The Capilano Residence perches on the edge of a densely forested precipice overlooking the Capilano River in North Vancouver. The client’s initial intent involved a replacement roof and interior renovation of a 1950s split-level home on the site. However, it quickly became apparent that the site, with its natural beauty and unique prospect, presented an irresistible opportunity to build a new home.
While the existing house was set close to the top of the bank, a new build would require a 15-metre setback from that edge. Early design explorations led to retaining the existing foundations and rebuilding the house within the original footprint to give the new owners the best of both worlds — a new contemporary home in a stunning cliffside location.
From the street edge, the main entry to the house unfolds through a series of basalt steps winding down into the forested site. The pathway transitions to a sleek steel and glass bridge that pivots mid-span to redirect the approach toward the entry porch. From here, the house presents a graceful black offset-pivot door set into a mid-century inspired, post-and-beam structure with full-height glazing. Maximizing the small existing footprint and strengthening the relationship to the surrounding forest were key design drivers.
To achieve these goals, the house is conceived as a sweeping open plan where spaces flow easily from one to another. High ceilings, exposed timber structure, and large glazed walls allow for unobstructed views through the house to the expansive landscape beyond. The taller volume harkens back to the original split-level home, with living, dining and entertainment areas on the upper levels and two bedrooms tucked below, each with a private view of the gorge.
During construction, the design team discovered an opportunity to turn a former storage attic into a den, playfully secreted away behind a hinged wall painting. On the bedroom floor below, the master bath opens onto a small terrace with bamboo planters, connecting the calming spa-like atmosphere of the interior to the adjacent lush greenery.
Nearby, a curved staircase descends from the master bedroom to a large walk-in closet nestled into the hillside below, providing sanctuary for the artifacts of daily life. Handcrafted tile and the use of large marble slabs add unique character to many of the spaces while area rugs and furniture full of character enliven the restrained whitewashed oak floors, minimalist details, and exposed timber structure.
All these components participate in a successful outcome for the intensive renovation — taken together, an exercise in creative re-use and simple yet impactful design that enhance the experience of the site’s natural environs.