Renovating an Arthur Erickson Home

An eighties-era Arthur Erickson home gets a ?modern update that’s rooted in the celebrated architect’s design philosophy?

Credit: Marcos Armstrong / Styling by Heather Cameron

An ’80s era Erickson home gets a modern update

What happens when a design “power couple” decides to renovate their own Arthur Erickson-designed home? Husband and wife, Alan Endall and Céline Pitre – he’s an architect and she’s an interior designer – married their own design styles with Erickson’s archetypal themes, to stunning result

When the pair bought the home in West Vancouver’s secluded Montiverdi Estates, it needed a lot of work, says Pitre. “We were the third owners and nobody had done anything in here. There was white shag carpet, heavy drapery, stippled ceilings and track lighting.”

Endall had worked on a few projects with Erickson back in the ’90s, and he and Pitre were drawn to the famed Vancouver architect’s ever-present horizontal design themes throughout the home and the emphasis he placed on connecting the home’s interior to the outdoors. 

“Our esthetic is in sync with Arthur’s modernist strokes,” says Pitre. “The changes we made are a reflection of our preference for simple, warm and quiet elegance.”

Pitre leans toward “simplicity and clarity of purpose,” when it comes to her personal design sensibility, while Endall describes himself as a “modernist aspiring for a minimalist simplicity” with a “sense of openness.”

A Renovation in Phases

The duo’s signature styles are seen throughout the renovation, which was done in three distinct phases:

  1. Opening up the home by eliminating two bedrooms and creating an office and studio.
  2. Overhauling the kitchen.
  3. Building and expanding the home’s many decks so that they could be used for everyday enjoyment. [It] “improved our connection to the outdoors,” says Pitre.

Endall notes that substantial changes were made to the main floor. “We added cherry panelling to the entry closet, an invisible powder room door, and a living room feature wall that includes a hidden bar, wood storage and a fireplace,” he says. 

Yet these extensive updates don’t exactly represent the conclusion of a decade-long reno. “We’ve already started reworking the wild landscape now visible from our master bath window,” says Pitre. 

Goals of the Reno

“We wanted to maintain the clean lines and simple surfaces,” she continues. “Arthur liked white, but we designed the house around our evening lifestyle. We entertain a lot, and have a lot of people over. We designed [the house] with darkish and medium-toned materials to create warmth and contrast to the green outside.”

The design consensus was to go with very simple materials, like oak floors stained in a cherry hue and panelling in a tone a bit darker than the floor. Although the home features plenty of white walls, some are painted bold black, which “reads more like a matte, charcoal grey,” says Pitre.


Kitchen Transformation

For a couple that loves to cook and entertain, the kitchen reno was critical. It was essential that the space be functional, incorporating elements like wide counters and three work areas. 

“Instead of a clean kitchen where everything is hidden away, we want all our things at hand: all our spices ready without having to open drawers and cupboards, and with our tools on hooks,” says Pitre. “That is a challenge as a designer – we like things clean and simple – but this is a must.” 

The well-designed space features horizontal-grain cherry veneer cabinets (a nod to Erickson, but a real challenge to the millworker), which are paired with thick, honed granite countertops that have “a powdery finish – no sparkle,” says Pitre. 

This working kitchen is full of essentials for any home chef: a custom stainless steel double sink, Sub-Zero fridge, Thermador convection oven and steam drawer. 

In the open cupboards, more artful pieces are on display, including a sparkling retro chrome 
GE kettle and a Sunbeam toaster that Céline’s 
parents gave her. “They’re design items shown at the MoMA,” she laughs.

Strong lines, warm tones and functional design features fill this kitchen from corner to corner

Joint Dining and Living Rooms

Moving from prep to party is as easy as stepping into the dining room or living room, which share one uninterrupted 15- by 40-foot space that’s linked together visually with area rugs that are the same colours but feature different patterns, Pitre explains. The dining room’s lengthy Italian table is convertible, enabling two-and-a-half feet of the top to be slid inside and hidden away. Since the couple lives alone, one might expect them to use it in its sized-down version, but that’s not the case. “We leave it wide open because we like the strong horizontal,” Pitre explains.

Another strong feature dominates the living room: a 12-foot-wide diptych painting of an extreme close-up view of a tulip, by Vancouver artist Ken West. “This was Ken’s first jump into a brand-new style, which is creating these large pieces called 20/20 Vision,” says Pitre, who is a big supporter of local and Canadian artists. 

A tall, glass sculpture, created by Vancouver artist Markian Olynyk, holds a prominent place near the living room window, which allows for its flame-like reds and oranges to blaze as the sun shines through it.

“We spend most of our time here,” Pitre says, gazing out into the south-facing sanctuary of forest that surrounds their home. “We appreciate the calmness; it’s so quiet.”

In the den, dramatic artwork, access to a patio and wood floors bring the outdoors inside


Bedroom and Bathroom Spaces

On the lower floor, just off the master bedroom, a massive walk-in closet, which functions really more as a wardrobe/dressing room, separates the bedroom from the bathroom. Doors slide shut to close off each room from the other – ideal for busy, and sometimes separate, schedules. 

The master bath continues the theme of bringing the outside in, and Endall’s must-have “light-filled master bath” became a reality. “We made an early choice to not expand our footprint, while changing the layout completely,” says Pitre. But the biggest challenges were “mostly mechanical and structural, like cutting a six- by six-foot window into an exterior wall.” 

A deep bathtub for two is situated right at this window, with a relaxing view of the spruce, hemlock, pine and cedar trees surrounding. White Italian marble pebbles are cleverly inset into acrylic for a modern touch that still respects Erickson’s “inside-out” esthetic. And the room says “spa” in every aspect, right down to the night lights that cast a dreamy glow like a constellation of stars.

Erickson would surely approve.

Céline Pitre’s Top 5 Design Tips

  1. Eclectic does not mean anything goes!

  2. Incorporate a variety of textures in the space.

  3. Less is more: one large accessory trumps a plethora of knick-knacks.

  4. Choose fabrics and/or area rugs before you choose paints. 

  5. Hire a professional. Not only will they save you time, money and stress, they’ll help guarantee more successful results.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.