740 East 9th St., North Vancouver, B.C.
Asking Price: $2,899,000
Taxes: $8,103.91 (2021)
Lot Size: 50 feet by 147 feet
Agents: Kyla Gardiner, Sotheby’s International Realty
Midway through describing the five-year process of restoring the heritage Craftsman-style home at 740 East 9th St., homeowner David Pike pauses to reflect on what drove his family to spend all the time and money: “Complete madness I think.”
“[We are] creative people; we appreciate beautiful things. Restoring something like that is a creative act,” Mr. Pike said. Gillian Welsh, the other half of the family’s second heritage restoration project, puts it slightly differently: “It’s a bit of an act of service: I never feel like we own these houses, it’s part of the community.”
They felt that way with this house. They were living just down the street in a house they had already renovated and remember shaking their heads as 740 East 9th sat on the market for months, unable to find a buyer. “Outside was pretty unspectacular, it was painted battleship green and grey and it looked very run down,” Mr. Pike said.
Inside was a different story. Much of the original interior was intact, even if some of the gorgeous mahogany had been painted over. Still, the amount of work needed to bring it back to glory was daunting. Most buyers in North Vancouver would look at the lot size, tear the whole thing down and start over.
“We’re English,” Mr. Pike said. “We come from a culture where, post-war, it was ingrained: you don’t throw things away.”
“Everywhere you go in the U.K. there’s an old house, it’s unfortunate they are seen as disposable in North America,” Ms. Welsh said.
For Mr. Pike, the best compliment is paid by the skilled tradespeople who helped restore 740 East 9th: “I’ve heard: ‘This is the nicest house I’ve ever worked in.’ Other people say it’s the finest Craftsman in the Lower Mainland.”
Craftsman style homes were a reaction to the cramped industrialization of the Victorian-era mass home-building. They focused instead on handmade materials and finishes. The house at 740 East 9th has a number of Craftsman features, such as a long, low triangular pitched roof, painted wood siding, detailed wood trim, a generous front porch and rough stone foundations. It’s a one-and-a-half storey bungalow, but its scale is deceptive when seen from the street; inside there’s more than 4,300 square feet of living space.
The house today
Mr. Pike and Ms. Welsh bought the house in 2009, and for the first two years they lived with their three boys lived in the basement – where the ceiling at the time was only six-feet high – as they carefully restored the upper floors. All the windows were replaced, new more efficient HVAC installed and all the new wiring and mechanical upgrades were done without disturbing the original plaster and lathe, tunneling up from the basement or dropping down from the attic. Once that was done, they moved up and dug out the basement, adding a few more feet of headroom and living space for the boys.
The deep front porch allows for a front door that doesn’t open directly to the street, so visitors turn and enter through the wide Dutch door (top and bottom can be opened separately) into a brightly lit foyer. This foyer is framed by windows looking out to the front yard, opposite a set of double doors with glass panels set below a glass-transom that enters into the main hall, and directly across from the front door is an entry into a reception/family room.
This room is paneled in white-painted wood with a beefy granite-block wood-burning fireplace on the outside wall and a built-in window seat in the window that looks to the front yard. The reception is connected to a formal dining room through a wide opening framed by squared-off wood pillars – another Craftsman staple – and this room is a little darker thanks to the deep brown mahogany on the paneling and in the coffered ceiling. “This was painted yellow,” Mr. Pike said. Painstaking stripping revealed the wood beneath. Speaking of wood, this level is all Douglas fir flooring, and they extended it to the second level as well.
A huge bay window on the outside wall of the dining room helps draw more light in, as well as the opening on the rear that leads to the kitchen. The 25-foot-by-15-foot space is huge for a house built when it was, in an era when kitchens were much less elaborate. There is an eat-in nook in the back corner. A wall of windows, still in keeping with the character of the house with dark wood stain on the grid of panes, connects the indoors to the back patio. The cabinetry here evokes the utilitarianism of a traditional butler’s pantry, though much of it is new.
The other side of the main floor has an office with gas-fireplace. All told, there are seven bedrooms in the main house: the two on the main floor, three upstairs (with a flex-space that could be a den, office or child’s bedroom), and two in the basement with a laundry room and rec room. There’s a bathroom and laundry room on the second floor as well.
There’s also what could be an income-, in-law- or nanny-suite in the basement with its own entry and separated bedroom, bath and laundry. At the back of the property is a separate 900-square-foot garage that could be used as a studio space.
The restoration work was absorbing, but now as their three boys are almost out of the house it’s time to move on. “We are actually moving to Vancouver Island, and building from scratch. We don’t need this much space, and I’m really interested in having something even more green. I’d like to be way more energy efficient,” Mr. Pike said.
“We all spend time very differently here,” Ms. Welsh said. “Our youngest, who’s 17, spends most of his time in the reception room, because it’s light and bright and it’s quiet and he reads a lot.” Being stuck at home through the pandemic has meant more time in the various office spaces, but they will recall the happier times of these restored rooms when it’s time to go.
“When we first moved here, a neighbour had known the owner and she’d lived here as a caretaker in the 1930s and 1940s. What she remembered was the Christmases and dinners in this magnificent dining room,” Mr. Pike said. His family has carried on those traditions. “We were talking with our kids about memories, and it’s the Christmases that stand out. It’s a family house, and it’s a beautiful work of art.”
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