought it was going to feel like this long channel, but it actually ends up being a lot of space. I think we probably have the highest kitchen-to-house square footage ratio of just about any house around here.”
Adds Dawn: “That’s where we live. Especially if people are over, this is where you congregate.”
The design integrated a walk-through pantry, a uniquely curved storage and food preparation area that is home to a microwave and steam oven, and a full-sized “garage fridge” for overflow from the main kitchen refrigerator.
The angle of the back wall runs parallel to the east property line, as does the rear wall of the east wing, which includes the master bedroom/bathroom, laundry room, two-car garage and Allan’s high-end woodworking shop.
For the living room, the couple wanted visible separation from the kitchen. This is accomplished with a floor-to-ceiling wall that’s wide enough to hang a large painting of Englishman River Falls on the living room side and install a built-in china cabinet and sideboard on the other.
With sculpture-like LED chandeliers at the entryway and atop the stairs to the lower level, and exposed fir beams on the ceiling and framing the separator wall, the living room is welcoming and conjures visions of tucking under a cosy blanket while storm watching. Not surprisingly, it’s also a favourite hangout for the couple’s two black cats, Inky and Pickles.
Allan, a retired software engineer accustomed to building things from scratch, designed for the kitchen a rectangular inset LED lighting strip that has warm or cool settings, depending on time of year. Similar LED light strips line the angled beams over the living room.
The master bedroom is modestly sized but features a spacious walk-through closet that leads to a full bathroom with dual sinks and walk-in shower.
“We’ve always had gigantic bedrooms that we just sleep in, but we didn’t use, so we took all the space you’d normally put into the master bedroom and put it into the kitchen,” Allan says.
The bedroom does have a cool feature: a doorway opens onto an outdoor landing that leads down concrete stairs to an outdoor shower and, down more stairs, to an ocean-facing hot tub. A pathway nearby gives access to the shoreline. The facilities come in handy after kayaking or running sessions, Dawn says, with a nod to Allan.
The lower floor rooms are more function than flash—that is, the spectacular view is not central to their design—but there are plenty of useful elements that add to the overall appeal of the home.
The large family room offers loads of space for everything from hosting games nights to extra storage and, as is currently the case, temporary office space. Two smaller bedrooms provide space for guests, and a sewing room directly under the pantry is filled with Dawn’s supplies and project materials. A full-height dry room is used to store wood for Allan’s fine furniture and other projects.
As for its energy efficiency, Pheasant Hill co-owner and project consultant Jamie Kuhn rates the home “very high” at Step 4 on the BC Energy Step Code, which aims to move new homes toward net-zero energy consumption. It would be rated Step 5 if not for the large windows upstairs, Allan says, “and we’re not giving that up.”
Jamie explains that the ICF (insulated concrete form) foundation and other insulating features, including the triple-pane windows, make the home virtually airtight. The HRV (heat recovery ventilator) system, “which we call the lungs of the house,” provides constant fresh air throughout. Jamie estimates its efficiency rating at about 75 per cent, better than average for such systems.
Other efficiencies include a heat pump to regulate temperature and heat water for the radiant in-floor heating, and the solar panels installed on the garage roof. In sunnier months, the panels produce roughly four times as much electricity as the home uses, Allan says. He estimates usage will net out to almost zero over the year.
Back in the living room with the cats, the couple say there’s much to like about their home, not least of which is the airiness of the living spaces upstairs, “without being cavernous,” Dawn says. She also appreciates that the home’s placement at the rear of the lot means “it’s not a big presence from the road.”
Allan agrees and is happy with the choices for the windows and doors—“more wood than plastic.” They both like how designer Dan Connolly blended a variety of external finishes, materials and colours to give the home its unique look.
But for Allan and Dawn, daily, it always comes back to the views.
As the saying goes, they just don’t make waterfront property anymore.
- Builder/Carpentry: Pheasant Hill Homes
- Home Design: Dan Connolly, Saturna Studios
- Cabinetry & Millwork: Oak Hills Woodcraft
- Plumbing: Portside Plumbing and Gas Ltd.
- Windows & Doors: Fenstur Windows and Doors
- Exterior: Ravenwood Exteriors Ltd.
- Flooring: United Floors
- Appliances: Trail Appliances
- Countertops: Counter Measures
- Electrical: Osprey Electrical
- Solar Panels: Osprey Electrical
- Plumbing/Hardware: Wolseley Mechanical Group
- Lighting: Mclaren Lighting
- Energy Advisor: Capital Home Energy