A Renovation That Proves Kids and Sophisticated Style Can Co-Exist
Kelly Deck turns a former dream home into a place better suited to its family’s changing needs.
Even a dream home can have something of a rude awakening. Just over eight years ago, the Nelson family—Jennifer, John and young Matthew—moved into a 4,300-square-foot Arts and Crafts-style home designed by architect Peter Rose and nestled on a quiet street in Vancouver’s Dunbar neighbourhood. But a lot can change in eight years.
“We moved in with one child, and now have three,” says Jennifer Nelson. (Matthew, now 11, is the older brother to eight-year-old Sam and four-year-old Lily.) “We learned that how you think you’re going to live in your home can be very different from the way you actually live in it.”
As she lays out a snack for her youngest on the oversized island that dominates the main living space, Nelson points out a perfect example. “We only had room for three seats at the old kitchen island, but there are five of us.” While she speaks, Lily gamely clambers up one of five new dove grey leather bar stools, iPad in hand, to munch on a carrot stick.
Besides growing pains, the home’s dark-stained floors and even darker fixtures seemed to further emphasize the space’s lack of natural light. “Something had to change,” says Nelson. “Would we sell and move, demolish and rebuild or renovate? We needed an honest opinion, and we appreciated Kelly Deck’s strong opinion about what to do next.”
“This is a great house,” Deck said at the time. “Why would you want to move?” Deck was convinced she could turn the house around for the family. “It already had great bones and was in the neighbourhood they loved,” she remembers. “We just had to make it more modern and polished.”
It also helped that Nelson was quite familiar with Deck’s work, having seen it in the homes of family friends. “I knew I loved her West Coast aesthetic,” Nelson says, “and I felt we could work together.”
Eventually, Deck selected a cool palette of whites, greys and deep blues to brighten up the home. The simple French doors in the family room were blown out in favour of a glass accordion wall, maximizing the southern exposure. Most importantly, the mahogany-stained oak floors throughout the home were lightened several shades to a medium grey-brown. Not only did it bring light into the space, it was a nod to practicality. “You don’t want dark floors with a shoes-on family,” Deck explains. “You want something more forgiving.”
And while practicality was certainly a factor in the redesign, the homeowners also dreamed of a certain level of glamour. “Every room had to have a wow factor,” Nelson says. For her, high design would not be sacrificed to her children’s high spirits. Where Deck would usually recommend long-wearing and child-friendly heathered surfaces, Nelson wanted sparkle and shine. Lighting was also of paramount importance. “Lighting is the jewellery of the house,” Nelson says. “It needs to be dynamic.”
In the large—and now light-filled—main living space, Deck augmented the white-on-white theme by playing with scale and metallics. The focal point is a twin set of oversized, gold-lined conical pendants placed over the kitchen island, while a brass Jonathan Adler light fixture in the informal dining area, a stunning chevron tile backsplash in the kitchen and the chrome legs of white Eames chairs offer myriad reflective surfaces.
In the home office, a brass Robert Abbey “Sputnik” fixture explodes from a ceiling inset with 1970s-inspired geometric wallpaper. Custom millwork was installed to provide storage and two computer stations: one for Mom and one for the children. “We realized we had to think down the road,” Nelson says. “We don’t necessarily want to be doing this again in eight years!”
The most challenging room for Deck and her team was the formal living room and adjoining dining room. It was rarely used in its original state, so the designer was charged with creating a space that was both welcoming and dazzling, comfortable and captivating.
A sleek, polished grey-and-white marble fireplace surround was constructed to replace the original Craftsman-style mantel and anchor the design. The shimmer of a velvet sofa and chenille dining chairs, silk Dupioni drapes and the continuing theme of mixed metallics complement the hearth’s newfound Old Hollywood elegance. The homeowners are now equally at home in the space poring over magazines and newspapers on a weekend morning as they are hosting guests that evening.
“We wanted to strike a balance, and Kelly has done that for us,” says Nelson. “We didn’t want to wait until the kids were grown to have a beautiful home. On the other hand, we never wanted it to feel like a show home, because with three kids—and maybe a dog coming soon—we certainly can’t pretend that we don’t live in it.”