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Taking decor cues from the great outdoors

Recently we completed a project 14 months in the making: a show home for a high-end golf resort in B.C.'s Okanagan, Vernon's Predator Ridge.

The developers gave us – our team collaborated with Bill Poss Architecture of Aspen, Colo. – a somewhat abstract task: to "investigate and reinvent" their approach to floor plans and interiors. They wanted the 3,400-square-foot show home to be a modern space that connected strongly with the surrounding landscape, both a launching pad for activity and a venue for entertainment.

As we gave those ideas concrete shape in the home's spacious living room, we took several questions seriously. Here are the four biggest.

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Why the panelled walls?

The challenge here was one of roominess. The Vernon home has a totally open floor plan: The main floor combines a kitchen-dining-living area, two bedrooms and an office. The area is without corridors, so the living room acts as a throughway to the laundry room and master bedroom.

In the original architect's plan, the wall behind the sofa wore two swing doors. We found that hard on the eyes and greedy of space. (Allowed to swing freely, the doors would eat into the living area.)

Our answer was sliding barn doors, which opened up room for the laundry and office while giving the living area a sleek, contemporary look. The panelled walls are an extension of that goal. Creating visual gravity, they distinguish the living room from the adjoining spaces, making the home's main entertaining area a warm and organic stage.

Why this colour scheme?

Until now, show home interiors at Predator Ridge have had a distinctly Albertan aesthetic – wood and rust-coloured granite, heavy furnishings in a range of chocolate hues. It's a warm and familiar look.

But it was one we wanted to lighten. I took my inspiration from the region's winter months, when snow covers the land and only rock and tufts of grass push through. We referred to this palette as we cooled the colour scheme, lightened the walls and added higher contrast elements.

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Rather than use warm wood floors, which would have insufficient weight, we decided on wide planks of oak, in a flat finish and dark graphite stain. This, along with the near-black of the fireplace millwork, anchors the scheme in darkness and depth.

For the wall panels we selected white oak veneer – similar in colour to the desiccated grasses we'd seen in winter. The light hue adds texture to the scheme without weighing it down.

Within the furnishings we were careful to include elements of distressed wood – the side tables, for example – softening the modern effect of the room with an organic layer.

For colour, we wove in the rich greens of Predator's spring grasslands. The olive chairs and chartreuse cushions give a jolt of liveliness and sophistication while connecting the landscape outside to the space within.

Where's the TV?

One of the developer's criteria was that the home's main floor be self-contained: residents should be able to cook, eat, sleep, work and relax without needing to descend the stairs. Unfortunately, that meant we needed to fit a television into the main floor design.

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Regular readers of this column will know that my ardour for TVs is slight. Anti-social and distracting, they're a blight on a design. In this case, though, with the target demographic an older population, the TV had to stay.

If it had to be there, fine. But we didn't need to see it. And so it was in a spirit of concealment that we set about designing the fireplace wall.

After several attempts, we found a solution that avoided ceding all of the spotlight to the television. We designed a fireplace mantel that wraps up the side of the unit, runs its length, and returns to the floor on the other side.

Above, two open shelving towers flank the television cavity; below, two closed cabinets accommodate audiovisual equipment and bookend the fireplace itself. The full length and six-inch depth of the mantel gave us room to design sliding doors which meet to cover the television in the centre, revealing the display towers on each side.

Why the retracting exterior door system?

We felt, after our first visits to the resort homes, that the layouts didn't take full advantage of the opportunity to live both in and out of doors during the long Okanagan summers.

Along with the architect, we recommended that the covered upper and lower decks be extended several feet to allow for full outdoor living and dining rooms. This way, the entertaining could move outdoors as soon as weather permitted it. The results are exciting: the living rooms have full-sized outdoor furnishings and gas firepits, while the dining table on the deck seats six.

To deepen the the connection between the interior and exterior we built into the living room a 12-foot retractable door system. When open, the living space more than doubles, immersing itself luxuriously in the landscape.


Paint: Walls, Eider White, SW7014, Sherwin Williams,

Rug: Salari Carpets,

Chairs: Stylus,

Lamps: Arteriors, The Cross Design,

Side tables: Country Furniture,

Ottoman and sofa: Custom Kelly Deck Design

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