House Beautiful: Couple wanted to downsize to a condo, so they built one

As anyone who has done it knows, it can be challenging downsizing from a house to a condo.

But imagine doing it as a first-time developer and designing your forever home in a four-storey, 21-unit condominium project you created yourself — with a little help from your friends.

That’s exactly what Bonita and Kees Schaddelee did when they bought a lovely piece of property across from Beacon Hill Park from their friend Hermine Mundigler, who owned two houses side-by-side near Victoria’s Cook Street Village.

Mundigler, now 90, used to work for the Schaddelees’ family-owned business, the Dutch Bakery and Diner.

When they bought the properties four years ago, the Schaddelees’ new business venture began. (They are now retired and the Dutch Bakery is currently owned by one of their two sons, a niece and nephew.)

Going into a large residential project for the first time, the Schaddelees looked for partners.

Once again, they turned to friends — this time Shirley and Robbie Hunter, who connected them with Michael Jawl of Tri-Eagle Development Corp. and his sons David and Peter.

Also involved in the project were Cascadia Architects and interior designer Jenny Martin Design — who did the exterior and layout of the condo — along with Thomas Philips Woodworking and Campbell Construction.

None of it would have happened without Bonita’s dream, dating back 15 years, when she first had a vision of what kind of home she wanted. “I saw an article in New York Magazine about living in a vertical mansion. I said that’s what I want to build — my home on top of a building,” says Bonita, a design aficionado who came to the project with lots of ideas.

One practical idea was creating plenty of storage, often in short supply in condominiums. Not here — there’s so much well-thought-out cupboard space in the Schaddelees’ fourth-floor, two-bedroom penthouse, there are even some empty drawers.

As she gave a tour of her home, Bonita pointed out one of her favourite sets of cupboards, off the kitchen, which serves as a “catch-all” that allows the couple to store “extra everything” just in case.

“It’s quite wonderful,” she said with a smile.

After you walk down the modern condo’s corridor to their sleek apartment, past several large pieces of colourful artwork, there is a wow moment with another large work of art inside their entryway. It’s centred in the custom-designed “his and her entrance” closets with practical drawers that keep Bonita’s scarf collection and other items for the outdoors at the ready.

When you step further into the home, you see another custom cabinet, designed for Kees’ extensive jade collection. The cabinet has 16 lighted cubicles, each featuring interesting jade finds from the couple’s many visits to China. The drawers below hide practical items such as silverware sets.

Bonita was born in Hong Kong and their homes over the years have had a strong Asian influence. Besides the jade collection, there’s a carved Rosewood coffee table the couple had made in 1989. The condo has a lighter, more modern feel than their previous house, which had a distinctive Asian style and an extensive garden with a Koi pond, previously featured in the Times Colonist.

The couple, who travelled frequently pre-pandemic, found the Cordova Bay home and garden — lovely as they were — too demanding to keep up.

After selling that house, they let go many of the items they had collected on their travels and kept just a cherished few, so as not to clutter their new condo.

Nine months ago, they moved into the condo —again with help from friends.

Five days before the move, Kees suffered a broken ankle and friends stepped in to help. Thanks to Charles Locker (Bonita’s former hairdresser of 50 years) and Don Whalen (a retired engineer), who Bonita describes as her “art installers,” the couple’s art collection was set up. Many other friends also pitched in to help set up the condo with life’s necessities, so it was practically turn-key when they arrived.

“I felt so blessed. Everyone dropped everything to help us,” she says.

About 30 paintings were hung, and the couple’s glass collection was placed throughout the home, including 12 glass plates over the living-room fireplace. Locker and Whalen followed a template provided by the art gallery in Seattle where the piece was purchased.

While the Schaddelees downsized their collections before their move, they were able to go from three glass plates to 12 with this particular artwork. The result is a stunning showstopper in the living room that blends Bonita’s favourite colours, chartreuse and deep raspberry. The colour combination can also be seen in two armchairs and throw pillows, made with fabric brought back from a trip to Thailand.

Pops of colour are found throughout the home, often in glass art, such as the powder room’s glass door by Niki Glass from Niki Design & Glass Studio in Vancouver. Or Kees’ favourite art piece from artist Harlem Walter, based on a Picasso design sanctioned by Pablo Picasso. It takes pride of place in the dining room and can be seen from anywhere in the open-concept living space.

Bonita’s favourite artworks include a bronze pig called Tulip that sits on their kitchen island and an artwork her husband, who was the chocolatier at the family-owned bakery, bought her in San Francisco — a large box of chocolates where the artist obliged Bonita by agreeing to paint out one of the blue-wrap-covered chocolates in favour of her preferred gold wrap.

That artwork is located in the streamlined kitchen, which features a Caesarstone kitchen island with a t-bar that feels like a piece of furniture and features the same granite they used in their former home. Bonita said the additional seating allows friends to sit nearby and enjoy the outdoor view, rather than a view of the kitchen island.

At the end of that table, which is large enough to seat four people for casual dining, is a bar in a custom cabinet with ample storage space.

Since the penthouse is a corner unit, there is a large wraparound deck with views to Beacon Hill Park on one side and Gonzales Hill on the other.

While it’s definitely smaller than their former home, Bonita says they have no regrets and now prefer the ease of condo living.

“When COVID hit and there was those dark early days, it was so light in the house, it helped lift our spirits. We could walk to the Inner Harbour, James Bay and the oceanfront and feel comfortable. We didn’t feel shut in at all,” she says. “It’s a real calming place for us.”

© Copyright Times Colonist

Find out what's happening in your community.

Popular Entertainment