Multigenerational House by One SEED Architecture + Interiors

Contemporary single family house located in Vancouver, Canada, designed by One SEED Architecture + Interiors.

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Description by One SEED Architecture + Interiors

We are very excited about the conversion of this Vancouver Special into a contemporary multigenerational home. It incorporates three generations, with one suite for the home owners to share with their young children, and a separate suite for their parents. It is flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of each generation throughout their lives.  During the design process we addressed the needs of each group and took special care that each suite was designed with lots of light, high ceilings, and dramatic spaces.

We wanted the 2 bedroom and 2 bath lower level suite to feel like a first class space, not a secondary suite in a basement.  To achieve this, we re-purposed the space of one bedroom on the main floor, and gave this area and volume to the garden level suite.  This allowed us to create a new massing element on the front elevation and to provide the garden suite with 12 foot high ceilings in their living room, with huge windows looking out toward the mountains, a huge 3’ diameter string light fixture, tons of natural light, and a street presence with their living room and address facing the front yard. The high walls give them plenty of space to display their collection of beautiful kimonos.  The garden suite is accessed via a private entry with a walkout patio where the landscaping steps down organically to meet it.  A huge chef’s kitchen also overlooks the back garden, and windows at desk height overlook this outdoor living space so that there is a connection to the outside when seated, where the home owner’s mother can create her artistic works of calligraphy in the natural light. and through the dining and living room to the mountain.

The split-level entrance with iconic double height glazing at the entrance is one of our favorite features of this variation of Vancouver Special. Our renovated design maintains and accentuates the entry element with a new solid fir door and windows which fly past the new lower flat roof.  We incorporated a smoke glass multi-pendant light fixture as a nod to the mid-century heritage of the Special. Simple floating drywall guardrails at the split-level entry stair continue the shape and form of the exterior board-form concrete feature wall of the exterior entry stair.
The large horizontal windows on the front elevation were maintained, as they provide excellent views, and are archetypal of Vancouver Specials.  We also maintained the roof line over half of the house.  Through exploration of the attic framing we discovered that the roof was framed without trusses and so we were able to remove the existing flat drywall ceiling and put in a vaulted ceiling characteristic of many Vancouver Specials.  Our final homage to the Vancouver Special was the reuse of the carport area on the back elevation of the house as an extension to the basement suite with a walk-out patio above.

The main floor of the is grounded by a Japanese inspired feature wood screen element which serves as structural support for the salvaged lumber floating stair, as well as a canopy and bench for the dining room. The open concept main floor with a large kitchen, living room, and dining room is a perfect space for entertaining . A zen material palette incorporates whites, greys, concrete, light oak flooring, and warm Douglas Fir accents.

As lovers of all things ‘Vancouver Special’, a key factor driving the design was to respect and continue the original clean lines of the Vancouver Special while modernizing its shape and form … and providing a bit of additional architectural ‘oompf’ to the street front.  As such, when we expanded upwards with a new half storey to gain more floor area to accommodate both families, we set it back from the front of the house so as not to increase the perceived size of the front elevation.  This was especially pertinent on this sloped lot where the street front is significantly lower than the house entrance. 

The addition provides the owners with a luxurious and private master suite looking out at the unobstructed views of the North Shore mountains and a field of blue skies. With large windows on all sides to provide cross-ventilation, as well as ample natural light and carefully framed views, we studied different sized louvers and fins and modeled them three-dimensionally to accurately assess the shade that they would provide at different times of the year, in order to address solar heat gain.  Balancing beauty and function. The master suite is a quiet sanctuary which includes a master bedroom, a huge walk-through closet with make-up desk at a full-height window, a master ensuite bath with a cheeky floor to ceiling window from master bedroom into the shower, and also a study with a geometric wall covering at the top of the stair, also with mountain views and an interior clerestory window to the master bedroom letting daylight flow throughout the suite. A vaulted cedar ceiling throughout continues out to become cedar soffits beyond.

Photography by Martin Knowles Photo/Media

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- by Matt Watts