Story by Janice Henshaw, photos by Nunn Other Photography –
If you were planning to build a new home, imagine how excited you would be to see a super-promising lot come up for sale in beautiful West Saanich. But when you arrive at the lot you find a bog on the lower level and a steep climb to the upper level that turns out to be pretty much all rock-solid bedrock, no less. Most likely you would give it a pass. Wouldn’t anyone?
Not so for Aaron Wing, who works as a contractor and also owns the full-service landscaping company, Chi Earth & Waterscape Ltd. “He had the vision for the property,” says his partner Jasmine. “When we first saw the lot, we had to fight our way up through the bush to the top. Aaron said: “We should buy this,” and I replied: “This rock? You’ve got to be kidding!”
Since 2008 Aaron has created and built more than 600 water features that range from backyard ponds to award-winning lakes for commercial developments. So, when it came to building a home and visualizing the landscape and water feature he wanted, the complexity of the building site did not faze him in the least; to create a level building site, the top three metres of rock had to be blasted and removed. Aaron built a retaining wall, 20 feet high and 400 feet long, to extend the site to the setbacks from the creek below.
Mike Dunsmuir, co-owner of Step One Design, designed the West Coast contemporary home to fit the small footprint that was available. Jasmine and Aaron gave Mike a short request list – a one-storey home, three bedrooms, two offices, a gym, 2.5 bathrooms, a laundry room and lots of light – and then gave him pretty much free rein for the design. “It was a fun job,” says Mike. “My favourite project of the year.”
The house is about 2,500 square feet, but it seems larger than that. “I think the floor plan has a really great flow to it and works really well with the architecture of the house,” says Mike. “The living room roof goes over the top of the gym, which created an 18-foot ceiling, and the great room roof starts at the den and keeps going over the entrance so the roofs are connected on the same slope. This created some neat vaults in the ceilings.”
The entry is high and grand with the roofs highlighted by snow-white fascia and dark metal roof trim. Clear cedar (with no knots) soffits contrast with the grey and white stucco walls. Adding to the impact of the entry are the two solid fir posts that support the overhanging entry roof and the custom built 54-inch pivot fir door. All the fir was milled from the property.
For the kitchen, Jasmine wanted an airy, spacious look so she chose flat white doors, some with glass panes. The backsplash is white tile in a herringbone pattern. “I also wanted to bring in a West Coast feel for warmth, so we had silver elm added to box in the hood fan.” Shelving and the cabinets at the front of the expansive island are also silver elm. At the end of the custom-made fir dining room table there will be a living moss wall.
The living room has an impressively long electric fireplace that is faced with K2 manufactured Black Pearl Ledgestone and topped by a white mantle. Aaron built the hearth; it’s a massive piece of solid fir, 22 feet by 18 inches. Mellow Oak engineered hardwood adds a warm flowing base throughout the house. Lights in the main room and entry include geometric shapes of cones, circles and lines. Blinds, lights, sound and security are all part of a “smart” automation system installed by Wired Up.
In the gorgeous main bathroom, the sleek white bathtub has a peaceful view of the forest. The luxurious shower has a linear drain along the tiled wall so there is no need for a door or curbs. Two undermount sinks in the custom-built cabinetry, expansive mirrors, heated tile floors and view windows that bring the outside in make this room a 10 out of 10!
For the powder room, Aaron crafted a unique golden brown and red-streaked bowl sink and frame for the mirror out of a maple burl. Next door is the garage which will turn into a games room after construction is finished. It will have a ping pong table, fridge, sink, sound system, large screen TV, and a 500-gallon aquarium. No parking for cars!
The home is truly amazing, and the landscape created out of the rock is more than equal to it. Aaron calls his concept West Coast, tropical, with Asian influences. Since he was 16, he has collected specimen trees by planting them on his parents’ property and he transplanted many of them using a crane to “fly” them over the roof to their backyard. Species include Japanese maples, Japanese snowbells, white pine, Scotch pine, palm trees, bamboo and arbutus trees.
The sight and sound of the two-tiered waterfall and koi fish in the curved pond is beautiful and serene. A skimmer and pumps send the water through filters, a UV light and sponges. A submersible LED light strip goes all the way along the cinderblock wall and there are lights in the waterfall and surrounding landscape. “At night, says Aaron, we turn all the lights off in the house, and it just sort of glows out there.”
The back patio jogs around the fish pond and at the end forms a separate outdoor theatre room lined in clear cedar on the side wall and ceiling. A sub-woofer and speakers are concealed along with two winches in the ceiling that raise and lower a full-sized bed. Mike laughs as we view it: “That was their idea!” Other projects outside include an outdoor kitchen and firepit, a regulation-size horseshoe pit, and a three-hole putting green that you chip to over the koi pond.
When asked if they have any suggestions for would-be builders, Aaron says that knowing your trades is essential, and if you don’t know them or their work personally, he recommends being sure to check their references. And, secondly: “Don’t rush into building; take the time to plan and think about what you want. It’s much easier and less expensive to make changes on paper.”
Aaron’s dream is to express his creativity through building living spaces that “let the chi flow freely so that the people experiencing it feel excited, adventurous, comfortable, and safe – and never want to leave. I feel an artistic person needs to find a vocation that allows them to express their creative side. Luckily I have found mine.”
Jasmine says she loves their new home. “It’s perfect! There’s not one thing we would change.” Aaron, who acted as the contractor and builder for their home, laughs: “I feel like there’s more work to do. But we had fun working together and learned a lot.” A remarkable achievement by a standout couple!