My British Columbia Adventure - 2002!
It’s hard to say exactly when this adventure began. I usually say it began in earnest in late November 2000 when I took the first of three trips to Vancouver Island in order to look at homes for sale with an eye to making a purchase. However, it almost began in the mid 80s when I really wanted to move from Toronto to “somewhere in British Columbia, but not Vancouver.” The problem then was that house prices in Toronto were at a record low, while in British Columbia they were at record highs. So, I decided instead to change houses and stay in Toronto. It was 1986 that I purchased the East York Nesbitt Drive house, and there is an entire separate section on the garden at that house on this site. There are also additional photos of the Nesbitt Drive house interior in the “Home Renovations –Yours and Mine” section of this site. Pictured below is the front of the Nesbitt Drive house when I bought it, and 12 years later in 1998. Also below those are interior shots of the new kitchen and the living room, following the 1987 renovation and addition.
house price situation virtually reversed in 1998 and 1999, I decided if I
was going to make a change, then I should get on with it. My first
decision was possible locations. I didn’t want to move from one big city
with major traffic problems (Toronto) to another (Vancouver) and besides,
the amount of rainfall in Vancouver was not particularly inviting. I knew
certain areas of Vancouver Island (the east coast, for example) got much
less rain and so I decided to obtain from Environment Canada, the
statistics on rainfall and sunshine for various areas. In 1999 I checked
the east coast of Vancouver Island from Victoria north past Nanaimo to
about Deep Bay (two hours + north of Victoria), along with the gulf
islands of Salt Spring, Galiano, Saturna, Gabriola and the Penders.
I made a second trip to Vancouver Island for four days in the third week of April 2001. It being spring, the trip was necessarily short, and I returned from that trip with an interest in two houses near Cobble Hill, which is just south of Duncan, or about 45 minutes north of Victoria. To shorten the story, the Champagne house (on left below) sold before we could act on it, and I hadn’t seen the interior of the Cherry Point house, though I loved the 3½-acre property that surrounded it, and the wonderful garden that had been created by the owner. The view from the deck over to Salt Spring Island is on the right below.
My interest in
the Cherry Point house led to a third trip July 29, returning August 3.
that decision not to buy on the second day of the third trip, I realized
there simply weren’t any other houses for sale that at all matched our
criteria. So, what to do? I decided to look at building lots. My real
estate agent, Ron Limer, checked availabilities of lots anywhere on the
east coast of Vancouver Island from Victoria up to Qualicum Beach, just
north of Parksville. There were 24 that matched my basic criteria. I
examined those on paper one evening, and selected 13 of them that I
thought were worthy of viewing. The next day and a half, just before
departing for Toronto I did that, and was able to get the list down to
just two lots, both of which were in the Fairwinds sub-division at Nanoose,
just south of Parksville.
2001 I did put a deposit down on the Fairwinds lot, and it closed in
January 2002. It was a very interesting building site and not only offered
a challenge in designing a house that would suit the lot, but also in what
type of garden I could create on the solid rock. I did begin to plan such
forecast to be very cold that night, so I chose a downtown hotel that had
a covered parking area, and we warmed up the truck interior just before we
went to bed. The next morning the plants looked as if they had survived.
We arrived on
Vancouver Island on Tuesday afternoon, and went to the apartment and
unloaded the plants. You could hear them breath a sigh of relief! We lost
one, and parts of a couple of others. One of my old lantana standards
suffered the loss of its top but we are retraining a side shoot up and
should have it back at the same height in a year or two. The other lantana
came through fine. They are several decades old.
"One previous owner was the late Jeff Howard, a Métis who gave art lessons in the little studio beside the garage. Two views of the studio are below: on the left as it was when we bought, and on the right, two months later when Wilf had just installed the frames for the new window on the west side."
studio that I have converted into my office.
While the Great Room that looks out on the ocean needed little change, the other half of the house needed major alterations and re-building. We wanted the kitchen moved from the west side of the house to the east side, the master suite just the opposite, and in both cases, we wanted to have doorways or openings onto the Great Room so we would be able to see out to the ocean from those rooms. The one thing we planned not to change is the relatively new natural stone fireplace taking up one entire end wall in the Great Room. The view towards Vancouver and the mainland north of the city, along with the interior of the room itself are shown below.
desired to have two spare bedrooms instead of one. This all meant creating
two new bathrooms, a new kitchen and three bedrooms. When removing walls,
of course, it’s necessary to be sure there is support both below in the
crawl space, and above in the attic. We obviously needed a contractor to
do most of the work!
I then began by taking up the floor, installing some extra insulation, flipping the plywood, gluing and renailing it, and then installing new ¾ inch ply over the old existing 3/8 material. It was at that point in mid August that Wilf started by taking out some of the west and north walls, where there were some wood problems, and also in preparation for new thermopane windows I had ordered.
In the studio,
the major project for Wilf was actually the raising of the old flat
ceiling to a cathedral-type giving the space a much better appeal. I
planned to do the ceiling in v-groove lodgepoole pine boards.
