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

goodie : 3843 heather street (updated)

3834 heather - front viewdesigned by : frits de vries

built in : 2011/2012 by ? [2016-relisted for 3.99mil]

new modern house with a curved roof on a standard 33×118′ lot in south cambie area of vancouver west.

here is a short blurb from realtors, rob zwick and ben chimes:

located just steps from douglas park, this frits de vries designed home sets a new benchmark for the area. the 2,725 square foot, 5-bed, 4.5-bath home features some of the finest concrete and steel construction, beautiful millwork, matte oak floors, exposed solid wood structural beams, and top quality fixtures. in addition, this home features park, mountain and city views, which can be seen from every level. the property also boasts a very unique 485 square foot laneway house, with it’s own patio and rooftop deck.

3834 heather - entry and stairsthe entry area is nicely separated from the living room by a semi-transparent glazing panel and open stairs.

3834 heather - kitchenthe kitchen features white upper cabinets and white countertops. the backsplash at the living room side has been raised to avoid visual clutter.

3834 heather - bathroomthe bathroom features gray tiles from floor to ceiling. similar palette of materials from kitchen is used here.

3834 heather - patiothe back patio of the laneway house has built-in concrete bench and steps.

2824 heather - back of housethe back of the house with covered patio for outdoor dining and second floor deck from the bedroom.

goodie : 4885 cove cliff place

architect : paul merrick

built in : 1982

here is a short blurb from the listing on the house in north vancouver by the realtor:

deep cove waterfront at its best! stunning paul merrick designed contemporary on private cul-de-sac lot of over 10,000 sq.ft. dramatic open plan living, dining and kitchen with floor-to-ceiling glass exposed posts and beams, full opening sliders open onto over 1,600 sq. ft. of entertainment decks. three bedrooms plus self-contained guest/office – the large master with its own covered workout/yoga deck. over 91 feet of irreplaceable waterfront with new 45′ commercial-grade dock. level driveway with double carport and single garage. stunning water views from every window. lifestyle plus!

the plan is based on a very simple grid which creates the post and beam structure for the house. the amount of deck space is impressive. notice that even the top floor has the back wall buried into the mountainside. this was not an easy site to build on but paul merrick made the best of it, with every room having a south-facing view.

the entry to the house is unassuming. coming down a long flight of stairs which spill out onto the first of many decks, one enters though a single door directly into the main dining/living space of the house. a skylight over the entryway offers views up tot the sky and northern light. the deck continues around the house to access the lower floor decks and beach/dock.

the dining room with deck to the left and entry just beyond the wall to the right. between the dining room and living room beyond is the staircase going down to the lower floor. exposed wood structure in the house reveals the organizational grid for the layout of the house.

the living room with exposed posts and beams.

even the bedrooms feature the exposed wood structure.

a clever design feature in the stairs is placing a large pane of glass along the wall.

the south side of the house with a huge cantilever deck. carefully selected trees were kept/removed to ensure a house within the forest, but also for allowing views and natural sunlight into the house at the same time.

goodie : 3245 west 48th avenue

mid-century modern home – mclellan-saddy house

view of living room from outside – photo by robert lemermeyer

architect : thompson berwick pratt (1958, addition 1974)

renovation architect : d’arcy jones (renovation 2007)

here is the write-up by the selling realtor, lionel lorence:

originally designed by seminal modernist vancouver firm thompson berwick & pratt, & perfectly restored to the highest modern standards by d’arcy jones; winner of the inaugural arthur erickson award for architecture. a perfect marriage of architectural design & function creating a seamless connection between both interior & exterior space that brings each room to life. completely rebuilt in 2007 featuring integrated masonry, custom walnut millwork throughout, seven-layer solid apple plywood kitchen, floor to ceiling glass, cork, oak, organic wool carpet & slate flagstone floors wrapped in lush landscaping rich with japanese maples, rhododendrons, ferns & other native west coast flora. featured in western living, canadian architect, vancouver’s modern house tour, & the film coast modern. an outstanding example of quintessential modern architecture.

link to canadian architect magazine article on the renovation here (issuu magazine), and here (canadian architect website).

goodie : 4338 college highroad


A blurb about the Peter Busby-designed house from the realtor :

Architecturally inspired custom one-of-a-kind contemporary home in quiet enclave west of Blanca Street. Designed by Peter Busby, renowned architect, this unique concrete home offers over 4,000 square feet of open space on two levels. sate-of-the-art technology, geothermal heating and an abundance of natural light. A winning combination of flawless wood beams, polished concrete floors, floor to ceiling glass doors open onto a private green belt oasis bringing the outside in all year round! Striking chef’s kitchen has large centre island, high-end appliances, pantry & food elevator. Lower level showcases large media/family room, wine cellar, guest bedroom, flex room plus large adjacent light well patio. Bonus detached studio! Simplicity made perfect in this modern masterpiece.

(this description cracks me up. why do realtors always word everything so over the top? If someone really wants to buy/or not buy the house, no embellished description is going to help. I had to modify the blurb to remove all the CAPS text as no one wants to be screamed at, especially when trying to sell a $5+ million house. Feel free to read the original writeup here and view all the photos of the house.)

Now, onto to the house:

Simple but effective floor plans. Interior perimeter post-and-beam structure, organizes the walls and layout for the exterior fenestration.

sunken patio connects to the basement recreation room.

view of house from the backyard. the studio is located on the left. stairs leading down to sunken patio are placed along the face of the house, on the right.

connection to the yard is seamless by incorporating sliding doors.

living room looking towards the kitchen. the post and beam structure is built within the building thermal envelope to reduce thermal bridges and therefore reduces energy demand. very well crafted details keep this house from being visually cluttered.

entry to bedrooms from living area. post and beam structure with clerestory windows allows light to enter from all directions during the day.

view of the basement recreation room with built-in cabinetry. cast-in-place concrete stairs lead to the main floor above.