Posted On October 30, 2014 By In Home & Garden, Top Stories With 4131 Views

Seaside Homes: West Coast Comfort and Supreme Wheelchair Accessibility

 

– Story by Hans Tammamagi, Photography by nuttycake.com –

Occasionally, when you walk into a house for the first time, you feel comfortable, very much at home and just want to lay back and relax. That’s the ambiance as you enter the home of Karen McCoy and Neil Munro on Curteis Point in the quiet, secluded northeast corner of the Saanich Peninsula.  The house is elegant and well-appointed, but it’s also welcoming, and casual.

Approaching the house along a pathway flanked by a tall star magnolia tree on one side and bamboo on the other, you pass a studio containing a professional gym and training centre for Karen. Entering the house you are immediately struck by the sweeping open-concept great room, which encompasses the living room, dining room, and kitchen. A large stone fireplace forms the centrepiece in the living room. But most striking is the amount of natural light; windows dominate. Now and again a cute furry animal scampers past, for the McCoys love pets and have three cats (Jelly Bean, Eva, and Sonny) and two dogs (Sammy, a bichon and Finnigan, a retriever). The great room is like a conservatory and even the kitchen walls consist almost completely of windows, even over the stove. The black appliances gleam, contrasting with the light streaming in.

Karen explained the philosophy behind the design. “We were living in Ottawa when our son, Tristan, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscle-wasting disease. He was five at the time and we knew that in a few years his disease would progress so he would be wheelchair bound. We decided to move here because the climate is far better with much less snow. We bought the property in 2001 and built in 2002.”

She smiled and said, “We designed the house ourselves while sitting around the kitchen table. Our goals were to make the home totally handicap accessible, but so it looks normal, and to make it connect with and be part of the nature around us.” The house was constructed by Neil, a builder who operates Munro Developments, in an L-shape essentially all on one level with the great room, three bedrooms, two offices and two bathrooms encompassing 3,200 square feet. The in-floor radiant heating system uses hot water, rather than electricity, to avoid possible health issues associated with electro-magnetic fields.

The airy master bedroom is decorated in earth colours of brown, maroon, and soft black with large windows looking onto the greenery outside. This is Karen’s refuge and favourite room for, as she says, “In our busy lives, we need a place to retreat.” An en suite bathroom is attractively decorated; a roomy walk-in cupboard is copiously lined with shelves; and a door leads onto the back deck.

In addition, a recreation room (Karen refers to it as the media room) is on a walk-out lower level and features a giant TV screen and a six-foot-wide garage door, which is mechanized so Tristan can enter using a remote control.

The house is outstanding for its wheelchair accessibility, with features that could only be thought of by caring, attentive parents with an eye for detail, and which were installed during construction. The 53 windows are lower than standard, allowing Tristan to see out with ease. Light switches are also lower. Extra wide hallways and doorways give an open feel and allow his chair good maneuverability. Other features include a wheel-in shower, a special bed with a lift and a rolling mechanism that can turn Tristan while he’s sleeping. The floors are acid-etched concrete, which work well with wheelchairs and animals constantly passing through. A few carpets are present to soften the feel. “There’s the original draft plan hanging on the wall,” said Karen proudly.

Two decks, one in front and one at the back, allow the family to enjoy nature. The back deck is covered, has comfortable rattan furniture and, best of all, has a large outdoor wood fireplace, which is used almost every night, even in winter. The view onto the backyard is soothing and pleasant.

The home is quintessential west-coast style with a hip roof and large overhangs. Its decks, numerous windows and abundant use of wood, mostly milled from timbers on the property, allow the house to blend naturally into the landscape. Karen’s favourite aspect of her home is the feel of total outdoor living.

A rock outcrop, called the Dragon’s Spine, runs through half of the roomy backyard (the property has an area of 0.78 acres), which is framed at the back by tall Douglas firs and a gangling rust-coloured arbutus tree with peeling bark. The garden is relaxed and low maintenance with several types of grasses.  Woolly thyme flows around the stones and a Japanese maple is surrounded by junipers and blue flowering caryopteris.

