BY NESSA PULLMAN | PHOTOS BY DEAN AZIM
When Naomi and Cole Reinhart finished a three-year stint living in Australia, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, they knew the house they found perched on Vancouver Island’s coastline would be the right place to finally plant roots.
“We spent a lot of time on the ocean; it just felt natural for us to live in that environment,” says Naomi Reinhart. Originally, the couple had rented a house a few blocks from the old cabin road off the Gorge waterway, and during walks through the neighbourhood, Naomi would often find herself standing in front of the old house. “Design-wise, it’s not something I would naturally be drawn to,” says Naomi, “but for some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by this house.”
The house was listed for sale right after the Reinharts’ offer on another home fell through, and they leaped at the opportunity with no hesitation. “The second I was finally able to walk through the space, I began dreaming of all the things I wanted to change, to really create a home that suited us,” says Naomi.
What started out as an emergency bathroom repair quickly segued into renovating the entire main floor living area — and having an interior designer as a best friend certainly helped with the decision process. “When the bathroom needed fixing we reached out to our good friend Pamela [of Pamela Billinghurst Interior Design] for help,” says Naomi. “In that process, we realized that our home is a whole — it’s all connected. We understood the value of approaching this in a holistic way.”
The two essential goals for this main floor renovation were to brighten the space significantly and create more functional living areas. “The existing layout was very cramped and closed off,” says Billinghurst. “They wanted to create space to entertain and at the same time nurture intimate family time.”
Before, stained fir millwork and black countertops darkened the already-cramped kitchen. Removing the dark wood paneling from the ceiling, combined with tearing down the dividing walls, brightened the area and gave space to add an island for casual eating. Adding a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore’s White Wisp paint to all walls throughout the space created a minimalist backdrop to highlight natural components. It was important to the homeowners to have a functional space, so interior designer Pamela Billinghurst designed floor-to-ceiling storage in the transition area so the homeowners can easily hide their kids’ toys when guests arrive. Billinghurst added a built-in desk, which grants the homeowners a working space — without taking up extra room — keeping the open living space clean and accessible.
Billinghurst did this by extending the back wall onto the existing deck to gain square footage and removing the compartmentalized fir millwork that originally darkened and closed the space off. A primarily modern design infused with principles of minimalism was used to enhance the elements of light and nature valued by the homeowners. Crisp white wall paint, tiles and millwork harmonize with white oak flooring throughout the entire main floor. To avoid a clinical feel, Billinghurst used transitional design details, such as brass hardware and lighting fixtures and subtle earthy tones meant to evoke natural greenery and warm woods.
“We tend to be drawn to the influences of light and nature found in coastal communities,” Naomi says. “We wanted those components brought into our home — a tranquil escape from the business of life.”
Unlike a typical renovation project, which is often managed by one overseeing contractor, this project was an equally balanced collaboration amongst many trades.
“Everyone stepped in to fill a hole and worked together where needed,” Naomi says. This collaboration included MADA Construction for the demolition and framework, Dol Homes on the finishing carpentry and Quality Victoria Drywall on the drywalling.
“It’s an incredible experience to witness artists in their craft,” Naomi says, “I really learned that no one is more valuable than the other — every single component is equally needed to come together holistically to create an end result.”
Having space to use the kitchen while accommodating guests and family, was a big intention in the new design. A contemporary open-concept kitchen was custom built by Innovative Kitchen and Bath, using Caesarstone’s Blizzard 2141 Quartz on the countertops and classic Shaker-style cabinets in Benjamin Moore’s Oxford White. A honeycomb patterned backsplash adds texture against the sleek surfaces. To offset the all-white furnishings, satin brass cabinet pulls by Emtek tie in the subtle details on the Gubi Gräshoppa island pendants. New stainless steel appliances by Fisher & Paykel from Landsdowne Appliance Gallery give the space a modern esthetic.
As is often anticipated with older homes, challenges arose when the contractor began taking down walls. When removing the existing pantry to create the open concept area, the homeowners discovered it was a crucial structural component. This development resulted in them having to hire a structural engineer to redesign the entire roof plan. “What started out as a setback ended up being a ‘happy surprise,’” says Billinghurst with a laugh. “We needed to increase the ceiling height, which ended up enhancing the overall space as a result.”
No longer just a cabin road, the Reinharts’ street has evolved into a residential neighbourhood. And while their house has a new modernized look, it maintains its purpose as an oceanside retreat.
“With a one-hundred-year-old house, you know that a lot of lives were lived in it,” Reinhart says. “Copious dreams and DIY-projects from all those before us filled the space. It was time to claim it as our own.”