How to Design a Personal Hotel for an International, Multi-Generational Family
A part-time home for a rotating cast of family members can still feature a homey warmth, as this Coal Harbour space proves.
You can’t be everything to everyone…but if you’re a designer creating a condo to accommodate a rotating cast of multi-generational, jet-setting family members, you have to at least try. And we’ve got to hand it to Shirley Shen and Travis Hanks, co-founder and principal respectively of Vancouver design firm Haeccity Studio Architecture: they might just have figured out a way to make everybody—from an elderly couple to adult children to visiting extended family to a newborn baby—happy sharing one downtown pied-a-terre.
Because the homeowners spend half the year in Hong Kong and the other half here in Vancouver, their 2150-square-foot sub-penthouse in Coal Harbour also needed to function as a hotel—somewhere people could arrive with tons of luggage in tow, but still feel at home right away. “It was important to have storage spaces that responded to being able to live here for potentially short period periods of time,” Hanks explains. “The millwork spoke to the flexibility of living out of an open suitcase for a few days, as well as at the possibility of using the closets.” The design foundation was rooted in flexibility, says Hanks: “We wanted mix of spaces where you could break out into smaller private areas, as well as larger areas for everyone to be together.”
Shen and Hanks chose a neutral material palette as the backdrop for the multitude of people and activities that would be in the space (accenting it with custom millwork and furniture pieces made of walnut, warm metals, and a contrasting matte black), and used a light-coloured engineered wood floor run perpendicularly to the length of the apartment to visually expand the width of the space, and guide the eye towards the spectacular view.
“We pushed the family bathroom into the laundry room,” explains Shen. “It had only a shower before, so we extended it to also accommodate a tub but it was really difficult to work the plumbing into a concrete building.”
Unlike your average luxury hotel, though, this space is filled with pieces that share a more personal touch—like a custom table from Ko Júbilo. “We didn’t want to populate the space with luxury objects and furniture. It needed to feel more local because the clients wanted to be in Vancouver for Vancouver,” says Shen. They had a custom dining table made out of solid walnut wood with an inset marble lazy susan. “A round table that could seat eight responded to a cultural requirement, something the client specifically asked for,” says Shen. “You can’t buy something like that from a luxury furniture store—that size, that configuration doesn’t exist so we had to invent it. It was our modern interpretation of a cultural heritage.”