February 10, 2017

All in the family

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Jacqui Cohen’s mid-century modern home is a welcoming space for her glamorous gala 

“I love the soul of this house.”
Jacqui Cohen

By KATHLEEN FREIMOND
Photos JANIS NICOLAY

coverWhen Jacqui Cohen drives down the driveway of her home in the University Endowment Lands, she honks the horn, just as she did when she was a teenager and her parents Jack and Marlene Cohen owned the property. Memories of Cohen’s family are everywhere in the home, which was a wedding gift from her grandfather, Army & Navy founder Sam Cohen, to her parents. Gesturing to the staircase just inside the entrance, Cohen recalls descending the stairs for her own wedding.

“I love the soul of this house,” she says.

Cohen, who continues the family business as Army & Navy’s president and CEO, maintains the mid-century modern family home on North West Marine Drive. She also heads up Face the World Foundation (FTW), a charity she started 26 years ago to support abused men, women and children, and the homeless.

Originally designed by renowned architect C.B.K. Van Norman, the house, with its show-stopping view of English Bay, underwent an extensive four-year renovation that was completed in time for the 2012 Face the World gala when KISS frontman Gene Simmons and his family attended the event.

Architect Russell Hollingsworth, a long-standing family friend Cohen had worked with previously, carefully updated the house, which he describes as “a long, horizontal, close-to-the ground, mid-century bungalow-style.”

“We’ve worked together long enough to be sensitive to each other: the design principles are important to me and Jacqui knows I am sensitive to the family connections,” says Hollingsworth.

“We lengthened it, added on to it and opened it up,” he adds. “We completely gutted it, completely changed it—but not. We kept the feeling of it.”

The large kitchen, anchored by two 12-by-four-foot (3.6-by-1.2-metre) islands with quartzite countertops, was part of the renovation. A wall of black walnut cabinetry defines the kitchen and extends to the bar alongside. Major appliances including Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezer drawers are behind integrated panels while a coffee station with a Miele coffee machine is conveniently placed close to the kitchen and the bar.

“It’s bringing new energy to the event and it brings two generations together.” Jacqui Cohen

The Viking gas cooktop, Wolf wall ovens, two sinks and extensive counter space make the kitchen conducive to catering for events. But even this kitchen is not large enough to support the 2017 Face the World Today gala, an event where Cohen’s Face the World Foundation is teaming up with Face of Today (FOT), the charitable organization founded by her daughter Kasondra Cohen-Herrendorf in 2009. While both charities will maintain their individual identities and mandates, they are combining their galas and hosting one glamourous event on May 13.

“Face of Today works with youth aged between 15 and 25. We want to create opportunities for the leaders of tomorrow,” says Cohen-Herrendorf.

She is most proud of the hip-hop workshops held in FOT’s recording studio in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The studio is a safe, nurturing environment for youth who want to express themselves through music,” she says.

“Face of Today works with youth aged between 15 and 25. We want to create opportunities for The leaders of tomorrow.” 

Another project she is passionate about is the three-day Wakeboard Camp that takes youth to the Nk’Mip Campgrounds in Osoyoos where they develop confidence by learning new watersports and taking part in leadership and team-building exercises and games.

Collaborating for the gala has many advantages, says Cohen. “It’s bringing new energy to the event and it brings two generations together.”

Tents on the expansive lawn in front of the house will accommodate the approximately 300 people expected to attend the gala. Hawksworth Restaurant will bring in a team of chefs plus cooking and refrigeration equipment to cater the event, one of the highlights of Vancouver’s social calendar.

“It’s important to keep the hot food hot, and the cold food cold,” says Chris Stewart, the award-wining restaurant’s chef de cuisine.

Although the house is used to host many functions, it does not have a formal dining room. An informal dining area in the kitchen can seat up to 12 people for family meals while the open-plan entertaining space that was created by removing walls can be customized to accommodate the size and style of the event being hosted.

“We needed to insert steel support beams and they hung about an inch below the ceiling, so we designed a black walnut accent feature to hide them,” says Hollingsworth.

He also removed a massive stone fireplace that dominated the space and replaced it with a low profile, cantilevered bioethanol fireplace. Warm, orange flames give the large space a cosy ambience, enhanced by the classic vein-cut travertine in four-by-two-foot (120-by-60-cm) tiles that cover the main floor, including the patios, blurring the line between inside and outside.

Inspired by a river-rock landscape retaining wall, Hollingsworth evoked the era of the original house built in the late 1950s.

“A lot of river rock was used in those days. There is a lot of variation in colour—the rocks are split in half by hand to get the colour faces. It hasn’t been used for a long time and we thought it would be cool to stay with it and use it inside,” he says.

The rock was sourced from the same quarry in the Fraser Valley that supplied the original stone used in the retaining wall. Rock in shades of grey, blue and brown clad a large central support column and pillars, giving the home a natural, timeless elegance.

Cohen has vivid memories of her mother Marlene hosting charitable events at the family home. Now, as the FTW and FOT foundations work together to produce the glitzy Face the World Today gala, a third generation of the Cohen family will be using the home to raise funds to support local charities.

And to further reinforce the bond between the home and the Cohen family, when Cohen-Herrendorf marries Marcus Rambold later this year, she will descend the staircase just as her mother did on her wedding day, and the newlyweds will eventually make the house their home.•

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