When Tom Chatfield decided to return to Canada after 24 years working abroad, the Ottawa native opted to head for the West Coast – to Squamish in particular.
With wife Petra and Grade 9 son Colin, the Chatfields had some specific ideas about the home they wanted. They bought a lot on Glacier View Drive in Garibaldi Highlands and connected with architect Mark Simone of Shelter Residential Design.
“We wanted it to be sustainable. That was one of the most important things,” Chatfield says. “We wanted to be sure that we were able to capture the fantastic views in Squamish and we wanted it to be a place that was very relaxing and welcoming.”
They moved into the new home in April 2015 and Chatfield credits Simone for ensuring it is everything the family had hoped.
“He’s very, very good at taking concepts that you have and being able to turn it into a design,” Chatfield says of Simone. One of the services that took the experience over the top, he says, is Simone’s proficiency with 3D renderings.
“I go so far as to 3D model the mountains around Squamish,” Simone says. “So when I designed Tom and Petra’s house, I was able to place their house and their exact location within the context of the coastal mountains.”
During the design process, Simone could virtually take the Chatfields into the house and show them the view they would have from each window. When the house was completed, the views from the windows were almost identical to the renderings Simone had created even before construction began.
Simone doesn’t like to label his architectural style, though he acknowledges most people would see much of his work as “strikingly modern.” Rather than imagine a style, Simone begins with what the location offers.
“I try to design a house that I would consider to be timeless,” he says, adding that it should respond to its environment and the needs of its occupants. Engaging the client is also key to Simone’s approach.
“I make sure that my clients feel that they have a huge part in designing the house and that it’s very distinctly their own.”
In this case, a steeply sloping lot with a surplus of granite and a sharp drop-off presented challenges and opportunities. Simone designed a three-level home that he says is intended to draw people in through choreographed sequences, beginning with stepping from natural bedrock across a bridge to the front door.
Inside, the 3,000-square-foot home flows with openness – from the living-dining area on the upper level to the master bedroom and Colin’s room on the second level before descending to a lower level with an office, a media room, guestroom, indoor swimming pool and fitness room. A three-bay garage is intended for restoring old cars. The current project is a 1963 Austin Healey.
The views are significant not only for what the windows capture, but also for what they do not.
“You look left and you see the far horizon of the ocean, Howe Sound, and, if you look right, you see a much closer, smaller hilltop and you just see the treetops,” Simone says. “I was really cognizant of trying to play on these different horizons that you can see when you’re standing on that property and each one has its own unique view and at the same time the windows were very carefully placed so that when you’re in the house you don’t actually see the neighbours’ houses at all.
“You feel like you’ve kind of entered into this little private enclave… We tried to create that privacy and connection to the landscape through careful placement of windows.”
Attention to the surroundings is evident when looking at the house from the outside as well.
“It was designed to create a very striking contrast in the crisp rectilinear lines against the backdrop of the natural mountain horizon,” he says. “So from the street, the house is prominent, but the peaks of the mountains across the valley poke out above the roof line and create a very interesting composition.”
The family is entirely satisfied.
“We got the design that we wanted,” says Chatfield. “We got the build in terms of quality and pricing that we wanted. And we’re all still speaking with each other,” which, he says, indicates superb teamwork.