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Home & Design Favourite Room: How do you update a space once the kids have grown up?

Debbie and Len Webster enlisted the help of interior designer Karly MacLeod to renew the space for the family’s mature needs.

The Globe and Mail

Debbie Webster had a decision to make. No longer enamoured of her Coquitlam, B.C., home, she and her husband, Len Webster, were on the verge of selling. “Even though we loved our neighbourhood and our neighbours, we were at that point,” she says. “We either needed another major renovation to be happy in our space, or we needed to find something else.” A look at Vancouver’s hot housing market – Coquitlam is just 30 minutes east of the city centre – helped with the decision: They’d stay put. “The house really did have good bones, it just needed an overhaul. And our styles had changed.”

The Websters had been through one renovation already, upon initial purchase of their West Coast-style house, with river rock and cedar detailing on its exterior. Fifteen years later, with sons Zac, now 21, and Cam, 17, largely grown up, they enlisted the help of interior designer Karly MacLeod of Karly Kristina Design to renew the space for the family’s mature needs. “Our house would not be anywhere near what it is today if it wasn’t for [MacLeod’s] vision and ability to really understand and listen to what we want, and make that transition happen,” Debbie Webster says.

The upstairs living area was updated to include a television atop the fireplace surround (since the boys dominate the tube downstairs) and rendered warmly modern through a palette of soft greys. “I didn’t want it to be modern and cold, that was my big thing,” Webster says. A split-rock-faced feature wall runs from the basement level up to the living space, which is on the second floor and opens out to a covered deck. Before the renovation, it had been a flat painted wall, and – blasted by natural light – every blemish was revealed. “This is so much better. However the light shines on that wall, it’s just beautiful.”

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Favourite room: How our things reveal who we are

The lighting was updated, and all of it placed on dimmer switches, which permits multiple lighting configurations ranging from cozy to dramatic. “I wouldn’t live without dimmers now,” Webster says. “You can create all kinds of vibes. We can keep the lights on in the bookshelf, turn off the pot lights and have our feature-wall light lowered so shadows are cast down the rock face.” Mirrors behind the shelves reflect back the surroundings, including views of their large backyard with mature tree growth, and enlarge the space. Decor items purchased from Urban Barn line the shelves, along with photos taken in Sedona, Ariz., and Scottsdale, Ariz., where the Websters have a vacation home.

Furnishings are new and custom-made – the sofa, for example – to fit the space and overall colour palette. The red-oak coffee table was built by eldest son, Zac, back in a high-school carpentry class. MacLeod helped finish it with a stain that worked with the overall palette. It still needs a final sealing coat, but Webster has given up waiting for her son to complete it. “And now he gets mad every time I put a drink down on it!” she says with a laugh. Despite some evident talent, Zac didn’t stick with woodworking. He’s currently in university, completing a degree in criminology with designs on law school.

With the boys older, their parents are planning for their own future. “We see – not the light at the end of the tunnel, but empty-nest stage, at least,” Webster says. At which point, she and her husband intend to embrace the snowbird life, flitting between Vancouver and Scottsdale, Ariz. “We’ll likely need to sell for our retirement purposes, but we’ve given [Zac and Cam] much notice for their eviction,” she says. About 10 years' notice. For now, and until then, the Websters are in love with their space again.

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