A wide concrete path winds through the yard so Tristan can access all areas. With no neighboring houses visible, it feels like being in a glade in the middle of the forest. A cozy sitting area with a comfortable sofa and a tall, rustic wood fireplace is nestled at the back of the yard — a wonderful spot to relax under the stars with a glass of wine and a crackling fire.

Tristan, a handsome, articulate 19-year old who is studying English and Communication at Camosun College, confirmed the success of Karen and Neil’s house design. “This is a great place,” he enthused. “I love the quiet and big trees, and even though I’m in a wheelchair I can go anywhere in the whole house, the whole property.” He explained how he loves animals and particularly his pets. In gratitude, each year he organizes and participates in a local walkathon to aid the B.C. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His parents also love animals and have designed the house with cat/dog doors to allow maximum freedom to their menagerie.

Karen described her fitness studio, which she calls the Warrior Woman Fitness and Retreat Centre. “Neil had it for a garage for about two weeks before I pushed to create a space for me and my business, McCoy Fitness.  I’m a competitive Figure gal and Neil is also an athlete, so we train 5-6 days a week. Furthermore, my son needed me more and more. So working and training at home made a lot of sense.” The gym is well equipped with six major pieces of cable and leg exercise equipment, kettle balls, Swiss balls, an enormous mirror at one end, and more.

Although the home is situated on a quiet, hidden-away cul de sac, it is very convenient. The Swartz bay ferry terminal is only a six-minute walk away. It’s a short drive to Sidney and an attractive ocean point, perfect for walking dogs, is nearby. “Neil and I were married in the Stonehouse Pub,” said Karen, “which is so close we walked to and fro through the woods in our wedding gear, carrying our champagne glasses. We love our location.”

the property, allow the house to blend naturally into the landscape. Karen’s favourite aspect of her home is the feel of total outdoor living.

A rock outcrop, called the Dragon’s Spine, runs through half of the roomy backyard (the property has an area of 0.78 acres), which is framed at the back by tall Douglas firs and a gangling rust-coloured arbutus tree with peeling bark. The garden is relaxed and low maintenance with several types of grasses. Woolly thyme flows around the stones and a Japanese maple is surrounded by junipers and blue flowering caryopteris.

A wide concrete path winds through the yard so Tristan can access all areas. With no neighboring houses visible, it feels like being in a glade in the middle of the forest. A cozy sitting area with a comfortable sofa and a tall, rustic wood fireplace is nestled at the back of the yard – a wonderful spot to relax under the stars with a glass of wine and a crackling fire.

Tristan, a handsome, articulate 19-year old who is studying English and Communication at Camosun College, confirmed the success of Karen and Neil’s house design. “This is a great place,” he enthused. “I love the quiet and big trees, and even though I’m in a wheelchair I can go anywhere in the whole house, the whole property.” He explained how he loves animals and particularly his pets. In gratitude, each year he organizes and participates in a local walkathon to aid the B.C. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His parents also love animals and have designed the house with cat/dog doors to allow maximum freedom to their menagerie.

Karen described her fitness studio, which she calls the Warrior Woman Fitness and Retreat Centre. “Neil had it for a garage for about two weeks before I pushed to create a space for me and my business, McCoy Fitness.  I’m a competitive figure gal and Neil is also an athlete, so we train 5-6 days a week. Furthermore, my son needed me more and more. So working and training at home made a lot of sense.” The gym is well equipped with six major pieces of cable and leg exercise equipment, kettle balls, Swiss balls, an enormous mirror at one end, and more.

Although the home is situated on a quiet, hidden-away cul de sac, it is very convenient. The Swartz bay ferry terminal is only a six-minute walk away. It’s a short drive to Sidney and an attractive ocean point, perfect for walking dogs, is nearby. “Neil and I were married in the Stonehouse Pub,” said Karen, “which is so close we walked to and fro through the woods in our wedding gear, carrying our champagne glasses. We love our location.”

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seaside

Your West Coast Culture. A magazine about the people and places that make the Saanich Peninsula the little piece of paradise we call home.

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