Remembering Jim Shaw: His Lakeside Hideaway
With the help of designer Paul Lavoie, the late Jim Shaw created a lakeside home in the Okanagan as warm and welcoming as the cable magnate himself.
When cable magnate Jim Shaw passed away unexpectedly this past January, the city of Calgary bathed its iconic tower in blue light in his honour. The motorcade route from his funeral to a tribute at McMahon Stadium was lined with employees who came to pay their respects despite the -25°C weather. “It’s hard to imagine what other Canadian business leader would elicit such a parting, particularly several years after his retirement,” wrote Howard Levitt in the Calgary Herald.
In life, as in business, Jim had a way of bringing people in and making them feel welcome, an experience designer Paul Lavoie felt first-hand. “I was lucky enough not to just be his interior designer—my husband Doug and I were his friends,” says Lavoie. “It’s a rare opportunity where you get to do a house for someone, but I actually got to live in it with them. He embraced you in a way—he just included you, and he wanted you to experience life through his eyes as much as you could.”
Over the 20-year period that Lavoie worked with Jim, he designed seven homes for him and his wife, Kathryn. And this getaway, on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, was Jim’s favourite, says Lavoie. “It’s about family and spending time with them, and just having friends around,” says Lavoie. “There’s an ease to entertaining there—people just want to go there. He was the first to say, ‘Let’s go out in my boat,’ and he’d hit your knees while you were driving it and say, ‘Boot ’er! Faster!’”
The Shaws brought in Lavoie to take on a minor renovation of the lake retreat. They weren’t looking for anything showy; this was a space to relax, and Lavoie was there to ensure it stayed that way. “There were elements that never needed to change,” says Lavoie. “The ceilings and the beams and the rock fireplace were there 20 years ago. We just wanted to let the view breathe and keep whatever I was doing down to a minimum—to make it ‘lake comfortable.’”
The furnishings in the main living areas are kept to neutral shades—greys, taupes—to let both the view outside and the extensive art collection indoors take the stage. (Jim particularly enjoyed collecting artist Nicholas de Grandmaison, and four of his pieces are featured in this home.) Fabrics are durable Sunbrella—an indoor-outdoor material that’s both comfortable and sturdy enough to sit on in a bathing suit. “I didn’t want the home to look hokey, or theme-y,” says Lavoie. “I wanted it to be scaled with comfortable furniture, where you could cozy up and watch TV or spend some time putting your feet up and reading a book.”
The cabinet that hosts the TV was redesigned and built to fit a modern unit (the original cabinet was meant for an older, deeper television) and clad in the same zebrawood millwork that now graces the new kitchen cabinets as well. “I chose zebrawood because I thought it had a nice, tight grain,” explains Lavoie. “It lets the floor and the ceiling breathe a bit.”
Outside, the lush gardens are dotted with cherry and peach trees, the latter a favourite for the family and their friends during pie season. Decks were wrapped all the way around the water side of the home to allow for more time outside in the summer, with patio heaters to extend that time well into the shoulder seasons, too. And nestled within those gardens is a guest house of sorts. For Jim’s 60th birthday last summer, Kathryn decided to surprise him with a vintage Airstream for the backyard, built the same year he was born. “He did a lot of camping as a young boy, probably into his teens,” she says. “But he never really wanted to go, so I told him, ‘No, we’re not going camping. It’s never leaving the yard.’ He got a real kick out of it.”
And Jim’s legacy of gathering friends and family at the home will continue, says Kathryn. “I went back to the house for the first time two weeks ago,” she says. “Honestly, that house is so peaceful—you just feel warm, and it’s a place we’ll always have. We’ll always have it together.”