Kitchen renovation that’s intimate in scale, big on timeless style

Homeowner Jill McRae had a vision: it would be an inviting, light-filled and intimate space with big outlooks of her magnificent garden.

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Sometimes a design vision develops slowly over time, and sometimes it’s instantaneous.

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For homeowner Jill McRae and her circa-1992 West Vancouver home, it was the latter. “I had such a strong vision for the way it deserved to be,” she says.

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Created by a local art deco antiquities dealer who built around his collection, the home’s architecture struck McRae right away, and she knew what she wanted to do with her renovation. “I think it was the scale that was such perfection to me,” she says.

Take the kitchen renovation: even expanded to its current footprint, it feels intimate in comparison to the 3,978-square-foot structure’s overall size and grandeur. “So many people want a massive kitchen with a massive island. And that just wouldn’t have worked in this house,” says McRae.

kitchen table
This 1992-built home features a European-style breakfast room separated from the kitchen proper by the dining room. Homeowner Jill McRae nicknamed it the peacock lounge, after the fabric she chose to recover a built-in banquette. An antique slag glass chandelier completes the look. Photo by Janis Nicolay /PNG
The home was designed by an art deco antiquities dealer, who built around his extensive collection – including 150-year-old iron gates imported from Paris that remain between the dining room, solarium and front door. Photo by Janis Nicolay /PNG

In European fashion, a secondary breakfast room, with its own kitchenette, is divided from the main kitchen by the dining room. “I can’t tell you how many people come for dinner and say, ‘I love the fact that these little rooms are here, and they’re split—you sort of have to discover them’,” she adds.

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To complement existing black-sash windows, McRae sourced a black-and-white patterned Portuguese floor tile, and white marble-composite quartzite for the counters. The rest of the design flowed from there. “I just thought, I’m just going to keep it really harmonious, and I’m going to do white upper [cabinets] and natural wood.” As a result, the renovated kitchen feels fresh, but not time-stamped. “It looks like it could be 50 years old. Or two years old,” says McRae.

Relocating a wall by six feet allowed space for a full pantry, antique freestanding cutting board and a vintage hutch. The original fridge came out of a tight corner, replaced by a large Sub-Zero panelled model on the dining room side. Photo by Janis Nicolay /PNG
Pendant lights sourced from Scott Landon Antiques match the French feel of black-sash windows, without impeding views to a spectacular garden. Photo by Janis Nicolay /PNG

To create more working space in the kitchen proper, she and designer Paula Arsens pushed one wall back six feet, making way for a pantry, vintage hutch and freestanding antique cutting board.

But McRae’s favourite feature? The garden views. “I’ve got a beautiful garden and back patio with an old French fountain and hundreds of hummingbirds,” she says. “The best thing about the kitchen is the fact that when you’re standing at the window, you’re literally in the garden, and it’s a spectacular garden.”

Design: Jill McRae

Cabinet design and planning: Paula Arsens Kitchen Design

Construction: Marino General Contracting 


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