by David Lennam / Photos by Christian J. Stewart
For one Victoria family, the pandemic’s regimen of lockdowns and restrictions hasn’t cramped their get-out-and-play style. Instead of rec centres, gyms and outdoor parks, they’ve enjoyed their own backyard games and fitness compound. And they’ve done it in true five-star, country-club style.
Built before the challenges of the last 18 months, the all-action/all-fun layout — which includes a swim spa, sport court, trampoline and entertainment-ready outdoor kitchen — has been taken full advantage of during these stay-at-home times.
Shal and Pooja* and their two young children were grateful to have their custom outdoor space when the outbreak began in March 2020. Like most of us, with no idea how it would all play out, they took to the garden regularly — each of them favouring one or more of the components.
“We really were excited for everything, and I think if you asked each of us, we’d say [we liked] something different,” says Shal.
A Technical Build
The couple moved from a home on the Portage Inlet where they could play on the water, kayaking with their kids, to a half-acre Oak Bay property that was sized just right for what they had in mind. The lot (where their new, ultra-modern 5,000-square-foot house was built by Amandeep Gill of Patriot Homes) was heavily sloped — a 14-foot drop — and had to be tiered to fit a landscape set up for both maximum activity and serene relaxation.
“This outdoor space was complex,” says Gill. “The slopes and the restrictions (Oak Bay building bylaws) made it very technical.”
Building the retaining walls and getting machinery and materials into the garden behind the house was a challenge.
“We had to crane the swim spa over the house.”
The homeowners felt the biggest compromise they had to make was to adjust everything to account for the steep slope, something they didn’t realize until the lot was cleared for the new build.
“We didn’t want to have three tiers to the property, but quickly realized we had to tier it to be able to design it as we wanted and maximize the use of the space,” says Pooja. “We had envisioned the entire yard as one level, but this wasn’t something we could achieve because of the slope. In the end, each tier has its own purpose and value.”
The outdoor kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, 55-inch flatscreen and gas fireplace, feels like part of the home’s interior thanks to 12-foot sliding patio doors. Pooja wanted a natural flow from inside to out. Inside, all rooms on that side have sliding doors to the patio.
Gill, whose project received a Gold CARE award for Best Outdoor Space, notes that his clients are demanding outdoor living spaces: “Everybody wants them, especially since COVID. Every house I’m building right now in Oak Bay has an outdoor kitchen.”
Game On (Day or Night)
The centrepiece (if judged on impressive size alone) is the multi-use, multi-game sport court from BC Sport Court. It’s a customizable all-weather surface that fits the couple’s appetite for games. Tennis, specifically.
Shal has been a competitive player since high school, so they’d hoped to fit in a full-size court.
When that proved just too big for bylaws governing hardscape surface, they opted for a pickleball-sized court (which BC Sport Court Island rep Darwin Schellenberg says now constitutes 50 per cent of their sales). While they’ve yet to gear up for pickleball, the court has been thoroughly christened for mini tennis, basketball, baseball, cricket, street hockey, volleyball, badminton, soccer, running and personal training.
“I’m sure, as we age, pickle ball will be something we take up,” says Pooja, “but for now mini tennis it is.”
Professionally lit for night games, the Sport Court features a highly resilient, high-performance modular sports surface called Power Game, resting atop a concrete base.
“The tile itself is designed to have lateral and vertical absorption,” explains Schellenberg. “You would see, over time, you can play longer because there are less forces transferred through to your joints.”
Swim and Soak
Arctic Spas calls them all-weather pools — the luxury of a swimming pool and a spa combined.
The homeowners wanted something the family could share for exercise and soaking, something more versatile than a pool. The 8-by-14-foot Ocean Signature model is a salt-water hot tub for six and a year-round swimming pool with a harness system and current for resistance training.
At 51 inches, the water is deep. There’s a no-hassle motorized cover that, when up, is a roof for shade and protection from the elements and, when lowered, keeps the water warm and clean.