Colour and Calm: Inside a Stunning 8,200-Square-Foot West Van Home
With this award-winning interior design in West Vancouver, designer Robert Bailey offers a formal approach to coastal living.
From the outside, the house follows the storyline of others in the Whytecliff Park area of West Vancouver: post-and-beam architecture resting on land that tumbles down toward the grey-blue water below. Yet inside, the narrative shifts slightly. Instead of being immediately drawn to the views beyond, one is drawn inward, lured by walls of vibrant artwork and meticulously sourced layers of custom furniture, textiles and imported stone.
Designed by Robert Bailey and featuring more than 8,200 square feet of interior space set over four levels, the house offers an elegant retreat for a multigenerational family that quietly challenges preconceived notions of coastal modernist living. Streamlined and well connected to the outdoors, certainly; casual, it is not.
“The formality is different from what most people seek in Vancouver, in a modern way—it’s not trying to be a chateau,” says Bailey. “Rather, it’s an expression of what a more formal contemporary life could look like.”
Bailey is a registered interior designer and not one to shy away from a traditional, formal aesthetic: a distinctive, worldly glamour is evident throughout his projects, be they in Rancho Mirage, Beverly Hills, Whistler or the Okanagan. Here, that approach aligned with the homeowners’ desire to reconcile the structure’s contemporary form (by Robert Ciccozzi of Vancouver-based Ciccozzi Architecture) with a personal collection of antique furnishings and artwork that includes pieces by Andy Warhol and Joan Miró.
The sloped half-acre site, which descends from street level down to the shoreline, was also a consideration. As a result, the private areas of the house—four bedrooms and a study—are located on the split-level entry floor, while the public living spaces are located downstairs, allowing for a direct connection to the outdoor living and dining areas in the backyard overlooking Howe Sound. Deeper still into the house is an entire floor devoted to health and wellness, complete with a gym, a massage room and a bathroom fitted with a traditional sauna in white cedar—all well positioned to serve the outdoor pool set out on the lowest part of the property. (Though it is common to place a pool near a house’s main living or entertaining areas, here it is set at the waterfront to forge a connection to the rocky beach below and to keep noise to a minimum.) “There’s an east-meets-west, Zen-like feeling here,” offers Bailey. “It is meant to be a very peaceful house: quiet and reflective.”
With some interior design projects, there is a point of inflection, that moment where the concept crystallizes, setting the process on a forward trajectory. In this case, it was the shell of the structure itself—with its crisp white walls, glulam Douglas fir beams and sections of smooth-finished architectural concrete—that set the course. The kitchen millwork, for example, was matched in colour and style to the concrete as a way to help it recede into the background and call attention to other carefully layered elements, like the large-scale painting by Spanish artist Juan Genovés, the David Weeks chandelier and the table and chairs from B&B Italia. “Because the kitchen is in an open environment, we wanted it not to be a ‘wow,’” says Bailey. “It’s very much an understatement.”
In the adjoining living and dining room, Bailey makes a convincing case for mixing styles and periods. Andy Warhol’s Flowers series of silkscreen prints, produced in 1970, is installed on two walls, supplying a Day-Glo counterpoint to the grand piano, a fireplace mantel in bronze Armani marble and the homeowners’ cherished pair of William Switzer armchairs, which were re-covered in an Italian jacquard fabric sourced through Donghia to fit the scheme. The shades of lilac, lavender and eggplant seen in this room repeat throughout the home’s other mostly neutral rooms, part of a strategy to impart a feeling of formal luxury and to soften crisp lines. “Because the house is quite masculine, we tried to add some femininity,” says Bailey. “There are a lot of plush velvets, cashmere, wools and beautiful brocades that maybe bridge time a bit—they are not as specifically located in now. We like the projects to look like they evolved over time or were part of a life story.”
Creating that story, that worldly glamour, that meticulous layering, is the result of a long, winding process. Eight years in the making, from construction to these pages, the completed design was recently recognized with an award of merit by the Interior Designers Institute of B.C. at their annual Shine Awards. It is designed to withstand the test of time, or perhaps for just whiling away time, watching the passing ferry boats.