February 22, 2024

A custom home in Nanoose Bay connects to the coastal wilderness

“We tried to keep every single tree that we could keep and to work with the natural curves of the property.”

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Indoor-outdoor spaces are having a moment lately. But sometimes, the “outdoor” part of the equation is wilder than others.

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For her family’s custom build on a rocky coast in Nanoose Bay, designer and homeowner Lindsay Steele wanted a home with an indoor-outdoor feel, “very much connected to nature” – and disturbing the pristine natural landscape as little as possible.

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“We tried to keep every single tree that we could keep and to work with the natural curves of the property,” she says.

Steele’s family moved from Vancouver in 2018, trading a loft on Granville Island for life on Vancouver Island. At first, they didn’t think a waterfront property was in the cards. But they were pleasantly surprised to discover their dream parcel of land, right at the ocean’s edge. “We found this lot and completely fell in love with it,” says Steele.

She enlisted architect Mark Simone, of Shelter Residential Design, and builder Alair Homes, who were able to design and build the three-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home with minimal excavation and impact on the rocky, sloped site.

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This 2,800-square-foot, three-bedroom home in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, was designed to fit with the natural shape of its coastal lot, disturbing the landscape as little as possible with minimal excavation. Builder Alair Homes retained and protected a large Garry oak within the concrete patio.
This 2,800-square-foot, three-bedroom home in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, was designed to fit with the natural shape of its coastal lot, disturbing the landscape as little as possible with minimal excavation. Builder Alair Homes retained and protected a large Garry oak within the concrete patio. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography
Raw cedar siding helps distinguish the home's entry from the rest of the exterior, which has sliding glass doors that open on all sides.
Raw cedar siding helps distinguish the home’s entry from the rest of the exterior, which has sliding glass doors that open on all sides. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography

One potential casualty was a large Garry oak, growing in the middle of a zone destined for a patio. “We assumed it would have to go, but as we built the house, we just said, just leave it and see,” recalls Steele. By carefully pouring concrete around the trunk and leaving an open spot, Alair was able to retain the tree. Today, it’s thriving; lending a leafy frame to the upstairs bedroom window and attracting a steady stream of birds.

The wilderness-surrounded site presented other building challenges, too, including strict rules to protect wildlife. “We were only allowed to excavate between September and February because of the eagle nesting,” says Alair regional partner Chiara Sulyok. “There’s a beautiful regional park right next to the house . . . and a lot of people use that side of the park to get to the ocean to Scuba-dive.” That meant tight timelines for all machine work.

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Inside, the home is clean and contemporary, with touches of fir and oak giving a warm and naturalistic feel. “We definitely wanted an open space for the kitchen, dining room and living room. And something really efficiently designed – there’s no wasted space in our home,” says Steele.

Sliding glass doors and windows open on either side for indoor-outdoor living. Cushions and accessories are from Provide Home, sectional from Brougham Interiors
Sliding glass doors and windows open on either side for indoor-outdoor living. Cushions and accessories are from Provide Home, sectional from Brougham Interiors. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography
Large built-in bench in the living room provides storage as well as additional seating. Log-like side table from Mth Woodworks in Vancouver.
Large built-in bench in the living room provides storage as well as additional seating. Log-like side table from Mth Woodworks in Vancouver. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography

In the living-dining area, ridge skylights brighten vaulted ceilings with timber-frame beams. “It’s not a really big home, but we feel like it’s super, super spacious because of the high ceilings in the living room, and the open kitchen, and all the big windows that open quite wide,” she says.

Said windows surround the living space – floor-to-ceiling on the ocean side and partial-height above a built-in wraparound bench on the opposite. All roll open to expose the space near-fully to the outdoors.

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Lindsay Steele, Motto Interior Design.
Lindsay Steele, Motto Interior Design. Photo by Tracey Ayton /PNG

The bench is one of Steele’s favourite features. “I just love window benches. I knew [this one] would be really handy with the kids,” she says. “We sit there and do puzzles, and have the storage underneath. . . . It just adds so much seating without taking up a lot of space.” Plus, when the windows are open, it becomes indoor-outdoor seating: “We have that open if it’s a nice day, and the kids are jumping up and running around, back and forth through the window, which is kind of fun.”

A concealed hood fan, integrated appliances and flush-set cabinetry keep the kitchen clean and modern, with dining chairs and stools from Vancouver Special.
A concealed hood fan, integrated appliances and flush-set cabinetry keep the kitchen clean and modern, with dining chairs and stools from Vancouver Special. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography

Steele’s goal for the kitchen was to create a light, bright and clean-lined space laid out to fit as large an island as possible, while also accommodating a dining area where the family could sit together and eat. A hood fan concealed behind millwork, integrated appliances and flush-set cabinetry reduce visual clutter.

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A floating staircase leads to a second storey on the home’s north side. “One of the features that my husband really pushed for was to have our [main] bedroom on the top floor, where I was leaning toward a rancher-style layout,” says Steele. “Now that we have our bedroom up there, with the view, it’s really incredible. It feels like we’re in a tree house.”

bedroom
The bedroom and ensuite carry the home’s clean lines upstairs. The bedroom blinds retract into the ceiling for seamless views. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography
bathroom
A free-standing tub in the ensuite enjoys sightlines to the ocean, filtered through arbutus branches. Photo by Lance Sullivan /Concept Photography
Ikea Pax units offer ample storage in the home's entryway, cleverly designed to appear built-in.
Ikea Pax units offer ample storage in the home’s entryway, cleverly designed to appear built-in. Photo by Tracey Ayton /PNG

Upstairs, all sightlines point toward the view. Bedroom window blinds retract seamlessly into the ceiling to keep views unobstructed. In the ensuite, a dreamy soaker tub perches in front of a window laced with arbutus branches.

Construction of the home wrapped up in 2021, and the family has been happily settled there since. They still have a few projects on the go, like planting a garden and building a guest house on the neighbouring lot, which they also own.

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The location has proven perfect for not only living, but working, adds Steele, who runs a home-based business providing coaching to fellow designers: “Yesterday I had a meeting here, and there were three deer playing in the backyard, just jumping around. And one time I counted 40 eagles on our lot,” she says. “We love being on this piece of land.”

Design: Lindsay Steele, Motto Interior Design

Architecture: Mark Simone, Shelter Residential Design

Construction: Alair Homes

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