4069 Madeley Rd., North Vancouver, B.C.
Asking price: $3.125-million
Taxes: $8,460.64 (2022)
Lot size: 87- by 127-feet
Agents: Trent Rodney, Royal LePage Sussex
In the 1970s, a couple with ties to the fashion industry and roots in Hong Kong commissioned a newly minted architect to design a house for them and their two children on a forested lot in North Vancouver.
“Architect Cheng’s task was to insert a house for a family of four into the sloping site, disturbing the terrain and its natural growth as little as possible while maintaining the privacy its thick tree cover promised,” wrote the Architectural Record magazine in 1977 when it awarded the Chiu residence an Award of Excellence.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recognized the project with an Honour Award in 1980.
Today, any amble along Vancouver’s waterfront includes opportunities to view the work of James Cheng.
The firm he founded in 1978, James K.M. Cheng Architects Inc., has contributed a host of iconic towers to the city, including Living Shangri-La, Fairmont Pacific Rim and Shaw Tower.
Mr. Cheng was educated at Harvard University and apprenticed with Arthur Erickson before opening his own practice.
He is credited as one of the pioneers of the West Coast style of architecture for the Chiu house and other residential projects.
In 2012, Mr. Cheng was named as a Member of the Order of Canada for his transformative impact on Vancouver’s skyline.
The house today
Very little in the house has changed since Mr. Cheng designed it, says Jen Notte who purchased the property 17 years ago with her family.
Residents and visitors arrive from the street to the more private north side, which is composed of a series of cedar cubes. On the south side, large expanses of glass in the principal rooms overlook the ravine.
“As soon as you walk onto the property, you know you’re someplace very unique,” she says.
Inside, the house offers 3,550 square feet of space on three levels, including the basement.
Ms. Notte was drawn to the open plan of the main floor, which creates just enough separation between rooms to offer some privacy.
“It’s a very architectural house and yet it’s also quite practical,” she says. “There’s not a wall that I would move in the house.”
At the centre is the sunken living room with a fireplace surrounded by a bank of glass. A gallery above overlooks the double-height space.
A few steps up from the living room is the dining area. Beyond that, the kitchen has an adjacent breakfast area and family room with doors opening to a cedar deck.
Ms. Notte renovated the kitchen with white cabinets in keeping with the simple lines of the interior.
The windows, framed in oil-rubbed oak, are mostly original throughout the house, says Ms. Notte. The ceilings are clad in cedar. The original oak floors have been refinished and the exterior has been stained a dark grey.
Upstairs, the primary bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and a balcony facing the treetops. The gallery, illuminated by a slanting skylight, connects the suite to the bedrooms belonging to Ms. Notte’s three children and a family bathroom.
A corner of the main floor has been designated as a music room, with the piano sitting next to a window at eye level.
“One of my kids was practicing and an owl was watching them play,” Ms. Notte says.
The property is set in a tranquil pocket in the Upper Delbrook neighbourhood. Kids in the area can walk to school, she says.
“I think there’s a new appreciation for these homes,” she says of mid-century West Coast architecture. “People understand there’s something worth preserving here.”
The property recently received multiple offers and sold for $3.5-million.
The best feature
The house is surrounded by greenery, which Ms. Notte keeps as untouched as possible.
“Our view is our forest, which I love,” she says. “You have to really love the forest to live there.”
The property overlooks city-owned parkland, with the Vancouver skyline in the distance.
Ms. Notte says she often accompanied her kids on adventures, roaming the woods, climbing trees and wading through waterways.
The house stands near the intersection of two creeks which flow through the property. The sound of trickling water adds to the serenity, adds Ms. Notte, and led to the moniker Peninsula House.
“It’s almost a little island, so it feels very private.”