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Let the light shine

Mid-century modern meets warm minimalistic in mid-Island dream home
The owners of this 2022-built custom home wanted their home to feel well-integrated into its surroundings, showcasing the natural setting. James Jones Photography

As soon as I sat on the grassy knoll and looked at the trees and the rocks and the water in the distance, I knew I was home,” says one of the owners of this spectacular mid-Vancouver Island home. “This was where I wanted to be.”

“This” was an undeveloped third of an acre in a quiet community that seemed to call to the recently retired Ontario-based couple (both of whom wish to remain anonymous). “We wanted to be back by the mountains and the ocean, and we were ready to downsize and build the home of our dreams.”

Having already viewed and fallen in love with a Sartori Custom Homes show home and wanting that same vision for their new build, they consulted with Dan Sartori before buying the property. The site had the sun exposure and trees they wanted, but it was sloped and rocky. Could he, they wondered, build a home on the site while still preserving much of the lot’s natural beauty?

Dan says it was a challenging request but not an insurmountable one.

“It’s a unique site with the road on three sides. It had many large, geological granite formations and an abundance of trees, so it did present challenges,” he explains. “But through consultation with our structural and geotechnical engineers, as well as our experienced excavation contractor, we were able to devise a plan that preserved the areas in question while creating the space they wanted.”

Geological granite formations and an abundance of trees made this a challenging property to build on, but the results are exactly what the homeowner wanted. Rob Moroto photo

The result, as seen when you first drive up, is a home nestled among the trees and naturally occurring plateaus of the site, one that feels well-integrated into its surroundings. Much of that is due to Dan’s construction decisions, including using solid Douglas fir timbers, full-bed natural stone custom finishes and longboard siding that so closely mimics wood it’s virtually impossible to tell that it’s aluminum.

“We were going to go with wood, but Dan and his exterior siding contractor asked us to consider longboard aluminum siding,” the homeowner says. “It’s very practical and low-maintenance, and we love it.”

Stepping through the oversized front door into the foyer, your eye is immediately drawn to a floating staircase leading to the lower level and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire south side of the house. Those windows offer up views of three patios, a low-maintenance, no-grass garden and an abundance of trees that frame the distant ocean. The effect is an open, light-filled space that feels at one with the outdoors – all things the owners wanted.

They also wanted a generous and natural flow from one room to the next, which they’ve achieved in an interior that’s a stylistic blend of mid-century modern and warm minimalistic.

To the left of the foyer, a double-sided black porcelain fireplace divides the dining room from the 14-foot-high great room and kitchen. “I was adamant that I wanted a black fireplace,” says the homeowner, who handled the interior design herself.

Luxurious kitchen cabinets made of rift-cut walnut with horizontal grain create a sense of flow the homeowners wanted. James Jones Photography

With the fireplace being non-negotiable, she built on her chosen palette of black, cream and brown, first selecting the floors (a mid-tone maple engineered hardwood) and creamy quartz countertops with rich black, brown and gold veining. Everything flowed from there, including her decision to use “hints of gold for glam” and to choose luxurious kitchen cabinets made of rift-cut walnut with horizontal grain.

“Running the grain that way gives more of that sense of flow they wanted,” Dan explains. “It’s also beautiful and easy on the eyes.”  

With the common areas located along the southeast side of the house, a study in the northwest corner offers a quieter space. It features more of the rich walnut cabinetry custom-designed with pullouts to hide her sewing supplies and the material he needs for his consulting work. Steps away is the glamorous two-piece powder room finished in dramatic black and gold Schumacher wallpaper, black quartz countertops and deluxe gold finishes.

Asked to choose a favourite room, the homeowners are stymied.

“I don’t have a favourite room. There’s something that’s my favourite, that excites me, in every room.”

In the master bedroom suite, stunning with its black, cream and gold palette, she loves that she can lie in bed and see the trees. “It’s like being in a tree house,” she says. The corner of the bedroom, where the two have their morning coffee, is cosy and inviting with its two large side chairs, something else she appreciates.

In the en suite, her favourite feature is the wall behind the bathtub because of the symmetry of the carefully placed wall sconces and the long, horizontal window above, which gives them more of the natural light they wanted. High windows are featured in the walk-in closet and the attached large laundry room too.

The laundry room also has an additional feature that makes it unique. “We asked for an exterior door from the laundry room so we can go sailing or kayaking or for a swim in the ocean and come in through the laundry area and discard our wet clothes without tracking through the house,” the homeowner explains. “Dan and his team went above and beyond in meeting our needs.”

Since main-level living was their goal, the homeowners situated the TV room, guest bedrooms (both complete with en suites) and a bar area downstairs. Designed for guests and to allow any future caregivers to live in, they plumbed in the downstairs storage area for an additional washer and dryer, added a five-foot crawl space for easy access, and left room in the walls to install an elevator should that become necessary down the line.

The practical, structural decisions came naturally because of the homeowner's engineering background. “I stayed out of my wife’s design way and she gave me latitude on the infrastructure side; we make a really good team.”

One of his main goals was an energy-efficient home, so energy consultants were hired and options were considered. Rigid insulation was installed beneath the lower level and below the skim coat on the main level as an inexpensive way to boost energy efficiency. Thirty-five one- by two-metre solar panels were installed on the roof. Unobtrusive and not visible from the street, the panels provide all the electricity the couple needs over a year.  

“In fact, we’re on the books as being an official power generation station for BC Hydro, and we have a charging station roughed in too, so we can draw on that when we get an electric car down the road,” he says.

The couple also installed a heat pump and a battery backup system for extra insurance.

Choosing Dan to design and build their home, finding the right property and then overseeing construction took the couple two years. “We lived in a 750-square-foot apartment nearby to oversee the construction,” they say, adding that Dan, his team and the tradespeople he uses deserve a great deal of credit for working patiently and professionally through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now happily settled in their new surroundings, the homeowners are deeply satisfied with the choices they made. Dan is too, noting, “The home meets or even exceeds what we imagined it would be at the start of the process. The way it blends into the land, combined with the warm and inviting interior finishes and details, makes it eye-catching and truly special.”

Supplier list

Design: Edward Gallagher Designs

Builder: Sartori Custom Homes

Electrical: Clark Electrical

Solar energy: Shift Energy Group

Timber work: Great West Timber Frames

Tile: BEtile

Energy advisor: Bernhardt Contracting

Cabinetry: Heronwood Custom Cabinetry Inc.

Plumbing: Ocean Blue Plumbing / Splashes Bath and Kitchen

Siding installer: Distinctive Exteriors

Windows: Westeck Windows & Doors

Stone masonry: Noble Stone Ltd.

Geotechnical engineering: Lewkowich Engineering Associates Ltd.

Excavation and site preparation: Ellis Excavating Ltd.

Countertops: VI Granite & Quartz Countertops