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House Beautiful: Third time's the charm for serial homebuilding owners

After building new every 10 years for the last three decades, couple says this contemporary house with ocean-facing windows that fold back to create a stunning connection with the shores of Cordova Bay, is their forever home.

In the last three decades these owners have found a property and built a new house every 10 years, but they now say their serial building days are over.

They insist this is their forever house, and who could argue?

With its floating glass-walled staircase, soaring two-storey living room and sand-coloured European oak floors that flow straight onto the beach, this residence is dreamy in every sense.

It’s about a third smaller than their last house of 5,400 square feet and lazes on the shore of Cordova Bay with ocean-facing windows that fold back in both dining and living rooms, creating a stunning connection with the waterfront.

The owners, who ask not to be identified, took 10 months to build it during the height of the COVID pandemic and moved in a year and a half ago. The experience was rewarding on many levels.

Not only do they adore the location and design of their new house, but they also found the process interesting and offer accolades to the experts and artisans involved — from Karmanah Wood Design which custom built the front door and stairs, to DeCicco Brothers Plastering and Stucco, and Daniel Caicedo of AGC Corp Victoria Restorations who did their Venetian plasterwork.

“We have been in Cordova Bay for 23 years,” said wife Nicky, who noted they first bought on the ridge. But one day they decided to build from scratch and were soon hooked on the process.

Her husband relishes the process itself being a meticulous planner and detail man, and she loves the creativity of interior design. “He is super-organized and deals well with things going sideways as he is always 20 steps ahead of everyone … and I enjoy picking out the pretty things,” she said with a chuckle.

With he help of Oliver Katz at ReMax Camosun they acquired their first lot, then another and now this one-third acre piece of land which had an old tear down on it.

It is also the third time they have built with the help of Ron McNeil, of McNeil Building Designs

“He is amazing, really attentive to the needs of his clients and quite visionary,” said the husband, who noted they wanted an open concept home, wide open to the beach.

While still close to the water, they chose to situate their new home several few feet farther back from the shore than they were allowed, as they wanted to enjoy a more space on the ocean side.

“You never know, one of our kids might want to get married here,” quipped the husband, referring to their son and daughter, aged 23 and 21, who still live at home — and may never leave now.

Each of the couple’s homes has included a flat, although in the past it was usually under the house. This time they created a garden suite close to the road — as a guest house, mortgage helper, potential accommodation for elderly parents and as a selling asset. (It was the first legal garden suite to be approved in Saanich, in 2021.)

The main house was built on the beach side of the long, narrow lot.

The contemporary home includes many of the couple’s own design elements, such as a single-spine staircase complete with glass walls and under lighting. It appears to float in mid air because it doesn’t touch any walls. It was created by Geoff Lyons at Night N Day Projects with steps by Karmanah Wood Design.

Their last home had dark flooring and cabinets but this one is all about light. Engineered hardwood floors are the colour of driftwood bleached by the sun, and Nicky chose wood with a few knots so it wouldn’t be too monotone.

Brenda Affleck at Island Flooring Centre was a huge help, she said. “She’s like an interior design team all by herself.”

Nicky wanted an upstairs laundry and each of the two kid’s rooms to have their own ensuite, walk-in closet with space saving barn door.

Fixtures came from McLaren Lighting throughout and in the main rooms Nicky chose slim black versions to ensure unimpeded views. She originally chose see-through glass ball lights, “but once I saw the house I switched every single one and chose black LEDs instead.”

To create their forever home, the couple also built the property up about half a metre and added a retaining wall.

“Armouring your property when building on the waterfront is very important,” said the husband, who thoughtfully was anticipating global warming impacts and how to “best shield and defend the property.”

“We wanted to be a bit higher to fight off erosion — but it is still an effortless walk straight out onto the patio,” which leads to a lawned area and then down a couple of steps to a lower patio and onto the beach.

The upper level has a hot tub and the polished concrete surface has lines carved in it to suggest large pavers. Artfully arranged by the tub are giant boulders that carry the beach atmosphere right up to the house.

“We looked at the beach and tried to see how to transition into it, to have a continuous theme,” said the husband.

As there is no parking on-street, they also had to think about space for visiting friends and family, so between the beach house and garden suite there is a generous interior parking area.

This vast courtyard is covered in permeable pavers chosen for their ecological benefit, he said. Underneath is a large water collection system to absorb excess run-off, and gradually release it.

“We are at the bottom of a slope so we have to be able to handle not only water falling on our property but any overflow from uphill.”

The drive has hidden lights which create a glamorous effect at night.

The husband said the build was smooth and happy as he sought three quotes for every aspect, always from recommended companies, “I didn’t make any cold calls.”

“There can be a lot of confusion in the building process these days as there is so much choice, so much to look at. You have to stay open-minded, open to ideas and expect to overcome obstacles. If you treat people well, are organized and give people plenty of notice, you’ll have a positive experience.

“We met the nicest people.”

House designer Ron McNeil enjoyed working with the couple on their three houses, saying it was an interesting evolution as their needs changed and their children grew over time.

“They are fun and very organized, and they did a lot of research which was important as styles and materials change pretty rapidly.”

He noted the biggest obstacle was predictable: “In a waterfront home, owners always want as many rooms facing the water as possible. That’s always the challenge, weighing out priorities.”

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