riley park house
Project Architect / Scott Posno Design
Contractor / Client
Location / Vancouver, BC
Project Type / New Build
Photographer / Janis Nicolay
Completion / 2014
The young family who built this home was looking for a nice place to raise their (then) two kids. Having spent a lot of time in Japan, the owner/builder brought a unique, Japanese-inflected perspective to the project. The street the house would be built on also played a large part in the design. Riley Park is a tight knit neighbourhood, with small building lots and an active family social scene. After determining the original house would not be saved, the couple made plans to build an entirely new nest for their family, one that suited this busy and socially thriving street, as well as their own lives. The site would allow them to build just over 2400 square feet over 3 floors, a rather tight squeeze for a then family of four (soon to be five!).
The covered front porch references the 1900s house that once stood on the site. The height of this front porch was critical to get right: too low, and the basement would suffer with no natural light; too high, and the porch would have no natural contact with the street. And this contact with the street was so important: the western sun the porch enjoys makes it such a great place to gather with friends and neighbours after work.
The covered back porch effectively extends the living space into the back yard. The overhangs, both front and back, also help to extend the feel of space on the main floor. (Of course they are also highly functional in Vancouver’s rainy climate.) On the exterior, blackened cedar siding created a more modern Japanese look, installed using an old-world siding technique was used in the same era that this neighbourhood was first developed.
The main floor living space layers multiple functions into one area, with kitchen, living, dining, front entrance and powder room all packed into a mere 760 square feet. The space still feels ample though, in part because of the porches, but also due to careful furniture design and selection. Custom millwork was designed and installed, helping to seriously minimize visual clutter throughout the space. The airy interior incorporates a light neutral palette of finishes, including rift white oak panelling, and ultra-white matte lacquer cabinets and millwork. This light-finish palette was used throughout the house, for a striking contrast to the exterior. Meanwhile, mosaic tile was installed in the kids bathroom and powder to add some visual interest and personality to the space.
The floor plan is a simple square shape, which seemed to call for some kind of divider within it, and the wood-clad feature worked perfectly to that end.
The early conceptual work was done using a 3D model, which made it easy to explore different divider options. When Project 22 came on board, a structural wall was planned for the lower portion of the staircase. But by modeling the space, we could see that this wall would have closed in that room and chopped up the space. It took a little extra time to redesign the structure, but the end result was worth it. The new 36” pony wall between the kitchen and living room provides a natural separation to the open space. The depth of the pony wall also allowed us to create a hidden storage shelf at perfect kid height in the kitchen. (As a bonus, it provides a place to set your drink behind the sofa in the living room.)
Heated polished concrete floors on the main floor are surprisingly cozy under foot and highly functional with small kids. They also offer a reflective quality to let the light bounce around the space.
Oak floorboards were used on the stairs and to clad the pony wall and structural wall at the stairs, a continuity that connects the home on all three levels. The pre-finished oak flooring was also used to clad the ceilings under the front and back porch and on the top floor. Wall sconces bounce the light off the ceiling and create a warm glow with this Japanese inspired light-box effect.
Skylights also open up the space, extending it beyond its bounds, and accessing calming sky views. The louvered screen on the stair skylight, meanwhile, creates interesting light patterns throughout the day.
The basement has a media playroom, sewing/craft room and home office for the owner, who works remotely managing ski resorts in Japan.
This house suits this neighbourhood perfectly, with a nod to the past, and compelling updates to the aesthetic and function of the home. It also fits this family’s needs today and as their kids grow, with features (like the downstairs office, and the whole main floor) expressly designed for how this family lives in the day to day.