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home of the week

Jesse Laver Photography/Jesse Laver Photography

1197 Tall Tree Lane, North Vancouver, B.C.

Asking Price: $4,188,000

Taxes: $8,317.31 (2022)

Lot Size: 13,687 square feet, 140-foot frontage

Listing Agents: Leslie McConnell, Jamie MacDougall, Engel and Volkers West Vancouver

The back story

The primary bedroom’s vaulted ceiling rises to a central peak, with huge floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the ravine.Jesse Laver Photography/Jesse Laver Photography

Sometimes when you’re house hunting you should be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

That was the case for Georgia Dahle and Brent Cuthbertson nine years ago when they bought a small house perched on the ravine near the Capilano Heights area. The lot wowed them – forested and private – but the house built in 1975 was a little chopped up and didn’t make the most of its environment. The couple decided a modest renovation could reap rewards.

“We only thought it would be a three-month project, we started with that in mind,” Mr. Cuthbertson said. “Never mind, it took us about 14 months.”

They didn’t start out with big plans, but things just evolved.

“I was looking for a better functioning kitchen, and we wanted a bigger master bedroom. We started with those two constructs in mind. We wanted to open a wall, and … it spiralled,” Ms. Dahle said. “We hadn’t intended to do a transformation in that sense.”

In the end, the renovation costs came to about $1-million.

In some ways their ambitions were constrained by what the site would allow. “There’s a lot of push in terms of bigger is better,” Ms. Dahle said. “Part of the challenge of this site are the big creek [and] a steep ravine. Those elements didn’t allow you to build a 6,000-square-foot home.”

Now, the interior is wide open, with 30-foot-high ceilings in the main room. “When we designed the house, we asked: ‘How do we make sure everything is looking into the forest?’ ” Ms. Dahle said. Nine massive skylights and 26 picture windows help a lot.

The House Today

From the street you might think the home isn’t there. Unlike the other houses on the cul-de-sac, it doesn’t sit above the road grade. Instead, you take a short lane down to a courtyard sheltered by trees and a retaining wall that features a fire pit. A set of stairs leads to a walkway and a bright orange door.

The door opens into a foyer with dramatic glass-walled staircase directly ahead that is anchored off a huge beam that supports the floating second-floor loft. It allows the main living area beyond to soar upward 30 feet to the vaulted ceiling.

“It’s such a central part of the home … it had to be something we couldn’t take shortcuts on,” Mr. Cuthbertson said of the staircase and its architectural impact.

Just to the right is the kitchen, the back wall of which is all pantry storage, a built-in fridge and microwave, and custom millwork. The cooktop range sits in the island, with bar seating on the other side. On the far wall the sink is under a wide window.

Behind the kitchen is the living room, with a wall of windows looking down into the ravine. There’s a catwalk balcony that wraps around the outside of these windows. Tucked behind the glass stairs is the dining table and a sliding door walkout to the deck. There’s another set of sliding doors that connect to the bedroom on this level used by their daughter.

Above all this on the second floor is a loft with windows that rise along with the A-frame peak. The second floor is filled with angled supports with triangular windows tucked wherever they fit. It has the clean look of an Apple store mixed with the engineering eccentricities of a Daniel Libeskind building.

The primary bedroom’s vaulted ceiling rises to a central peak, with huge floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the ravine. In the dark blue feature wall behind the bed, a slim window is cut in the wall, pulling another sliver of sunlight in.

The primary bath has a stand-alone soaker tub, glass double shower enclosure and no window coverings. “You can see down on the neighbours but they can’t see you,” Ms. Dahle said, describing how the angle of the house in relation to neighbours offers privacy. “Sitting in the bath or the shower, you can you open the window and have the breeze come in.”

Bringing the outside in is pretty much the theme of the house.

“We’re getting to that time of year where we start opening all the windows and just let it go,” Ms. Dahle said. Even if you do have to be somewhat mindful of how much nature you let in from the ravine. “It’s kinda neat … from the creek down below every once in a while you can hear the rustling of a bear,” Mr. Cuthbertson said. It’s not a sound you can mistake. “When it starts to walk, things tend to crunch a bit louder.”

Best feature

Behind the kitchen is the living room, with a wall of windows looking down into the ravine.Jesse Laver Photography/Jesse Laver Photography

Everyone got something they wanted. “We’re a blended family, we have a younger child and an older one, and the question was, how do you create unique spaces for three different sets of needs, while having a cohesive family structure?” Ms. Dahle said. “A great piece of advice, from a set of friends, was that you each get that one item in your home that’s non-negotiable.” For Mr. Cuthbertson, it was the staircase; for Ms. Dahle, it was the kitchen. For the children, it was their own space: “Our son had the basement so he could come and go and our daughter had her own floor, the main floor.”

That level of customization isn’t always possible if you’re not willing to take on a big project. But this couple doesn’t regret it. “We would do it all over again,” Ms. Dahle said. “When we have friends who ask, should we buy, renovate or build, I immediately say: ‘Yes!‘ You need to have the right architect, and the right partner – it’s quite stressful – but it was a really enjoyable experience. You learn a lot about yourself.”

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