Homes Photo Credit: Martin Tessler

Zen-Glam Mansion

An expanse of vintage farmland gets a thoroughly modern mansion.

Drive half an hour south of Vancouver and you’ll find the mouth of the Fraser River, plus 20,000 folk who make their homes in the weathered village and farmland that is Ladner. And, if you’re (very, very) lucky, you might then roll up to the area’s largest residential surprise—this 8,000-square-foot Zen-Glam mansion. Your welcoming committee is a pair of Great Danes (Omi and Dior) who keep tabs on approaching guests by standing on custom-built grassy knolls and peering over the fence. (That fence is built from 110-year-old boards that once were the exterior of great-great-granddad’s nearby barn.) Once you’ve passed the sniff test, you’ll cross a driveway inlaid with stones that spiral in accordance with the golden ratio toward a trio of water features (two reflective pools stocked with goldfish, plus a waterfall).

POOL: A saltwater pool is positioned between the covered lounge area and a working farm. ZEN GARDEN: (above) Near the private dojo sits a large koi pond, complete with hand-carved granite bridge.
POOL: A saltwater pool is positioned between the covered lounge area and a working farm. ZEN GARDEN: (above) Near the private dojo sits a large koi pond, complete with hand-carved granite bridge.

Before the front entrance has been achieved, the owner’s major influences are already apparent. An appreciation for Asian design is literally in the bones of the place. (He grew up in Vancouver’s Chinatown.) The post-and-beam structure calls up the strong lines of traditional Japanese architecture (and West Coast modernism, come to that). They’re no ordinary beams, though: collected from the Squamish Valley, these cedar beauties are a full square foot in volume and run as long as 42 feet. (A crane worked on the lot for a full two years.)

DINING ROOM: A 200-year-old door from Egypt was fashioned into a dining table (with a wheel-equipped end piece for serving).
DINING ROOM: A 200-year-old door from Egypt was fashioned into a dining table (with a wheel-equipped end piece for serving).

It’s also evident, though, that this is no barren Buddhist monastery. The owner loves his toys. The five-car garage holds only some of his extensive collection of Ducati motorcycles. (The greatest example, No. 1 of only 500 Ducati 999r models, has pride of place in an interior hallway.) Porsches, mopeds, and even a set of vintage racing arcade games fill out the capacious garage. Inside, things only get more punched up. The owner has selected each item in the home’s interior himself, and his enthusiasms shine through. A colour shock greets guests on the main floor: from a pop-art series of Buddhas in high-octane tones, to a bold Joe Average canvas on the wall, to a glittering grape-purple chandelier. Peruvian marble tiles run throughout so the dogs and two young boys can track in mud without much ado. As he puts it, “This is still a farmhouse.”

DOJO: A regulation-size judo mat is bordered by windows that frame garden views.
DOJO: A regulation-size judo mat is bordered by windows that frame garden views.

There are, at least, reminders of simpler times. The top of the dining table is a 200-year-old door imported from Egypt. And, down the hall, a stack of old film reels calls up nostalgia for boyhood afternoons in a rundown Chinatown movie hall.
Parties (there have been a few) wind down underground in the red-saturated chamber that’s simply called “the social room.” Overstuffed couches hunker beneath a Medusa-style chandelier of ruby glass.

MASTER BEDROOM: A painting by an Emily Carr student centres the room while automated silk curtains draw back to reveal views of the Fraser river.
MASTER BEDROOM: A painting by an Emily Carr student centres the room while automated silk curtains draw back to reveal views of the Fraser river.

Psychedelic paintings (and one massive pink skull ring) by students at Emily Carr University ramp up the Dionysian feel. Step through to the adjoining wine cellar and one’s eye trips across more than a thousand bottles. Despite the motorcycles, the skull motifs (the full-size dog skeleton), the constant hints at finessed debauchery, this is also a home that provides ample fuel for healthy living. Five-hundred loads of fill were brought on site to sculpt the two-acre backyard into both a playground and Zen retreat. There’s a soccer pitch on hand, and a winding Japanese-style garden, too.

SOCIAL ROOM: Between a private movie theatre and a thousand-bottle wine cellar, this lounge is equipped with a special ventilation system to allow for cigar smoking.
SOCIAL ROOM: Between a private movie theatre and a thousand-bottle wine cellar, this lounge is equipped with a special ventilation system to allow for cigar smoking.

A jumbo chess set (with four-foot-tall pieces) and also a koi pond with a hand-carved granite bridge. The two impulses merge when a slick, 1,200-square-foot saltwater pool, complete with marble bridge, gets a reclining marble Buddha lounging on the pool deck. And then there’s the dojo, where both boys studied judo for a few years and where dad continues to hone his martial arts practice. If you were to sit and meditate for a while in that dojo, you’d glimpse, through its narrow windows, Mount Baker (“which looks like Mount Fuji,” quips the owner). And, in the foreground: acres of farmland, which the family leases out to the same family of  farmers who have worked it for more than 80 years. “It’s really still a farmhouse,” he says. You can almost believe him.

HALLWAY: Across from his and her powder rooms, a favourite Ducati sits like an industrial sculpture.
HALLWAY: Across from his and her powder rooms, a favourite Ducati sits like an industrial sculpture.

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