Frank Lloyd Wright famously said that “hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other.” This idea – that structure and site should be happily integrated – drove the design strategy for Re-Generation House, a renovated 1957 bungalow in Vancouver’s Oakridge neighborhood.
Re-Generation House is named in honor of the three generations who have called it home as well as the regenerative impact of the contemporary renovation. The renovation – which literally lifted the roof off of the old home – was a true collaboration between the homeowner (Myriam Freedman Design), the architect (One SEED Architecture + Interiors), and the builder (Vertical Grain Projects).
Below, check out our Q&A on Re-Generation House with Allison Holden-Pope of One SEED, a boutique firm specializing in green and contemporary spaces that was named “One to Watch for Eco-Design” by Western Living Magazine.
Q&A w/ Allison Holden-Pope, One SEED Architecture + Interiors
Re-Generation House is a renovation of a 1957 bungalow, which was the homeowner’s boyhood home. What motivated the homeowner to re-imagine the home, and how was One SEED brought on board?
The homeowners are design lovers and modernists. A large-scale renovation had been part of their long-term plan since purchasing the home from their parents. They came across our firm after we were named ‘One To Watch for Eco-Design’ by Western Living Magazine, as part of their 2013 Designers of the Year Awards. They liked that we were a young boutique firm and an ‘up and comer’, that was starting to gain recognition. They’re trend setters, what can I say? We met to discuss the project and their homes’ potential, and I think we both agreed that this would be a perfect fit for both parties. They liked our contemporary portfolio, our collaborative approach to the design process, as well as our general excitement at the opportunity to rework the home and rip the roofs of. We loved them, their spirit, passion for modern design, and their gung-ho attitude about what their house could be for the next generations.
It sounds like the homeowner was very involved throughout every stage of the renovation. What does this sort of collaborative design process look like?
When designing a custom home, we always want as much input from the homeowners as possible. It’s not about creating a house for our portfolio, but a home that will play an important role in every day of our clients’ lives. If they don’t love it, we don’t love it. Our practice is based on a live-feedback process where we put forward different options at each stage of the design, starting with general layout concepts, then more detailed plans, then rooflines, materials, etc. At each point, we are absorbing their preferences and thoughts to make the design stronger. For example, when it came to determining the iconic wrapping rooflines that define the renovated Re-Generation House, we modeled up several different options in 3D, to help illustrate the directions we could pursue. We then all gathered around the computer screen and twisted, turned, and manipulated the model to a point where we were all satisfied with every nook and cranny.
The process for the Re-Generation house was special, as the homeowners had quite a bit of experience renovating homes for market (Myriam Freedman Design), and a long history in their home. They knew what worked and what didn’t. We loved collaborating with them on the design, as we pushed each other to make the renovation as impactful and pragmatic as it is in its final built form. When it came to the interiors, we agreed to go for a white and airy field, accented with extensions from the exterior: charcoal tones, warm woods, wrapping elements, and a common rhythm to the horizontal lines. For years prior, every time that Myriam came across a product she liked, she flagged it. Once the ‘anchors’ for the interiors were worked out, like the stairs, fireplaces, and feature millwork pieces, Myriam and the builders, Vertical Grain Projects, really ran with the finishing touches, checking in for our feedback as desired, and did a stunning job.
What aspects of the original home helped inspire the new design? How did the site of the home inform the structure?
Conceptually, the interior layout of the home worked really well, so we were able to focus on reworking the details, and opening the spaces up by removing critical walls and ceilings. We reworked every space, but managed to keep the flow of the original home intact. In select areas, like the entry and master suite, we made more drastic transformations to the layout.
