This three-story Vancouver home was built in the late 1990s. While not in bad shape, it was begging for an aesthetic update and Gillian Segal was just the designer for the job. Though the house is close to one of Vancouver’s most popular beaches, the client wasn’t necessarily keen on a stereotypical “beach house.” Instead, Segal focused on a neutral palette with a warm materiality: natural stones, cast bronze, blackened steel, patina brass, and oak in a variety of finishes. While you won’t see any coastal cliches, it’s a lesson in serenity. It now serves as a relaxing home base for the client to return from her travels, with room for her dog and her two university-aged children to come visit.

Tell us about this home. Where is it located? How did the neighborhood influence the design?
This home is located in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver. This is a beach neighborhood, and the home is only a few blocks away from one of Vancouver’s best beaches (Kits Beach). It is a very charming area (which I also happen to live in) and is filled with a lot of heritage, craftsman style homes.  

We’d love to know more about your client. What was the designer/client dynamic?
I immediately fell in love with the client and the character and charm the house had. Heritage-style wood inlay floors, stained glass, and old beat-up brass door hardware (all of which we kept to some degree) were my favorite features. The rest of the details, however, were all in dire need of updating, so our goal in this project was to salvage and maintain these important features while bringing new life to everything else in a way that was sympathetic to the original home and character of the neighborhood.

My family grew a LOT over the course of this project. Since I have been working with this client over the past few years, she has seen me through two pregnancies and two new babies (I have site photos of me and my first daughter on the construction site together). I will forever be grateful to this client for her support while becoming a new and second time mom. 

What was the aesthetic goal with your design plan?
This project was all about livable luxury with a serene vibe. The project is close to the beach and is certainly not a “beach house” style, but we wanted sophisticated and luxurious elements to still maintain a sense of approachability and comfort that a beach house offers. I had just returned from a sourcing trip to New York when we started this project and was so inspired by the feeling of a New York brownstone that feels collected, eclectic and elevated all at the same time. I love the mix of old and new, so we really tried to weave that feeling into this project. 

How long did the project take?
Our initial design only took about 3 months. However, we continued to tweak, furnish, and decorate over the span of about 3 years – working to collect the perfect art pieces and special items to really complete the home. 

When we started, the dining room was surrounded by large craftsman-style pillars, interior windows, and a dropped coffered ceiling. While it fit with the architecture of the home it felt very clunky and heavy. We proposed removing these features and adding arches to open things up and add an unexpected element. While our client was unsure at first, as soon as the arches got framed up, we all knew we had made the right decision! 

See more in the slideshow.