west coast modern : hemingway treehouse renovation

photography by p. powles

designed by : original house (1976) by brian hemingway, extensive renovation (2017) by fook weng chan

original house description : spectacular, serene and unique custom designed home by well known architect, brian hemingway, his own private residence known as the treehouse. environmentally inclusive with changes in the seasons, lights, eagles, herons, squirrels, complete ocean view of sparkling ships by day and brightly lit floats drifting by. multi level, 1890 square feet, three full bedrooms, amazing den reading area, wood burning and gas fireplaces, 2 full baths, decks, massive sliding doors to balconies that are extensions of the house to the outdoors. this home is full of detail, interest, and an amazing blend of wood, ambience and a respect for space indoors and out.

photography by p. powles

in 2013, new owner took on the task of renovating this post-and-beam home to a new level of beauty.

few words from the architect about the renovation : brian hemingway built it in 1977.  at the time, at thompson berwick pratt, he and his mentor paul merrick were working on a few projects which explored similar design vocabularies including the macmillan bloedel forestry exhibit centre in van dusen gardens, and the canadian forces officer candidate school in cfb chilliwack.  paul built his treehouse a few years earlier than brian.

fook weng chan started designing the renovation over 2 1/2 years ago, but the end product is very much an ideal team effort with the owners, builder and his team. he had been an associate with thompson berwick pratt for 12 of his 14 years there and was the project architect for the majority of brian’s projects from 1987 – 96 so he was comfortable with the challenge.

at the treehouse, it was important to distill the essence and recognize the daring and genius of the original design whilst imbuing the home with layers that speak to and of the new occupants,  all that while upgrading a home that had not been maintained for almost 4 decades.  the owners are to be congratulated for undertaking this effort to save a piece of bc architectural heritage.

original kitchen before renovation. photo by pixilink

renovated kitchen open to seating area. photography by p. powles

view of treehouse looking up from walkway/stairs from street. photo by david kominek

new decks and charred wood siding throughout. photo by david kominek

dining room with corner window looking out onto yard and forest beyond. photo by david kominek

block wall of fireplace and timber posts in top of treehouse. photo by david kominek

view of back of house with new copper roofing and intriguing scupper detail. photo by david kominek

stone stairs in yard space with scupper lead to water feature. photo by david kominek

tour : west vancouver modern home tour 2010

stegeman residence, erickson/massey architects 1954 – renovation by brian hemingway 2001

helliwell+smith home studio, barry downs/fred hollingsworth architects 1964 – renovation by bluesky architecture inc 2001

this ensuite bathroom was featured in the may 2010 month issue of western living magazine. the article is here for all who are interested. what a great concept in bathroom design having a nice soaker tub with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking tress and the ocean beyond. of course having a great site doesn’t hurt either.

eagle’s nest house, ron thom 1956

this house may have not been to most prettiest of all, especially from the outside but it sure was cool. the fact that not a single 90 degree corner can be found in the whole house made it quite unique.

a pool that just begged to be swam in. the crazy thing about this pool was that it cantilevered right over the property line and has a drop of about 30 feet down beyond the railings. a house on the adjacent lot (not visible in this photo) was built right into the rock face.

even the stairs were on an angle to the walls.

a nice view to the ocean from all the rooms. probably can do some serious stargazing lying in bed everynight with that skylight above the bed.

 bonus: this recently renovated house at 4192 rose crescent was quite cool looking too. check out the sales listing for this one here.

gordon smith residence, erickson/massey architects 1996

post and beam architecture at its finest. a simple palette of stained wood and glass.

this is looking from the central courtyard towards to carport. at the left is the main bedroom. the floor plan is conceived as a square spiral where you enter at the lowest level and as you progress around the courtyard, each room is stepped up a few steps from the last, ending in the main bedroom. the entry to the house is located just off the image on the right.

a glazed wall overlooking the gardens and a forest view.

detail of the cantilevered roof and heavy timber structure.

underside of ‘bridge’ element which is the living room.

wood block paving in the central courtyard.

original studio.

view of entry from driveway.

exposed aggregate concrete retaining planter walls.

rain forest house, russell hollingsworth, c.1973the approach to the house was a winding road up a steep hill. nestled tightly between old growth cedars is the stone and wood house.

water fountains. water pots. water ponds. everywhere water of all sorts. still water. moving water. evaporated water.

lush landscaping throughout the site. an open carport located under the cantilevered roof to the right.

floor to ceiling wood doors and windows blur the lines of inside and outside. what a great space to be in. there were lots of skylights that made the indoors feel even more like outdoors.

exposed wood rafter roof structure was a great natural material in this west coast modern house.

roof eave detail. the roof comes to a sharp point and no gutters were present.

the cast-in-place concrete steps. the floor inside the home was made of the same concrete.

instead of gutters, a long trough-type drain was found to collect all the rainwater that comes off the roof during rainy season.

a long narrow window gives view from the secondary bedroom to the patio. a ladder gives access to the carport below.

garden with reflecting pond at the sitting room.

feel free to read adele weder’s article published in the globe & mail here.