Image: Janis Nicolay
When you've got a builder and a designer in the family, buying a home means focusing on the location – everything else can be fixed.
A spectacular home in an oceanside West Vancouver neighbourhood doesn't just spring up overnight, even if it's owned by an established builder-designer team.
Julian Bannister (owner of J. Bannister Homes for 17 years) and his wife, Karen Sander (who acts as a designer on the majority of his projects), purchased this hillside lot 14 years ago for its breathtaking views and prime location - but didn't start building their home here until much later.
The couple knew the original house would eventually have to go. "It was a teardown when we bought it, with squirrels in the roof and raccoons under the deck, but we knew we wanted to build here," says Karen. So they lived elsewhere while saving up to construct the perfect place from scratch.
It was 2011 when the pair finally broke ground for their 7,000-square-foot dream home, which took 20 months to complete and now boasts a view-maximizing outdoor space with a covered patio, open-air kitchen, a pool and a yard. And thanks to the advantage of experience, the couple had a firm concept of what would suit both their aesthetic and their family's busy lifestyle.
"I'm always drawn to a minimal modern look, but I knew it wasn't realistic for us," says Karen. "We've got a little pack of kids [ages 10, 11 and 12] – as well as a dog, rabbit, bird and fish – it’s a busy, crazy, chaotic household. We wanted comfort and something that reflected us.” So she and her husband created a contemporary envelope with modern elements and layered in treasured items and antiques for a truly eclectic look.
The living room features the 150-year-old burled walnut grand piano that has been in Karen’s family for generations; the library showcases a collection of antique books, plus mementoes from their travels; and the family room is a veritable natural history museum full of items found on the beach or in the woods (the clan loves to gather feathers, shells and driftwood while on their frequent camping trips).
To bring texture to the home’s neutral envelope, the couple incorporated an intriguing mix of materials – concrete, bronze, steel and 120-year-old Canadian barnboard, for example – that add interest and withstand wear and tear. “We do a lot of hardwood floors in lots of houses we build,” says Karen, “but they don’t always hold up to kids playing around on scooters and roller skates – so we went with travertine.”
However, Karen doesn’t mind a bit of wear; in fact, she welcomes it. “The kitchen table is scratched and dented and has glitter glue stuck in the grooves – and it puts a smile on my face,” she says. “It means we’re really enjoying the space to its fullest.” And that’s what the couple built this house for: enjoying their life and family, and relishing every moment.
The striking living room fireplace is made of one giant piece of carved granite, which required a crane to lift into the house. It’s complemented by the understated poured concrete hearth, placed at a comfortable height for extra seating when needed.
“My grandfather played it, my mom played it, and now my son’s playing it,” says homeowner Karen Sander of the 150-year-old grand piano in the living room. “It’s been through four generations with us.” An iron and crystal chandelier anchors the piano area, while a faux concrete feature wall lends interest.
The library’s stained-oak bookcases display a collection of antique books and mementoes from places like Nigeria and India. “I envisioned a modern version of a traditional library,” says Karen. The chandelier is made of metal beads; Karen inherited the ornate 1870s English oak desk.
In the kitchen, a traditional harvest table is surrounded by black, white and grey mid-century-style chairs. The series of hand-blown glass pendant lights hanging above is echoed in the row of jars and vases on the table.
The kitchen’s bronze-clad range hood was treated to create an aged look. “I wanted its patina to tie in with the barnboard we used in the family room,” says Karen. The stunning backsplash is made of a single slab of travertine.
Two of the homeowners’ three kids, Gavin, 10, and Lexy, 11, catch up on their reading at the dining table. The salvaged Sealtest milk sign adds a pop of red that’s carried through the rest of the home.
Outside the kitchen of this Vancouver home, the covered patio features a massive skylight, a luxury that amplifies the open outdoor feel but still provides shelter from the elements.
Hovering above the family room’s homework desk are cabinets made from 120-year-old barnboard gussied up with bronze hardware.
The dramatic mixture of materials continues into the master bedroom: A feature wall behind the bed is covered in lacquered cold-rolled steel panels and the gas fireplace surround is made of a single slab of travertine.
The master bathroom’s two vanities, made of stained wood and limestone, are the perfect marriage of form and function. With their mix of ample closed storage and clean-lined open shelving, they create a modern minimalistic floating look.