Amazing Renovation of a Vintage Modernist Home
With the help of the right architect, a Vancouver couple rescues a 1970s gem of a home.
This home in Vancouver’s Mackenzie Heights had been on homeowner Shannon Dawe’s radar for some time—a couple decades’ worth of time. “When I was 16 or 17 and on my way to my grandma’s, I would go out of my way to come down this road to drive by this house,” says Dawe. “I just thought it was one of a kind.”
But when the home came on the market a few years ago, she resisted going to see it. “It was out of our price range, and I didn’t want to get excited about it,” she explains. But her husband, Darren Devine, convinced her to pop by while he was away on business. “I honestly walked in the door, took three steps and had to call him. It was amazing.”
So the couple purchased it, and, along with their two kids (Jackson and Valerie, now 16 and 14) and dog (Lily), lived in the 1972 home for five years, slowly discovering where the aging building needed a little love. In the winter, it was anything but airtight: the single-paned windows and California shutters made it near-impossible to get the home over 13°C, making toques and mitts commonplace. And, despite all the windows, low beams overhead created a feeling of claustrophobia—that view beyond the glass could be enjoyed only if you were sitting down. Each room on the main level seemed to be in the wrong position: the kitchen was the most-used part of the home, and yet you had to walk through other rooms to access it. And the lower levels were a rabbit warren of dark, closed-off and damp spaces.
So the pair tasked Cedric Burgers of Burgers Architecture to, in Devine’s words, “take what architect Johnathan Keith-King created in 1972, and use modern materials and modern construction techniques to rebuild it.” It was a project that both Burgers and the couple took seriously—Burgers even went so far as to call up the original architect to talk about his process. “Back in the early ’70s, it was kind of radical because no one could figure out what to do with this super-steep pie-shaped lot,” says Burgers. “Finally Johnathan came along, and got them to do this stepped house. It’s amazing architecture that tells you so much about how to build on this site.”
The renovation is extensive yet fulfills the couple’s goal of staying true to the original design. “When we looked at the house, we thought about what characteristics were really critical. There were the angled windows—I did a study of squaring them up, and it lost all of its character,” explains Burgers. “We could have clad the house in zinc or stone or all sorts of materials, but the cedar siding was so critical to the character of the house.” So those angled windows remain, though now they’re frameless and feature triple-paned crystalline glass. And Burgers played with the patterning on the cedar siding until he found a horizontal layout that emphasized the geometry of the windows.
Inside the home, those low-hanging beams have been raised, allowing for 270-degree views out to Burrard Inlet. The upper area is split into three levels: the kitchen was moved to the main entry level, placing it where it would be most used by the family; the next step down leads to the dining room, which then cascades down to the living room. A wood-burning fireplace here was grandfathered in from the previous design, though it’s now clad in charcoal-coloured basalt tiles, and a twin to the new outdoor fireplace on the extended patio outside. Pale bamboo floors and rich charcoal millwork provide a neutral backdrop to the boldly coloured furniture that the homeowners fell in love with: a chartreuse Togo sofa from Ligne Roset and two Womb chairs from Knoll, one in teal and another in purple.
To bring light into the lower levels, Burgers had glass panels installed into the floor: a clear panel near the entranceway, which shines down to the wine cellar below, and a frosted piece in the main living room, allowing for privacy for the bedrooms below. By day, sunlight can now pass downstairs; by night, the glass panels allow lighting from below to filter upward, creating a soft glow in the rooms upstairs.
One of the most involved processes was the creation of a home office for Devine, which Burgers positioned as an extension at the bottom of the property. Installing it was no mean feat: the entire home was raised and suspended as they dug down into the earth to excavate for the space. In essence it’s a bunker, with concrete on all four sides, which has the benefit of not only blocking out sound from the nearby street, but also creating a stronghold for the family by upgrading the seismic standards of the home. The roof of this space creates an outdoor deck for the master bedroom above, complete with its own reflecting pond and waterfall, which drowns out the noise from the street with a soothing rush of water.
This vintage home has become a place that invites exploration as you wander from its main entry through the levels to the garden. The bright update now works perfectly for the family—right down to the little touches, like the addition of a bench outside the kids’ bathroom, ideal for when daughter Valerie has friends over for a girls’ night.
“What I love about this house is that it represents a significant era in Vancouver’s architectural history that is slowly deteriorating,” says Burgers. “I applaud Darren and Shannon for having the vision to save it—these homes are from a time when architecture was very personal, and these homes were personal expressions of desire for how people wanted to live. And I think that’s important.”
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Architect, Burgers Architecture, Cedric Burgers, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com.
Glass overhang, metal poles, patio, custom flagstones, Cedric Burgers Developments, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com. Wood paneling, Crystallia Finishing, Vancouver, crystalliafinishing.com. Windows, door, Superior Glass, Port Coquitlam, superiorglass.ca. Riva 1920 Molletta bench, Inform Interiors, Vancouver, informinteriors.com. Garage door, Creative Door Services, Delta, creativedoor.com. Address numbers, Bradford Decorative Hardware, Vancouver, bradfordhardware.com. Landscaping, Bloomingfields Garden Care and Design, Vancouver, bloomingfieldsdigs.ca.