Interestingly, it was the lack of integration with the site that drove our strategy for this renovation. The property is a flat lot, and the house previously sat there in the middle, disconnected. The front door stepped onto a tiny landing, then down 4 short steps to the expanse of grass that was the underused front yard. We decided to reclaim this space, providing beautiful spaces for the house to look and open onto, as well as some layers of landscape and fencing to provide a buffer from the street. In front of the master bedroom, the board-formed concrete wall and horizontal wood fencing create an open courtyard. Green Elevations, the landscape designer, has planted an array of drought-tolerant grasses and trees that will grow in to provide even more privacy for the bedroom. Their design for the front yard is breathtaking, supporting their plants and grasses with weathering steel boxes which provide subtle levels in the grading and which tie in with the architecture of the home. At the entry, we took a notch out of the existing house, to create more room around the front door, and designed a large format cast-in-place concrete stair that cascades down from the house and integrates with the landscaping. In addition, we created a large west-facing patio that extends from the entry and in front of the living room, also protected with feature concrete and wood landscape walls, extending the interior spaces out. These semi-private outdoor spaces also engage with the neighbourhood, as the homeowners can now comfortably lounge in their front yard. Architecturally, the boxy wrap roofs allowed us to break the house into large elements that appear to sit on the site, and cascade down as they approach the front yard.
In your opinion, what was the most drastic change that was made to the home?
That’s an easy one: removing the gabled roof and providing a new wrap roof design. The house was transformed inside and out by these boxy modern shapes. It allowed for high ceilings and interesting changes in volume. You will notice that the original walls are in the same plane for the most part, as it was a fairly flat home. We maintained those walls, but created depth through the three-dimensional roof line. The resulting shapes and shadows change with the light throughout the day. These lines are articulated and strengthened by the West Coast palette and depth of colour in the materials.
What are some design aspects that tour-goers should be sure to keep an eye out for?
They might be interested in taking a moment to experience the sense of entry from the front yard, up the concrete cascading steps and inside the front door. One will see straight from the front door to the backyard, and looking up, into the tree canopy through new clerestory windows. The slate feature wall that anchors the stair has the same rhythm as the board formed concrete walls and depth of colour as the wood slat fencing. This wall anchors the whole house, as it is visible on all three floors. They may notice a subtle millwork detail at the front door where the bench top wraps up and over the door creating a fold reminiscent of the wrap roof.
Speaking of the stair, there is an interesting story there as well. A mature and unhealthy cedar tree had to be removed in the backyard as part of the construction process. The builder seized this opportunity to continue the story of the house, and milled the wood for use as treads in the stair, as well as for the live edge table detail at the desk off of the kitchen.
The master suite has a unique open concept layout, where there are no doors between bedroom, closet, and bathroom. The only door is to a private toilet room, tucked behind the wood slat feature wall. The closets may actually go unnoticed, with his-and-her closets flanking the transitional space between bedroom and bathroom. The huge windows in the bathroom are such that the homeowners feel that they are showering in the outdoors, but are actually quite protected by high windowsills. We’ve heard multiple reports that one homeowner can’t contain himself and can be heard singing loudly as he enjoys his new shower.
The dining room has a wall of eight-foot high folding doors, which collapse away, opening the dining room up to the backyard patio, blurring the line between inside and out. The backyard is a bit of an oasis in itself, with a large patio, built-in seating around a fire pit, and a basketball court. Downstairs is a guest suite and a teen lounge which provides a fun place for the boys to hang out, with its own fireplace, drum machine, and comfy couch for watching movies and sports.
Tour-goers should grab the handout that we will providing, as well as check out the slideshow that will be playing in the living room. Both will show before and after photos that illustrate the transformation.
Do you have your tickets yet to the Vancouver MA+DS Modern Home Tour? Purchase them here and check out #regenerationhouse in person!
Architecture: One SEED Architecture + Interiors @OneSEED_Arch
Builder: Vertical Grain Projects @verticalgrainprojects
Interiors: collaboration w/ One SEED and home owner Myriam Freedman Design @myriamfreedmandesigns
Landscape: Green Elevations @greenelevations (instagram)
Photography: Janis Nicolay @pineconecamp (instagram)
Styling: Laura Melling @lmelling (instagram)