Painting (a bright yellow with contrasting tan) was next and then time to install the ceiling. You see it here with just the last few boards at the centre to go on, and the fan to be installed.
drywalling in the studio was complete, Wilf turned to work on the house
itself. The first task was removal of most of the old walls in the oldest
part (1/2) of the house. The photo above right shows the old kitchen with
one small wall gone, the refrigerator moved to one side, and lots more to
Two of the first chores we had to do were to dig a one-metre-plus-deep trench from the Studio to the house in order that the electrician could install a new supply line. Yves dug the channel! Fortunately for him, not only is the surface soil here sand, but all the way down, pure sand. We also had to remove all of the insulation from the attic to allow the installation of new wiring. Here you see the results of those two efforts.
Finally the kitchen was totally removed revealing several paint colours from previous incarnations! That secondary door from the kitchen will disappear to become a tall window in our smaller of two guest bedrooms. At the right is a shot of de-construction of the old small bedroom (fore-ground) leading through a doorway into the old laundry room/bathroom combination, which also had a door to the outside (visible with two coat hangers on it). That door too will disappear and become a glass block window in the new master bath that will also get a skylight.
And here on the left is some more progress, the wall between the old bedroom and the old small bathroom is now almost gone and I’ve got the old fixtures out. On the right, Wilf has cut through the new opening from what will be the new master bedroom into the Great Room. We’ll eventually have some specially-made wood French doors there.
On the other side of the house, I started removing the fixtures from the old master bath--that space is to become the new kitchen, also opening onto the Great Room. As I got the fixtures out, Wilf got the hole cut in the wall with the rough openings for the kitchen.
Finally it was
drywalling time! It arrived in various sizes, many 4 x 12 ft. (as piled in
the centre of the larger hall area below on left. There you also see the
thermostat set into the furthest wall in view. The shallow alcove area on
the left (where the smaller pieces of lumber are stored temporarily) is
where the upper major glass door section of the “High Society” cabinet
will go. Just past that is the ‘pocket door’ to the new guest
bathroom. Also in that photo you’ll note the roughed-in curves on the
arch leading from the Great Room to the large central hall. They were a
suggestion from Wilf, and a very good one. So good, we got him to do the
same on the two openings to the kitchen!
The drywall installation was quite complicated in the master bathroom as is shown in the shots below. That’s Wilf just completing the special half-wall that separates the somewhat unusual Australian toilet we’re installing (it has two buttons, one for each of two different modes of flushing!).
The worst part of the renovation we knew would be the mudding and sanding. Here below, left, is the back wall of the Great Room partly mudded, and on the right, with the mudding and sanding complete (thank goodness!).
Once the drywall was on and sanded, and painting underway, we thought it was time to get our new front door installed. A way back when we started all this we learned of local artist/sculptor François Mongeau who lives nearby in Errington. He does a great deal of carving in wood, and ships much of it to Japan. After a talk with us he came up with a design for a new front door that included a dock carved in cedar, and Canada geese flying overhead sand-blasted in the glass. In the photo at left below François, Wilf Hillman and François’s son Galen are seen installing the door. That’s Galen (an artist in his own right) on the left, François in the middle and Wilf with his back to the camera. Note the receptacles for the mini ceiling pot lights had been put in that day by electrician Rick and his apprentice Chris. At about the same time, my partner Yves was busy vacuuming the remaining dust in what is to become the kitchen.
While mentioning my friendly, experienced electrician Rick, I must mention a form of renovating and installation of components used by both Wilf and Rick--the common chainsaw! Below you’ll see Rick in action earlier in the process. He is preparing to install the hall switches in the plywood that backs the drywall. Note the bracing for the old walls, and as well, that we are retaining the large (1.8m/6ft.) square skylight in the larger hall area (that also appears in one of the earlier photos). The ladder just inside what will be the master bedroom is a folding one that gives access to our attic. And, the unusual design high up on the right of this photo is a pattern of the top of the “High Society” cabinet where it was against the old wall; behind the scrolled cabinet top the wall did not get painted! In the right photo below is the crew taking a coffee break outside the front door. From left are Wilf, François, Rick and Chris.
One night after the door was installed (minus the very special handles which I’ll have to show you later) I managed to get a photo from outside just as the sun was going down. The cedar wood beside it is yet to be painted a light colour and at the lower level (about 1/3 the way up from the ground) we’ll have a natural stone installed later in the winter. Another of three projects François took on was the kitchen window. At the right below, you see it soon after it was installed. That’s the moon on the left pane, and a crane (common on the sea shore) on the right pane.
In late fall,
Yves and I had decided that since most everything tended to slow down over
Christmas and New Years, and Wilf was going to visit his Mother in
Penticton on the mainland, we would go away, likely drive to California
for a week or two. We departed on December 21, after doing my Toronto
broadcast (and having recorded two shows earlier that week). Just before
leaving I took the following four photos of: François standing in front of
our (his) front door, the surf roaring in late one December afternoon, and
two shots of a rainbow as it appeared from our doors to the water.