Marco Grassi painting, homeowner’s own. Stamen pendant lights, Niche Modern, Gabriel Ross, Victoria, grshop.com; Provide, Vancouver, providehome.com. Skylights, Spectrum Skyworks, Port Coquitlam, spectrumskyworks.com. Ikom Nero tile, Stone Tile, Vancouver, stone-tile.com. Arper Nuur dining table, Arper Saari bench seats, Livingspace, Vancouver, livingspace.com. Kate Hume for When Objects Work glass shapes, Inform Interiors, Vancouver, informinteriors.com. Bamboo flooring, BC Hardwood, Vancouver, bchardwood.com.
Custom overhang with lighting, Cedric Burgers Developments, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com. Knoll by Richard Schultz Swell club chair, chaise and two-seat sofa, Richard Schultz Petal table, Magis Spun Chair, Gabriel Ross, Victoria, grshop.com; Livingspace, Vancouver, livingspace.com. Railing, Superior Glass, Port Coquitlam, superiorglass.ca. James Cactus, Kermodi Living Art, Parliament Interiors, Vancouver, parliamentinteriors.com. Barter Revolve pillar, Provide, Vancouver, providehome.com. Flagstones, Northwest Landscape and Stone Supply, across BC, landscapesupply.com. Kymo Dune rug, Le Belle Arti, Calgary, lebellearti.com. Orange poufs, Crate and Barrel, Vancouver, crateandbarrel.ca. Lennox Elite fireplace, Vancouver Gas Fireplaces, Vancouver, vangasfireplaces.com. Basalt wall, Fontile, Vancouver, fontile.com.
Angled windows, Superior Glass, Port Coquitlam, superiorglass.ca. Bamboo flooring, BC Hardwood, Vancouver, bchardwood.com. Tom Burrows painting, Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver, bau-xi.com. Ikom Nero tile flooring, Stone Tile, Vancouver, stone-tile.com. Denim Pine stairs, sourced from Nicola Valley Logworks, Merritt, logworks.ca. Frosted glass floor, Spectrum Skyworks, Port Coquitlam, spectrumskyworks.com. Ligne Roset Togo sofa, Kymo Dune rug, Gallotti & Radice Raj 3 table, Livingspace, Vancouver, livingspace.com. Flos Arco floor lamp, Knoll Womb chair, Knoll Platner side table, Gabriel Ross, Victoria, grshop.com; Livingspace, Vancouver, livingspace.com. Beoplay V1 TV, Bang and Olufsen, Vancouver, bang-olufsen.com.
Juno track lighting, Illuminations Lighting Solutions, Victoria, illuminationsbc.com; Light the Store, Vancouver, lighthestore.com. Finished concrete, installation by Danamac Concrete Systems, Langley, danamac.ca. Leather bench, desk, homeowners’ own. Zoe Luyendijk Studio Blooming Out Loud rug, Salari Fine Carpet Collections, Vancouver, salari.com. Standing speaker, Bang and Olufsen, Vancouver, bang-olufsen.com. Eames fiberglass side chair, Monk Office Supply, Victoria, monk.ca; Inform Interiors, Vancouver, informinteriors.com.
Frosted glass door, windows, Superior Glass, Port Coquitlam, superiorglass.ca. Concrete floors, installation by Danamac Concrete Systems, Langley, danamac.ca. Aquabrass Caicos bathtub, Victoria Speciality Hardware and Plumbing, Victoria, vshl.ca; Robinson Lighting and Bath, Vancouver, robinsonlightingandbath.com. Fantini bathtub spout, Cantu Bathrooms and Hardware, Vancouver, cantubathrooms.com. Paulig Salsa Jamaica round rug, Salari Fine Carpet Collections, Vancouver, salari.com. Millwork vanity, Soma Furniture, Burnaby, somafurniture.net. Wetstyle double sink, Fantini faucet, suspended mirror light, Cantu Bathrooms and Hardware, Vancouver, cantubathrooms.com. Barter Gather Sweep/Turn Block side table, Grove candle, Provide, Vancouver, providehome.com.
Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White paint, Pacific Paint and Wallpaper, Victoria, benmoorepaints.com; Coast Decorating Centre, Vancouver, coastpaint.com. Recessed lighting, Contrast Lighting, Albrite Lighting, Victoria, albritelighting.com; Robinson Lighting and Bath, Vancouver, robinsonlightingandbath.com. Niche Modern Bella Modern pendant light, Gabriel Ross, Victoria, grshop.com; Provide, Vancouver, providehome.com. Sliding door, Superior Glass, Port Coquitlam, superiorglass.ca. Wooden siding, Crystallia Finishing, Vancouver, crystalliafinishing.com. Glassed over stone area, Custom aluminum grate, Cedric Burgers Developments, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com. T-Cup table, Brent Comber Originals, North Vancouver, brentcomber.com. Concrete floors, installation by Danamac Concrete Systems, Langley, danamac.ca. Golran area rug, MDF Italia bed, Livingspace, Vancouver, livingspace.com.
Cement wall, Cedric Burgers Developments, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com. Stones on roof, Patio stones, Northwest Landscape and Stone Supply, across BC, landscapesupply.com. Innit Acapulco rocking chair, Innit Condesa chair, Hay Slit Table, Vancouver Special, Vancouver, vanspecial.com. Custom fire pit, grate, Cedric Burgers Developments, Vancouver, baiarchitects.com. Recessed wall lighting, Contrast Lighting, Albrite Lighting, Victoria, albritelighting.com; Robinson Lighting and Bath, Vancouver, rirbc.com. Baby alpaca throw, Provide, Vancouver, providehome.com.