An Australian Family's New Digs in Canada Embraces Sunshine and Socializing

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Wanting to stay connected to the outdoors and keep up an active social life, an Australian family looks to Vancouver practice McLeod Bovell for help.

Named G’Day House as a nod to the Australian family that lives there, this 4,400-square-foot residence extends across three levels on a steep site in West Vancouver, overlooking Burrard Inlet and downtown to the south. Thanks to the city's relatively temperate climate, the family’s new home still supports and indoor/outdoor lifestyle they enjoyed Down Under.

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The architects chose a swivel fireplace, so the family can flexibly use it indoors or outdoors.

The architects chose a swivel fireplace, so the family can flexibly use it indoors or outdoors.

Designed by Vancouver–based designers McLeod Bovell, the exquisite home appears to be single-story when see from the street because of the steep site, but on the opposite side, all three levels reveal themselves.

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"As the absolute daytime temperatures aren't as warm as they might be in Australia, we needed to do a few things to extend the use of the outdoor spaces into the evening hours and shoulder seasons," says the firm cofounder Matt McLeod. "For these reasons, spaces are orientated to the south, protected with walls which serve as wind-breaks, and are supplemented with outdoor heating in the form of a fireplace or fire pit."

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Accustomed to having friends and neighbors drop by unannounced, the Australian family requested a laid-back, social home. "We moved the house over in the building envelope so that we had enough room to create a usable space," recounts cofounder Lisa Bovell. "Acquaintances drop in and use this sequence of generous outdoor spaces, walking through the garden, over the pond, and onto the wood terraces to casually drop in and socialize with the family." 

The main floor features a 650-square-foot side courtyard that includes a cooking area, pizza oven, fireplace, garden, pond, and gathering space connecting the front yard to the back terrace. When the sliding rear panels are opened, the living area  opens up towards English Bay, and expands to accommodate an extra 500-square-feet of outdoor space.

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A shed roof spans the main floor areas, allowing higher interior ceilings and accommodating a large skylight that brings light to the lower floors through the main staircase. Bands of glazing were installed just below the roof, bringing in ambient lighting throughout the day, and adding to the feeling of being outdoors. 

The social zones, which include the living and dining area, are located on the upper floor of the house. 

"We designed a column-free interior space for the entire upper floor, indoor and outdoors, to connect the spaces," says McLeod. "This structural approach, which includes outdoor space in the span of a roof system, is unusual. The seven sliding glazed panels at the rear and corner of the house allow it to open up onto large exterior spaces."

"We designed a column-free interior space for the entire upper floor, indoor and outdoors, to connect the spaces," says McLeod. "This structural approach, which includes outdoor space in the span of a roof system, is unusual. The seven sliding glazed panels at the rear and corner of the house allow it to open up onto large exterior spaces."

The master bedroom suite is located on one end of the main floor, with a large galley closet to the ensuite, and a custom, narrow hot tub with private deck access. The bedrooms for the two teenage children are located adjacent to the master suite. 

The family wanted a house that felt like a traditional bungalow. The architects achieved this by creating a low opening at the rear terrace, with low pivot and sliding doors that can be opened throughout the house to frame views of the ocean.

The family wanted a house that felt like a traditional bungalow. The architects achieved this by creating a low opening at the rear terrace, with low pivot and sliding doors that can be opened throughout the house to frame views of the ocean.

As one reaches the main floor, the stairs turn to reveal a home library. The basement, which is connected to a lawn and garden, contains the recreation room, a craft room, and a guest bedroom.

Accoya–a durable, acetylated, sustainably grown softwood–was used as tongue-and-groove cladding on the walls and soffits, for fencing and screens, and on the interior as ceilings and stair guardrails. 

Accoya–a durable, acetylated, sustainably grown softwood–was used as tongue-and-groove cladding on the walls and soffits, for fencing and screens, and on the interior as ceilings and stair guardrails. 

Because the outdoor spaces needed to be just as functional as the indoor spaces, Bovell and Mcleod chose furniture and a fireplace that can be used both indoors and out.

From the upper floor, the family can enjoy unobstructed panoramic views.

From the upper floor, the family can enjoy unobstructed panoramic views.

"We chose loose Paola Lenti furniture pieces, and soft poufs that can be pulled inside and arranged around the fireplace in the house during the winter months," says Bovell. "We chose a dining table and benches that can be rotated or rearranged to support a variety of arrangements, depending on weather conditions and number of guests. The dining room was designed to allow the table to fit in its extended position when turned."

The house is supported by concrete walls at the edges of the house, and with steel beams running east to west. This creates a clear span in the house and across the deck.

The house is supported by concrete walls at the edges of the house, and with steel beams running east to west. This creates a clear span in the house and across the deck.

In keeping with the relaxed atmosphere of Australian living, the architects kept the interior palette subdued, minimal, and natural, so the family’s personal collection of paintings, throw pillows, and handcrafted pottery can shine. 

Project Credits: 

Architecture and interior design: Mcleod Bovell Modern Houses 

Builder: J. Bannister Homes 

Structural engineering: KSM Associates 

Civil engineering: Creus Engineering 

Landscape design: Botanica Design 

Cabinetry: Munro Woodworking 

Glasswork: Atlas Meridian Glassworks