West Side Clerestory House

Vancouver
Renovation + Addition

The design brief was to modernize an existing 1950s split-level home, elevate it architecturally, reconsidering all aspects of the home, and to incorporate an additional storey with a generous primary bedroom suite.  We brought the architecture of the existing home and new addition together harmoniously, making them seem as if they have always been “whole”, with a form inspired by the mid-century era of the home and in keeping with the scale of the Southlands neighbourhood.  

This extensive renovation was undertaken for all the right reasons: to improve the performance, to make the home healthier, to take advantage of a grandfathered building footprint, and sentimentally to ensure the final design still echoes the house in which our Clients raised their daughters.  West Side Clerestory’s name is a cheeky reference to the musical, and which incorporates its idyllic neighbourhood on the West Side of Vancouver and architectural mid-century theme that pulls the design together cohesively.  You will want to see the before and after photos of this one!

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As the name suggests, clerestory windows, an iconic feature of West Coast Modernism, line the new front and back elevations.  The clerestory windows create a datum line, below which the house is solid and rectilinear, and above which the roof lifts upwards, floating above glass.  The new roofline zigs and zags like a switch-back trail, embracing the existing split-level layout while continuing upwards to envelope the newly added storey.  This climbing roofline creates striking interior volumes and vaulted ceilings throughout.  The home is flooded from all sides with a natural light from the high windows, while maintaining privacy and space for artwork and furnishings on the opaque walls below.  A few select windows notch down from the clerestory ribbon to floor or eye level, creating expansive view windows and a connection with the outdoors. These vertical windows create architectural interest and speak to the post and beam structure.  West Side Clerestory incorporates patterns and subtle repetitions that create and rhythm and flow throughout the modern home. 

The approach to West Side Clerestory is an experience in layering.  A non-linear path cuts through a large cedar hedge at the front property line towards a dark brick landscape wall and a vertical window beyond.  The same brick cladding is then picked up in the siding to the east.  The path jogs in the landscape, and a final ninety-degree turn aligns the path with the front door and a welcoming canopy which reaches out over the front porch.  The concrete pavers slowly step up, becoming raised concrete plinths in a wild west coast garden designed by Amelia Sullivan of Landscape Landscape.  One of our favourite features of the split-level house typology is the entry close to grade.  It is inviting, accessible, and connected with the landscape.  To continue this interconnectedness between home and site, the wood siding and soffit from the exterior wrap into the interior of the home at the large sidelite and clerestory windows above.

Natural light floods the home due to the shallow floor plate and high ceilings.  You are within sight of a carefully framed view to the outdoors.  At the south facing back of the house, walls erode, and the house opens up to a sunny and private backyard oasis and beyond as the neighbourhood slopes down to the Fraser River.  

The kitchen forgoes upper cabinets on the south and west walls in favour of a large corner window, while the dining room spills out onto a large covered outdoor patio through a 15’ wide, floor to ceiling, fold away door.  

The 370 SF covered outdoor living area provides space for outdoor lounge furniture, a dining table, a BBQ, and of course a suspended swing chair.  This deck is flush with the finished floor of the house, for inside-outside flow, and is also close to grade and integrated with the landscape.  A glass canopy over a warm wood slat structure provides protection from the elements year-round.  

The placement and dimension of the slats on the back canopy were carefully designed to respond to the angle of the sun, and to shade the windows and patio in the hot summer months, while allowing low winter light to penetrate deep into the floor plate.  

As with all ONE SEED projects, sustainability was incorporated from day one.  The house is net-zero ready and incorporates a large photo-voltaic system on the new roof to generate renewable energy on-site.  Healthy and locally sourced materials were incorporated throughout, favouring low VOC, non-toxic, and low GWP options.  The ethereal dining room light is laser cut from sustainable plywood and collapses flat, consuming little material.  Marble countertops and backsplashes are locally sourced from Vancouver Island quarries, and the terrazzo used throughout is 100% natural, made from recycled marble chips from the same quarries on Vancouver Island in combination with local cement, and is also locally fabricated.  This high-performance home includes advanced air tightness details including a double air-barrier, and levels of insulation exceeding code.  The roof design and window placement were strategic to provide shading and to promote passive cooling while capturing framed views to the front and back.  Triple pane windows and doors from Cascadia’s Universal series are not only high-performance, but also manufactured with environmentally responsible fiberglass which expands and contracts at the same rate as the glazing.  We are also proud to say that by maintaining the existing foundations, we were able to maintain every single tree on a heavily treed lot.

The primary bedroom suite is perched on the upper level like an aerie, with vaulted wood ceilings, an exposed post and beam structure, and clerestory windows on both sides to maximize views of sky and treetops.  It is a spacious and private suite that includes a study, a generous bedroom, walk-through closet, and serene ensuite.  The free-standing tub in the ensuite is centered on a window with a low sill to take in the amazing views from this upper level, preferably with a glass of wine at the end of the day.  A cozy seating area near a corner window and a walk-out deck off the main bedroom create quiet moments for our busy clients.

The material palette of West Side Clerestory is inspired by light, and the richness of the finishes when they are placed in combination and bathed in different types and angles of light.  Selections were also influenced by mid-century modern design, with a more minimalist approach to the colour scheme.  Materials are authentic and natural, with repeating tones of airy white and blonde woods juxtaposed against the deep charcoal tones of the dark brick, beams, and windows. The use of brick cladding was a nod to the original house where we replaced colourful stonework with linear brick with an artisanal iron oxide finish.  The brick, like the wood soffits, and dark beams, flows into the interior and re-appears at the new linear fireplace.   

#WestSideClerestory 

Architecture: ONE SEED Architecture + Interiors

Interiors: ONE SEED Architecture + Interiors

Landscape: Landscape Landscape 

Builder:  Naikoon Contracting

Rendering: Estudio UCS

Sustainable • Evocative • Efficient • Distinct

ONE SEED Architecture + Interiors
Vancouver Studio 604.566.9808
Victoria Studio 778.265.2008
info@oneseed.ca
Bold and Award-Winning Designs – Based in Vancouver and Victoria

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