BY SUSAN HOLLIS | PHOTOS BY JOSHUA LAWRENCE
A private home on Oak Bay’s waterfront is designed to pivot easily between hosting and family life.
Contemporary architecture often blurs the boundaries between the natural and human-made, embracing an ideology that invites surrounding landscapes to be as much a part of a house as its roof and walls. It is a fitting style for a home situated on a private beach on the protected bay housing the picture-perfect sailboats of the Oak Bay Marina, where running parallel to the shoreline is the Salomon/Robinson residence — a wide, 7,300-square-foot, 2.5-storey structure of cedar, stone and steel that boasts more windows than can be counted in one breath.
And at this new atmospheric residence of lawyer Charlotte Salomon, her husband Chris Robinson and their two daughters, Jenna and Bree, the entirety of the expansive, 180-degree ocean view is captured by the crisp, contemporary lines that do everything to accentuate the house’s ideal geography. But that same geography made bringing this dream house to life a long, and often arduous bureaucratic process.
“Certainly the challenge on the design side were the restrictions in the zoning,” says the home’s architect, Peter de Hoog of dHKarchitects. “At the end of the day, these things become a shoehorn because everybody wants as much space as they can get, and you want to be able to make it all work. Getting all of that working was probably the biggest challenge, and luckily it was a big site.”
Respecting the Shoreline
Having combed the South Oak Bay neighbourhood he grew up in for years, Robinson requested to view the property they would come to buy the day it hit the market. When it was time to build, a laborious permitting process began — one that lasted 15 months due to municipal guidelines relating to delicate riparian (waterfront) zones. The house needed to respect the protected shoreline setback of 15 meters and conform to build elevations relative to projected rising sea levels. Designing and building the seismically sound house in this location required the involvement of a biologist, and geotechnical, mechanical, structural and envelope building engineers.
One of the key challenges of the five-bedroom house —which with three floors is an ample amount of room for a family of four — was to create an atmosphere that transitioned from comfortable family home to a fundraising space that fits up to 100 guests for the family’s regular philanthropic and volunteer efforts.
To soften the main floor’s great room, which blends kitchen, dining room and living room under lofty 11-foot ceilings and a massive, curtain wall of windows, the couple chose a rich, soft-to-touch engineered walnut for the cabinetry and flooring, and included in-floor radiant heat to complement the home’s passive solar energy collection.
Flush to the wall, Fry Reglet baseboards run the length of the room, balanced above by a custom light shelf, running between the automated upper clerestory windows and the room’s huge main window panels. The shelf, essentially a long, walnut panel running the length of the room, glows with gentle light from beneath and does double duty as storage for the window’s hidden automated blinds.
The Invisible Details
“The biggest thing between traditional and contemporary is that a lot of the effort that goes into contemporary you don’t see,” says Mark Whitney of Novus Properties, which led the build.
“The idea is that it all disappears — you don’t see the steel structures that hold the floating countertop or the floating mantle, but there’s quite a bit of planning and lighting built into those. It’s a lot of work.”
To ensure flow when the family hosts larger events, a highly functional catering kitchen was tucked behind a custom walnut door just off the main kitchen. Previous residences had taught Salomon that a separate prep space is worth its weight in gold.
“Everyone likes a kitchen party, and everyone is always in the kitchen. So it’s hard to have a functional kitchen with caterers working in it, if all the guests want to be in it too, so we built a kitchen for the caterers,” she says. “When the caterers aren’t here, it’s my baking kitchen.”
Of great importance to the owners —who were aware that large, high-ceilinged spaces can be echo chambers — was noise control, so all cabinets, drawers and doors have soft close applications to prevent slamming, and the house’s nine shear walls almost completely block noise transfer between floors.
A House With A View
At the main door to the house, the entry is softly shielded from the main room by a screen of floor-to-ceiling steel posts clad in walnut, offering a peek a boo effect to the great room. The screen was dreamed up by designer Sandy Nygaard, who was involved in the design process from the initial planning stages of the build.
“They wanted to see the water when they came in the door, but Charlotte felt that it was too open, so the question was, ‘How can we conceal it?’” she says. “I thought, ‘Well, here’s a really cool idea — I love millwork, so I clad everything in it.’”
Down the hallway from the entry and great room is a large coat closet that moonlights as an automation room for the house’s smart features (audio, blinds, lights) and an adjacent powder room, which, like all of the bathrooms in the house (there are 5.5) has sensor lighting that activates when the room is entered. A gym and spare bedroom with ensuite assure privacy at the end of the hall overlooking the ocean and pool, which Robinson keeps at a perfect 84 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
General Contractor: Novus Properties
Architect: Peter de Hoog, dHKarchitects
Interior Design: Nygaard Interior Design
Pool: Island Watershapes
Kitchen/Bathroom Millwork: Thomas Philips Woodworking
Stonework: Flintstones Design & Build
Doors: B.C. Door Co.
Windows: Pino-Lite Glass
Flooring: The Finishing Store & Millworks
Tile: CREATIVESTYLE Tile & Stone
Countertops: Colonial Countertops
Painter: Town & Country Painting
Plumber: Granger Plumbing & Heating