Modernist home gets a 21st century update

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by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail Published February 2008

A thorough revamp of a 1956 home holds true to its heritage while re-energizing a beautiful space

‘Every time it snows,” says Bruce Stuart, “I put on Mike Oldfield’s recording of Tubular Bells, then watch the snowflakes drift down into the glass courtyard.” The theme from The Exorcist may be a fitting musical accompaniment to watching flakes dart and dance, but the house pride of Mr. Stuart and wife Marg is the tune that truly resonates here.

We are gazing at the 16-foot-square, glassed-in, snow-collecting courtyard at the centre of their modernist, Palm Springs-style house, designed by Vancouver architect R.R. McKee in 1956 for Stanley Waroway, owner of a beauty supplies company.

Mr. Stuart, a management consultant, and his wife, an interior designer, have restored the Endowment Lands home and added an extension. With its flavour of the 1960s desert retreats of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., the Stuart home stands in stark contrast to a woodsy West Coast-style house next door, designed by Ron Thom.

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The original 1956 rendering made by R.R. McKee.  Architect Nick Milkovich’s U-shaped addition to the home is where the car port used to be. The plan of this squared-out house on a large lot with spectacular view could hardly be simpler: A square doughnut of living spaces and bedrooms around a central courtyard.

While the Stuart home’s window proportions and eave-height run of slatted sun-screens are carefully worked out, the plan … Read More

OVER THE TOP: Omer Arbel Humanizes ‘Master of the Universe’ Penthouse-cum-Showroom

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by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail Published November 2013

It is one of those ‘only in Vancouver’ tales.  The top two floors of the condo tower at 1000 Beach Avenue are roughed-in a decade ago—potentially the grandest penthouse in the entire city.  Construction proceeds only to raw unfinished concrete walls, with a never-used private lap pool, and an empty 35 foot high ceiling living room. This sky abode to-be was bought and sold a number of times, but never finished, never occupied.

While the price of this potential penthouse increased with every transaction, the fact that it could make people money without anyone ever actually living there became symbolic of a downtown Vancouver real estate scene soaring past vitality into absurdity. Why bother with paint, furniture and occupants, some in the business wondered, if there is money to be made on flipping a cipher, speculating on a ghost, trading on mere potential, rather than messy reality?

It is ‘Vancouverism’ in a nutshell that this proto-residence became more profitable than most others complicated by actual inhabitation. Like any icon, the empty space at 1000 Beach became the object of speculation and gossip, and over the past ten years, I have heard lots of it: “Pavel Bure has made an offer;” “They are going to subdivide the nearly 8,000 square feet of it—it’s too big for Vancouver;” “It’s going to be used as a diplomatic mission, or a VANOC guest house;” “Axl Rose is going to buy;” and most … Read More