This kitchen and family room reno project were a true a labor of love for Vancouver designer Lauren Watson. It belongs to her mom! Lauren set out to make the space super functional—a great layout for food prep, an open flow to entertain guests while she’s cooking, and beautiful designer details. The result is an effortlessly refined, cozy space that feels elevated but livable. Lauren tells us more about this heartfelt—and gorgeous—project:
First, we’d love to know more about this home! Where is it located?
This project is my mom’s home. She had lived there ten years before deciding to renovate the main living area including the kitchen and family room. It’s located in Dundarave, a beachy neighborhood near the ocean in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My mom recently retired so she was spending lots of time here doing all of her favorite things — cooking, spending time with friends and family and just relaxing and enjoying her free time after years of being a teacher.
The neighborhood played a subtle role in the design, as we wanted it to feel super calm and serene, a place to find peace and just relax. The house itself already had a slightly nautical feel without being overbearing, but the existing finishes were a bit dark and dated from the ‘90s — think dark granite countertops and orange hardwood floors. We wanted to lighten the entire space up and so we stuck to a fairly neutral, yet warm palette and incorporated lots of texture.
So what was the design process like with Mom as a client? Did you find it easier or more challenging than expected?
Surprisingly she was easier than a traditional client because she let me have full creative control. I think it worked out that way because she trusts my design style, plus I know her so well so I would never do anything I didn’t think she would like. I’ve hung around this space so much over the last decade, along with my four siblings and each of their families, so we knew exactly what we needed to do to open the space up and make it more entertaining friendly for when my mom was busy cooking in the kitchen for our family gatherings.
Could you “walk us” through the space and share a few of your favorite details?
We started off by removing a bulk-head detail in the ceiling above the existing peninsula because it completely enclosed the space. This brought all the ceilings up to 10’ in the kitchen and allowed more light into the entire room. We changed the layout to make it more functional — a bar fridge near the back patio doors for guests to grab a drink on their way out while not interfering with my mom cooking in the kitchen. We kept the original skinny plank oak hardwood flooring and re-finished it in a white-washed stain that didn’t feel too precious.
Because we opted for a more neutral palette, there was a big opportunity to play with texture, especially in the kitchen. I went with a Moroccan zellige backsplash tile in the color “sea salt,” designed a custom plaster hood fan and went with plaster pendants over the island. We layered two warm neutral cabinet colors — Farrow & Ball’s Stoney Ground on the perimeter cabinets and Broccoli Brown for the island. I love the names of their paint colors!
In the living room I removed the traditional fireplace mantle and went with a streamlined surround made of plaster that offered up a softer feel than concrete and let the herringbone fireplace insert be the star of the show. I added in double wall sconces on either side to provide a little more ambient lighting and designed custom natural oak millwork and shelving for the TV wall. Vertical shiplap was used behind the TV to play into the subtle beachy feel.
We did all new furniture as well, where I opted for a big cozy sectional and accent chairs from Maiden Home. I love their products for the price point and the performance quality of the fabrics. Light colored couches are a big part of my design and I always make sure they are super cleanable, especially if you have kids or pets around.
What were the biggest challenges with this project?
This project was pretty straight forward. I acted as the general contractor and got to oversee everything which was great to have full control of the construction schedule and communication with trades. There are always a few questions that you can’t answer until walls are opened up, which in this case was the existing ceiling bulkhead over the kitchen island that would affect the entire layout. I held my breathe hoping it wasn’t anything structural and when it was confirmed it wasn’t, it was like a good omen for the entire project.
How long did the renovation take, and what did your mom say when she saw the finished space?
It took about 4 months to complete. We did it during the peak of COVID-19 so I’d like to say that’s a pretty big accomplishment given all the shortages and delays going on! My mom had been waiting years to renovate her kitchen and was so happy with the final result.