April 6, 2018

Interior Design: Rescue mission

An architect couple transforms a dilapidated beach house into a stylish contemporary home

Story Kathleen Freimond  & Photos Janis Nicolay

Week after week, on his way to Locarno Beach for his daily swim, Jonathan Katz would walk past the forlorn 1920s beach house with its For Sale sign. And then one day he suggested to his wife Renée that the couple buy and renovate it.
Most people would have been daunted by the condition of the dilapidated structure. But as architects and principals of J+R Katz Design and Architecture, the Katzes were confident they had the vision and skills to rescue the time-worn house and transform it into a comfortable and stylish three-bedroom home.
Fourteen years later, the over-height chartreuse front door offers a hint of what lies inside the 3,600-square-foot home in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood. It bears little resemblance to its original 1926 two-bedroom floor plan.
“We developed a master plan of what we wanted to achieve and broke it down into three phases,” says Jonathan.
The renovations, now complete, included digging out the basement to give it an eight-foot ceiling height, pouring new footings and
creating a self-contained suite and a professional office for the Katzes’ home-based design and architectural business. On the main floor, the Katzes opened up walls to improve the flow, enlarged the kitchen and dining room and added an outdoor shower (to rinse off after those summer swims in the ocean). They also built a new master ensuite and replaced the old staircase. And, in the final phase, they opened up access to the long-planned rooftop deck and added a horizontal stained cedar siding feature to the second-storey exterior.
“When we did our last renovation, we cut a large dormer into the roof to give the kids’ bedrooms more height and we added the cedar siding to the dormer, and a new standing seam metal roof, to give the house a more contemporary West Coast expression,” says Renée.
But many elements from its 1920s past imbue the home with charm and character, creating a restful backdrop for the now bright and airy interiors, where different shades of yellow-green chartreuse link spaces and enhance the eclectic décor.
In the living room, a restored original window between two colourful paintings complements the horizontal lines of the room-wide built-in below it.
The two original paintings—one with its rusty red, yellow and green colours acquired during a recent holiday in Mexico that Jonathan laughingly describes as a “cross between a Frida Kahlo and Matisse”—are the attention-grabbers in the living room. Two yellow reproduction Slice chairs (from Rove Concepts) add the chartreuse accents.
“We like the fact that they are playful and fun, yet stay true to mid-century modern style,” says Renée.
On the opposite wall, a large portrait by Nelson Makamo brings the couple’s South African roots into the room while two white-framed water colours above the fireplace visually balance the art collection in the space.
The room’s narrow strip-oak flooring reflects the era of the house, but replicates the original, says Renée.
When the floors, too thin to refinish, were being replaced in the final phase of the renovation, the Katzes found old movie posters had been substituted as the underlay for the nail-down hardwood flooring when the house was built. “Tar paper was usually used to prevent moisture migrating from unfinished basements below,” explains Jonathan.
Many posters were damaged and only one could be saved: the poster for Not a Drum Was Heard, a silent-era western film starring Charles Jones, was framed and now continues its tenure in the home in pride of place on the end wall of the dining room.
This was the second poster rescued during renovations. When large sections of rotting shingles were replaced, the Katzes found several old movie posters that had been used as building paper in the walls. “Many of them were mouldy, but one was in good condition and we mounted it on the barn door we had custom made to close off the den,” says Renée. The yellow and orange tones in the poster, once used to advertise the 1924 silent film Just Off Broadway, starring John Gilbert, are complemented by a reproduction of Danish designer Arne Jacobson’s Egg chair that’s upholstered in the same yellow bouclé fabric as the Slice chairs.

Replacing the shingles, the Katzes stayed true to the unusual pattern using rows of 3¾-by-9¾-inch and 9¾-by-9¾-inch shingles. “The pattern is called ribbon coursing and was used by the famous California architects Greene and Greene on some of their West Coast bungalows,” says Renée.
The extension in the kitchen required a structural beam that has been incorporated into the ceiling design by adding a matching false beam to create symmetry. It also complements the relaxed style of the heart of the home, where leaded glass doors bookend the upper cabinetry with its open shelving and plate racks.
A large table made from reclaimed fir takes the place of an island, separating two identical sides of the kosher kitchen, each with its own cabinetry, sink and dishwasher. A Bocci light fixture with five signature coloured spheres adds a contemporary touch to the space while just outside the kitchen a quirky giraffe head, fashioned from wire, is a reminder that Africa is never far from the homeowners’ thoughts.
Upstairs, a yellow throw is a colourful accent in the main bedroom while 12-by-24-inch chartreuse-yellow ceramic tiles on one of the ensuite walls give the space a punch of the home’s signature hue.
From this second floor it’s an easy few steps up the floating staircase to the new rooftop patio. A full-height roof access hatch or “roof door” by Daylighter Skylights provides access to the sunset-perfect deck.
While Jonathan still takes a daily swim at Locarno Beach, he’s not expecting to find another beach cottage to renovate. His once-in-a-lifetime find is just picture perfect.

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