Photography by Janis Nicolay
Thanks to designer Jillian Harris's decorating skills, two Vancouver-area homeowners fell hard for their house's Love It or List It nautical-chic upgrade.
When Aleksandra and Vincent taylor moved into their split-level Vancouver home just before getting married in 2008, they were in love with the space but had little time and limited know-how to upgrade the way they truly wanted. Fast-forward 10 years, three pets and two kids later, and the 1960s home felt less retro and charming and more dated and awkward. The couple knew they needed a stylish yet kid-friendly makeover in order to justify staying in a family home they were emotionally attached to, so they called in the team from Love It or List It Vancouver, including Jillian Harris (above) and Todd Talbot. Harris's fresh esthetic was a perfect fit for the couple's style, and the resulting renovation created a serene design with a subtle touch of seaside flair that checked all the boxes and met the expectations of Vincent and Aleksandra. We see smooth sailing ahead.
The reno included overhauling the main floor and creating an open-plan layout where there was once a series of poky closed-off rooms. Harris kept the look bright and clean, with the details classic and the design firmly rooted in serenity. (Think Shaker-style doors, beachy woods, open shelving and a variety of surfaces to offset any stark lines.) "The colours are neutral, but almost everything has texture and variation," says Harris. "We wanted the whole space to feel light and airy, while still being casual and relaxed."
"Nautical style has a sense of comfort and familiarity for me," says Aleksandra, who fondly remembers her Polish sailor grandfather. Harris made sure to subtly incorporate seaside elements, such as ropes, anchors and black-and-white photos of wild seas, into the decor.
Using metallics in cool shades such as silver and chrome helps make the home feel soft and modern.
"To create the comfortable coastal feel, we incorporated some outdoor elements," says Harris. Shiplap walls with exterior sconces, hand-painted canoe paddles and natural accessories all contributed to the tranquil, chic atmosphere. In addition, storage space was a must for this family, so Harris included built-ins wherever possible. "We removed the original fireplace and added cupboards and shelves on either side of the new one, and made the sunroom accessible from the dining room so that we could then completely rearrange the kitchen and add much-needed storage," she says. Now, the large banks of cabinetry in the kitchen and floor-to-ceiling shelving in the living room make the most of the space. But the pièce de résistance is the custom wall-to-wall hutch Harris installed in the dining room and painted a shade of grey blue to match the colour of a stormy sea.
Taking the recycled-glass backsplash all the way to the ceiling adds interest and a little sparkle to the clean-lined kitchen with its simple silhouettes and stainless-steel appliances.
An industrial-look rise-and-fall pendant light is a perfect companion to the plain profile of Shaker-style cabinetry.
With the kitchen separate from the dining and living rooms, keeping an eye on kids while cooking was problematic—and it was impossible to mingle with guests while prepping dinner. The space is now open from kitchen to living room, which was a practical move as well as a great way to bring more light into the heart of the home. "It was really important that the family felt connected," says Harris. "With the sight lines improved, you can also take better advantage of the amazing view from the windows."
Prior to the renovation, the enclosed sunroom was a mess: There was no temperature control and a wasp's nest had claimed the space as its own. But with Harris's guidance, the room was overhauled and now has French doors that connect it to the dining room, heated floor tiles for chilly days and a panoramic view of Vancouver's lush greenery. "I love how the sunroom enables us to get closer to nature without being closer to the elements," says Vincent.
The stormy blue floor-to-ceiling hutch in the dining room was painted a custom colour to add a shade of the sea to the white and grey space.
The light-filled home benefits from the addition of wood accents, from the live-edge dining table and benches to the pale floors, and the touches of wicker and rope. "Adding natural wood always warms things up," says Harris.
The solarium is calm and neutral, but the shiplap wall, chunky knit pillows and tile floor offer texture and visual interest. "It's become a sanctuary for me," says Aleksandra.