Returning Home: Kitsilano Heritage Project

A heritage home in Vancouver's sought-after Kitsilano neighbourhood underwent a modern makeover to convert it back to a single-family dwelling.

Madeleine Design Group – Kitsilano Heritage (Interior Photo Credit: Ema Peter Photography)

The clients for this project were individuals from Vancouver who had spent several years living in the UK and were now returning “home.” They had acquired a 4-level heritage home, also known as a character house, located in Vancouver’s highly sought-after Kitsilano neighborhood.

This house, originally constructed around 1910, had previously been divided into multiple separate apartments. However, the clients had a strong desire to convert it back into a single-family dwelling, and they enlisted the services of Madeleine Design Group (MDG) to accomplish this transformation.

The project presented its fair share of challenges, most notably in terms of time constraints. Planning for the project began in January 2019, but the clients were only able to move in during the fall of 2022. The pandemic exacerbated these challenges by causing supply chain disruptions and labour shortages. However, a significant portion of the project timeline was consumed by the waiting period for permit approval.

Madeleine Design Group – Kitsilano Heritage (Interior Photo Credit: Ema Peter Photography)

Obtaining permits for a project of this magnitude in Vancouver is time-consuming, and transitioning the property from a multi-conversion dwelling back to a single-family residence further prolonged the approval process. Eventually, the necessary permits were granted, marking the beginning of the structural challenges phase, which required significant steelwork and additional footings in the basement to accommodate the new open floorplan.

Regarding the project’s overview, the basement suite retained its status as a separate dwelling, currently serving as accommodation for family and long-term visitors. The rest of the 3,600 square foot house was reconfigured into a single-family home. The primary residence, spanning three levels, underwent a modern reconfiguration. The first floor, considered the “public” area, now includes a kitchen, formal dining room, powder room, and lounge. The second floor, designated as the “private” space, houses a bedroom with a full bathroom, a home office, a laundry room, and a small family room. The top floor is exclusively dedicated to the primary suite, featuring a bedroom, walk-in closet, luxurious bathroom, and three small balconies. With the exception of an antique dining set that the clients had acquired and cherished during their time abroad, along with a couple of antique accent pieces, all the furniture was provided by MDG as part of their comprehensive turn-key service.

Madeleine Design Group – Kitsilano Heritage (Interior Photo Credit: Ema Peter Photography)

The guiding design theory behind the project was a fusion of the old heritage charm, antique furnishings, modern layout, and art deco décor. The collaboration with the general contractor, Quinton Construction, led by John Quinton, who had spent a decade serving on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation board, proved instrumental. His extensive knowledge of period-specific materials and designs ensured that the home could closely adhere to its original construction while infusing 21st-century style.

Several notable details and highlights emerged from the restoration and the integration of modern décor elements. Firstly, during the demolition process, the original solid oak floors were discovered and underwent meticulous restoration. This revealed the intricate layout patterns of the original house, which were further accentuated by restoring and reconfiguring the original borders within the modern floorplan.

Despite adopting a modern open floorplan, the designers managed to preserve distinct room identities, adding depth and character to the overall design. One striking transformation was the lounge area, which now occupies the space previously housing the original kitchen. This change introduced subtle flooring variations that were thoughtfully integrated into the room’s design.

Madeleine Design Group – Kitsilano Heritage (Interior Photo Credit: Ema Peter Photography)

The kitchen itself underwent significant expansion beyond its original dimensions, boasting elegant marble countertops and modern chef’s appliances, including MDG’s signature galley sink. The integration of personal artwork and family photos into the home’s interior design added a unique and personal touch.

The powder room featured an antique table supporting a vessel sink, complemented by vintage photograph prints, infusing a touch of nostalgia within the contemporary décor. Similarly, an antique dining table, which had accompanied the clients from house to house, found its new home within this restored heritage/modern design, enhancing its sense of belonging.

The dining room became a standout feature, with accordion-style folding doors leading to the porch. This clever design choice blended traditional and modern elements seamlessly, creating a harmonious indoor-outdoor transition.

Madeleine Design Group – Kitsilano Heritage (Interior Photo Credit: Ema Peter Photography)

Throughout the home, crown molding, wall paneling, and baseboards received modernized interpretations of period-specific detailing, with certain areas introducing contemporary flat molding to distinguish between traditional and modern spaces. Modern lighting choices and carefully selected wallpaper were meticulously chosen to infuse an art deco sensibility, enhancing the historic ambiance.

Ample natural light flooded the interior spaces through large windows, which were complemented by Roman shades that added a layering effect and texture to the overall design.

The combined use of the original floors, various brass accents, and carefully chosen color palettes gave the home a unique rustic-meets-art-deco-meets-historic-home ambiance, seamlessly blending the old and the new.

Additionally, the exterior of the house underwent a comprehensive refurbishment to align with period-specific aesthetics. This included the use of historically accurate stone, real wood shingles, and precise architectural details, ensuring that the home’s exterior was a true reflection of its heritage.