Photography: Janis Nicolay
With a passion for colour guiding both the designer and homeowner, a West Vancouver house is remade into a home for happiness.
When the perfect couple meet, we think of it as kismet. That’s what it was like when designer Ami McKay rolled up to the mint green, 1930s-era Westside Vancouver house in her bright yellow Mini Cooper and spotted a pair of delightfully pink chairs out front. “When the owner answered the door, I said, ‘Somebody likes colour!’ And she said, ‘That’s why you’re here!’” Ami recalls.
The designer herself has had a love affair with colour since living in India in her twenties. Says Ami: “Seeing all the stunning, vibrant green, pink, yellow, purple saris against the dirt roads and natural landscapes, and the colours that people decorated their animals with – they’d put polka dots on their dogs and flowers around their cows’ necks. It inspired me.”
But the owner’s distinct vision for her home transcended colour. “We wanted it to feel joyful and have moments of whimsy,” she says of the three-storey, four-bedroom home she shares with her husband, two daughters and family dog. “We wanted our space to look like a family lives here! It didn’t need to be ‘adults only,’” she explains. “Our girls voted on many of the design decisions. At the end of the day, it’s their home, too.”
She felt that Ami had a real understanding of her desires. “Ami’s enthusiasm and energy for our vision was infectious,” she says. “Her flair with colour and her willingness to be bold was the perfect fit for us. She was as joyful as the home we wanted to create.”
Functionally, the homeowners’ issues with the house read like a laundry list of top home complaints: inadequate storage; a boring beige palette; narrow doorways; a space that didn’t adequately show off the family’s art (in this case, a great collection of contemporary Canadian pieces). Most notably, she wanted to transform the kitchen. “I wanted an island that would be a hub for food prep and I wanted our daughters to have a space to sit for breakfast while I prepped their lunches. I love to bake and cook, and I wanted a kitchen that really worked.”
Throughout the house, Ami was tasked with overhauling the vibe and palette, freshening surfaces with new flooring and tile, widening doorways, and bringing in eye-catching new furniture and accessories. In the kitchen and master bedroom, she also redrew the floorplans. One key to modernizing the spaces both functionally and aesthetically was adding show-stopping new built-ins in a number of the rooms.
The redesign didn’t, however, mean gutting everything. “We kept the character and charm, but we had a lot of fun with it,” Ami says. And, interestingly, for a homeowner and designer in love with colour, the walls here are almost all painted white. “It’s just such a nice background for all the hits of colour,” Ami reasons. “And they have beautiful art, so we wanted that to stand out.” But in every room, there are flourishes of colour and pattern intended to intrigue and delight. “The colours we chose are playful and fearless. Some of them are vibrant; some are subtle,” Ami muses. “I really think joyous is the best word to describe this house.”
The homeowner couldn’t agree more. “It feels like us now. There’s more light, more colour, more space to be together as a family,” she says. “In our home, there’s a lot of laughter, singing and chatter, and the space now seems to echo our joy.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay
A key goal of the redesign was to create a showcase for the owners’ vibrant Canadian art collection, so beyond dashes of strong colour in the rugs and accents, the walls, trim and ceilings were kept light. “It’s a warm white, so it’s a really nice white for Vancouver – it shows beautifully here on overcast days,” says designer Ami McKay. The original orangey fir floors were sanded and given a clear finish for a contemporary vibe.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | PENDANT, Finnish Design Group; wall, trim, stair and ceiling PAINT COLOUR (throughout house), Oxford White CC-30, Benjamin Moore; BASEBOARDS (throughout house), West Coast Mouldings and Doors; ARTWORK by Les Thomas, Canada House Gallery; RUNNER, made from three Turkish runners, Etsy.
The front hall is a breath of fresh air — and a harbinger of the bright, playful spaces to come. A stair runner from Turkey feels rooted in history, while the pendant light has a futuristic presence. From there, Ami carried colour into the rest of the house. “We needed to make sure that when you look to the right and the left, it all pulled together,” she explains.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | RUG, Salari Fine Carpets; Muuto PENDANT, YLighting; PULLS (on sideboard), Design Studio Nu.
New niches in the front hall let the owners show off favourite collectibles. The doll sculptures, which were made by an Israeli artist and represent the owners and their children, were a springboard for Ami in planning the home’s palette. The dining room panelling was added during the reno. Ami says, “It’s contemporary in design, but it also fits in with the original character of the house.” The homeowner’s uncle crafted the Canada geese mobile.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Marvel BAR FRIDGE, Midland Appliance; Vivid White 1111 COUNTERTOP, Caesarstone; CANISTERS, CB2.
Situating the designated coffee and drinks station on the wall opposite the stove prevents traffic jams in the cooking zone. Like the rest of the house, this area isn’t all business; art, books and sculptural accessories add colour and whimsy.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Terrazzo Renata marble and resin TILE (on floor), Ann Sacks; CABINET DESIGN, Pure Design; CABINET SUPPLIER, Eyco Construction; PENDANTS, Schneid; Vivid White 1111 COUNTERTOP, Caesarstone; POTLIGHTS, Robinson; panelled-in DISHWASHER (beyond sink), Midland Appliance.
The kitchen’s new plan included adding bar-style seating at the island — a place for the owners’ daughters to eat breakfast and do homework — plus designated drawers for the owner’s baking supplies and countertop parking for her Kitchenaid stand mixer. An early riser, she often whips up fresh treats in the mornings. “Everything’s arranged perfectly so she scoops this, scoops this, adds eggs and milk, and then her kids have fresh-baked goodness in the morning,” Ami says.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
Pendant lights over the island embody the home’s new aesthetic with their playful shapes and unexpected colours.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | CHANDELIER, Etsy; PILLOWS, Anara Design Company.
