Empty nesters downsize from their family home to a condo to simplify their lives
BY NESSA PULLMAN | PHOTOS BY DASHA ARMSTRONG
Laura and Greg Dowell had talked about downsizing from their five-bedroom character house in Oak Bay to a smaller and more manageable home in a few years. But they were quick to make the jump to smaller quarters after Greg received some sudden news about his health.
Wanting to stay in the neighbourhood they’ve called home all their lives, the Dowells laid eyes on a ground-floor condo located directly across from the Oak Bay Marina.
“We still wanted a large outdoor space with a walk-in feel to be similar to a house but without the maintenance that comes with it,” says Laura.
With very short notice to make the unit feel like home, the Dowells turned to local designer Raubyn Rothschild of Rothschild West Design + Planning, who had worked with them on their Shawnigan Lake house.
Before taking possession of the condo, the Dowells decided to start their new chapter with a clean slate, which meant gutting the entire unit and purging practically everything they owned.
“We wanted a new start here, a simplified version to suit our new circumstances,” says Laura.
Working with all new materials meant they could really tailor the space to accommodate their needs within the confines of a condo. Having a minimalist, modern and easy-to-maintain home was top of mind when planning the space.
Being on the bottom floor meant natural light was limited. Rothschild opened up the space by lifting the ceiling height as well as removing interior walls and bulkheads where possible. Crisp white walls and light oak floors keep the space looking bright, while various wall and ceiling sconces are placed thoughtfully around the home to add light where needed.
Greg, a retired builder, would have typically taken on the construction himself, but due to his medical condition, they decided to bring in Blaine Rust from Renex Custom Builders to help with the heavier lifting. However, that didn’t stop Greg from getting his hands dirty — he worked on finishing touches such as painting, hardware, wiring and plumbing fixtures whenever he was feeling well enough.
Rothschild went for clean lines and flush surfaces as well as integrated millwork throughout the entire unit, making it easy to maintain. To keep the place as minimalist and streamlined as possible, storage and appliances are hidden within oversized custom cabinetry by Victoria Millwork in the entrance hall, kitchen and living room. To create a modern, elegant and calming energy in the home, Rothschild applied a neutral colour palette, using texture, layers and natural elements for dimension.
“I wanted to create an envelope shell so they could switch out simpler décor over the seasons,” says Rothschild.
Since the homeowners decided on all new furniture, Rothschild had to get creative in her selections to ensure the space looked warm and inviting rather than staged or forced.
“It can often be more challenging when starting from scratch,” says Rothschild. “Without the client’s personal items, you have to be very thoughtful about what you choose and how it will reflect them.”
Having worked on a previous project together, trust had been established, but there were a few key differences this time around — their main living home, health challenges and a pandemic — which included long delays and increased prices.
“The Dowells had to adjust to difficult circumstances that weren’t there the first time,” says Rothschild. “Their strength and dedication were admirable.”
Having a durable, long-lasting, uncomplicated place to live in was the homeowners’ biggest wish. Clutter was minimized to make room for what truly matters and to make the most out of their remaining time together. Most importantly, they have a safe place to call home that will support them in their next phase of life.
Interior design: Rothschild West Design + Planning
Construction manager: Greg Dowell
Electrician: Capital Electric
Doors and hardware: Renex Custom Builders, Victoria Specialty Hardware
Tile: Hourigan’s Flooring
Painting: Hughes Painting
Kitchen/bathroom millwork: Victoria Millwork
Custom millwork: Victoria Millwork, Renex Custom Builders
Flooring: Hourigan’s Flooring
Glass: Royal Oak Glass
Countertops: Colonial Countertops
Plumbing fixtures: Splashes Bath & Kitchen
Lighting: McLaren Lighting, Circa Lighting, Anthropologie, Worley’s, CB2
Furniture: Studio Y Design, Chester Fields, Rove Concepts, Restoration Hardware, Article, Pigeonhole
Window coverings: Budget Blinds