Homes Photo Credit: Martin Knowles

A Vancouver Special is Transformed to House a Multi-Generational Family

You’ve got to see this stunning renovation.

When architect Allison Holden-Pope of One Seed Architecture and Interiors signed on to renovate this Renfrew-Collingwood Vancouver Special with the help of builder Vertical Grain Projects, she was faced with a bit of a challenge: she would be answering to two families instead of just one.

The current homeowner actually grew up in this house; she and her husband had plans to live on the main floors, while her parents wanted a suite to call their own in the basement. It’s a situation that’s not uncommon in Vancouver these days, says Holden-Pope. “With the issue of affordability, something I’ve been seeing is parents wanting to transition their home to their children in a way where they can continue living there too, in a multi-generational fashion with separate suites.”

Separate-but-equal suites, to be clear. The marching orders were to respect the mid-century vibe of the existing home, while creating great living spaces for both “so nobody feels they got the worst half of the house,” laughs Holden-Pope. And with some clever restructuring and a fresh and modern materials palette, Holden-Pope managed to do just that. The home will be part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Vancouver Special tour on April 22, but read on for a sneak peek inside this inspiring space.


The main floor was gutted completely, with the interior walls knocked out to create an open-concept floor plan. Now, when you come in the front door onto the split-level landing, you can see right through to the wood screen and salvaged lumber stairs.


“We went intentionally restrained with the palette,” says Holden-Pope. “Bringing colour was something we wanted to to do through accessories.”


This custom cedar canopy by builder Vertical Grain Projects creates a cozy dining nook.


In the kitchen, a waterfall granite countertop is the heart of the action. Though there’s plenty of storage hidden away in this white-and-grey space, Holden-Pope skipped the cabinetry for the window to maximize light.


The family is of Japanese descent, so there’s Eastern influences in this West Coast home, where wooden screens and natural woods abound.


A geometric wallpaper acts as the backdrop to a workspace in the hallway.


The clerestory window in the master bedroom opens up to the hallway to let in light while maintaining sonic privacy. A sliding French door opens up wide (with a Juliette-style gate in place for safety).


Another sneaky window—this one floor to ceiling—peeks in from the master into the shower.


In the bathroom, barnboard-style tiles add the texture of weathered wood, and the cedar ceiling actually continues out to the eaves. “The sloped cedar ceiling is a continuation of the roof eaves outside, which provides a connection with the outdoors and sense of privacy, despite its urban location,” says Holden-Pope. 


This might just be the nicest basement suite in the city. The two-bed, two-bath space has a huge living room and kitchen, and, surprisingly, a plethora of sunlight: Holden-Pope took out a bedroom from the main floor to allow the basement suite 12-foot ceilings with oversized windows to match. “They have a street presence, so it’s not like they’re hidden away.”

See this house for yourself as part of the Vancouver Special House Tour, April 22, 2017, brought to you by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Tickets are $30. For more information, visit vancouverheritagefoundation.org

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