“A table with four chairs eats up so much space because you have to have clearance to come in and out of the table,” Ami explains. “By adding a banquette here, we could push the table back further so we’d have more workspace in the kitchen.”
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Terrazzo Renata marble and resin TILE (on floor), Ann Sacks; Vivid White 1111 COUNTERTOP, Caesarstone.
Ami’s overhaul of the kitchen included removing one of a pair of French doors to enlarge the breakfast area, then upsizing the picture window so the owners can see their enchanting backyard. “It’s just an incredible property,” Ami says. A new banquette with added storage under the seat is tucked into the corner. A birdcage chandelier found on Etsy connects to the outdoors in a delightful way.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | ART, Ben Skinner.
In every room, a few key elements inject the cheery new colour scheme, adding the “joy” that the owner wanted. In the breakfast area, that’s the birdcage-style chandelier that’s bursting with brightly coloured feathered friends.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Craze TILES (on fireplace front), Ann Sacks; ARTWORK (over fireplace), by Vojtech Matousek from Mayberry Fine Art; SOFAS, Bensen, Inform Interiors; THROW, PILLOW, BOWL, Provide; RUG, Pacific Rug Gallery; SCONCES, Michael Anastassiades for Flos, Lightform.
The lighthearted throw on the right-hand sofa is one of the owner’s prized possessions and served as inspiration for Ami in putting together the home’s palette. The other owner — both homeowners are doctors — fell in love with the crackly tiles on the fireplace because they reminded him of arteries.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Green colourful geometric PILLOW, Provide; Green OTTOMAN, Inform Interiors; Boucherouite RUG, Etsy; Black BASKET beside sectional, Olive & Wild; BUILT-IN (design), Pure Design, (construction), Eyco Construction; ART, Samsung Frame TV.
Adding cleverly planned built-ins maximized function and organization without eating up a ton of floor space. The family room’s built-ins incorporate large artwork (actually a TV in disguise!), plus cabinets with colour-blocked doors. A roomy sectional accommodates a crowd.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Schumacher WALLPAPER, AnneStarr; PENDANT, Schneid; Kohler SINK, Brizo TAPS AND FAUCET, Robinson; VANITY, Concrete, Diamond Finishings.
In the powder room (which was repositioned to improve flow in the kitchen), whimsical bird and butterfly wallpaper is paired with a bold, utilitarian concrete sink in an irreverent design move that bucks tradition in this fresh, youthful home. A clean-lined mirror and accessories reiterate the home’s contemporary tone.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | Small patterned PILLOW, Rug & Weave; ART, Sarah Martin, Canada House Gallery.
What the master bedroom lacks in square footage it makes up for in comfort and style. The owners picked up the striking mountain landscape at Canada House Gallery in Banff. Ami chose a low upholstered headboard, pint-sized nightstands and low-key white sconces so the focus stays on the art.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | CABINET, (design) Pure Design, (installation), Eyco Construction; CABINET PULLS, Design Studio Nu; RUG, Marra Market; DRAPERY, Designer Resource; PLANT POT in window well, Provide.
In the master bedroom, Ami dialed up the function by adding a wall of kitted-out closets (she even bumped out the roofline slightly to accommodate more hanging space). Ami set off the warm tone of the built-ins’ wall and the fir flooring by painting the top half of the closets an ethereal blue. Instead of sacrificing the window to create an uninterrupted run of closets, Ami added a built-in dresser under it; she then used the dresser to set a line for the colour-blocking.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | PENDANT LIGHTS, Schneid; Wetstyle BATHTUB, Blu Bathworks; BATH FILLER, Cantu; Tabarka TILES (on wall), Cotto d’Este floor and wall TILE, World Mosaic Tile; Brizo FAUCET, Robinson.
Ami pulled out all the stops in the master bathroom, dressing a statement-making feature wall behind the deep soaker tub in six contrasting tile patterns. “The owner likes French country colours — hence the blue and yellow tones,” Ami explains. “We had the tiles custom-made, so we had to pick colours and just hope they’d all work together,” Ami says. “When they came in, I laid them all out on the bedroom floor and played and played with them, customizing the pattern.” With its simple slanted wooden feet, the vanity looks like a 1950s-era dresser.
Photography: Janis Nicolay
The owners’ daughters had redecorated their own bedrooms before this redesign, but Ami overhauled their bathroom. A long Ceasarstone-topped fir vanity looks crisp paired with wall-mounted brass fixtures and chunky jewelry-like knobs, and offers loads of space for toiletries and bath linens. Tiles from Clé add dynamic pattern underfoot.
Photography: Janis Nicolay | DOOR, West Coast Mouldings and Doors; Emtek DOOR HANDLE, Bradford Hardware; TOWEL HOOKS, Anthropologie; SCONCE, Cedar & Moss; Vivid White 1111 COUNTERTOP, Caesarstone; Kohler SINK, Kohler; TAPS, FAUCET, Robin- son; fan-shaped white TILES, Centura Tile; Kohler SHOWER HEAD, CONTROLS, Robinson.
Fan-shaped tiles handsomely set off with dark grout and luxe brass fixtures feel chic and fresh. An ample niche shelf can hold an onslaught of soaps and hair products.