– Words by Angela Cowan Photography by Don Denton
After spending 15 years building high-quality custom cabinetry for clients’ new homes, Ann-Marie and Jason Fifield of Heronwood Custom Cabinetry at last had the opportunity to use their expertise on their own dream home, and the result is a gorgeous farmhouse with both a traditional and a sleek design that looks out over a spectacular view of Mt. Prevost.
Having already undertaken a hefty renovation of their rural home in Duncan, the couple had no immediate plans for building when they purchased the four-acre lot adjacent to theirs five years ago.
“It was thick forest, and we basically bought it as an extension for our boys to mountain bike and play,” explains Ann-Marie.
She and Jason slowly started building a list of design ideas and drafting some visions for the property.
Then, “Just as COVID-19 approached, we thought we did need more space and a home office, and we started the process with Pacific House Design,” she says.
With two young boys and their dogs running around, high-quality, durable materials were top of mind, as well as making sure the space was as functional as it was beautiful.
Completed last July, the farmhouse is bright and airy, its black and white exterior finishes are classic and classy, and its interior design is carefully planned to ground the space with consistency and elegance.
A streamlined front entrance offers a simple bench and row of wall hooks next to a double set of floor-to-ceiling cupboards, keeping the line of sight tidy as you move into the great room, where a stunning stone hearth surrounds a wood-burning fireplace underneath a cathedral-peaked ceiling.
Turning, it’s natural to keep moving into the kitchen, where a sizeable island of light quartz and natural oak presents a wide space to sit, eat, cook or chat. The home has custom built-ins throughout—shelving flanking the fireplace, at the front entrance, in Ann-Marie’s expertly designed home office—but it’s here in the kitchen that Heronwood’s expertise truly shines, especially in the details.
A furniture kick runs along the inside of the island, making it easy and comfortable to stand and prepare meals. Added panels and posts reinforce the traditional aesthetic, while the light quartz countertops lean more modern and sleek. Satin brass hardware elevates the already elegant white cabinetry, along with the curving two-stage crown moulding and wide window trim. Glass-fronted cabinets run along the top, lit by a soft glow within, while a fully glass cabinet adjacent to the window offers an ideal spot to display favourite dishes.
Inside the cabinetry are some of the most interesting features. Beyond the panelled fridge and freezer, several doors reveal ingenious designs. There are rollouts under all the sinks to avoid anything getting lost in the recesses. An appliance lift on one side of the island houses the couples’ stand mixer, at the ready and easily tucked away when finished. The corner cupboard by the large porcelain farm sink is fit with a mechanism that’s half lazy Susan and half pullout, that swings out in a semi-circle and then draws the deep inside shelves out. Even putting aside the charm and beauty of the design, the house is remarkable for having absolutely zero unusable or wasted space in the entire design.
Leaning into that efficiency, a butler’s pantry just around the corner also serves as a laundry room and mud room, again utilizing every square foot for the best use. A media room, Ann-Marie’s home office and the master suite anchor the other three corners of the ground floor. Upstairs is the boys’ domain, with two bedrooms—each fitted with a shiplap feature wall to add a splash of colour—a bathroom done in dark honeycomb tile and with a concrete quartz countertop, and an open playroom.
“I splurged on the carpet,” says Ann-Marie, smiling. “It’s wool, and I just absolutely love it.”
The thick pile underfoot and angled roofline in the boys’ playroom evokes a cosy sense of mountain-top living, and gives the family a touch of familiarity in the new build.
“I love it,” says Ann-Marie. “We’ve always had old character homes, so to have this one angled ceiling, it still has that feel of an old home.”
Heading back downstairs, especially striking is the collection of lighting fixtures.
“I was really particular with the lighting package that we chose,” notes Ann-Marie.
The great room chandelier—a beautiful black iron ring studded with exposed vintage-style bulbs—creates a showpiece that immediately catches the eye. But even more impressive is the second chandelier that hangs at the exactly the same height from the outside peaked patio roof. In the afternoon, the pair of lights create a neat mirroring effect; at night, the reflected glow seems to grow, and connects the warm living room to the vast sky and stars beyond. That iron finish is echoed in the dining room fixture, square-edged but with similar bulbs, and ties the two spaces together. Also complementary are the brass-finished library lights atop the built-in shelving surrounding the fireplace and the hanging cone fixtures over the island.
Amazingly, the entire build only took about eight months, even in the midst of pandemic delays and obstacles.
“Our high level of efficiency and organization is what allows our company to build houses in a really timely fashion,” explains David Vandine, of Vandine Construction. “We don’t waste time. There’s something happening every day on our projects, and I think I’m most proud of our attention to detail and the high level of quality we give our clients.”
“Every room has beautiful custom cabinetry,” he adds of the build. “The kitchen turned out beautifully, and the whole house was really well-detailed. We’ve been using Heronwood for our cabinetry for a long time now, and we definitely recommend them to our clients first.”
“Quality was big for us,” adds Ann-Marie. “We wanted less square footage, and with the lighting, plumbing fixtures, the millwork throughout the home, we wanted to get quality in that. And with Vandine Construction, we were so impressed and happy with how they managed the project. They kept our build on time—which isn’t typical in the industry—and we were continually in the loop during the whole process, which made our first build seem achievable.”
Doing the build from scratch, she and Jason were able to approach each decision with a great deal of consideration, in part because they had spent so long planning the build.
“We were our own designers in the process, so paint details, trim details, our hardware for the doors, everything was really thought out prior to building,” she explains. “Sticking to the style of design throughout the home was important to us. Making sure everything felt connected to the design. Even with my office, it’s green and then my son’s feature wall right above is green. And my other son’s room is blue, and the media room below it is blue.”
“I’ve been dreaming since we started our business 15 years ago that one day we’d be the customers,” she says with a laugh. “And it’s exactly what we need.”
This beautiful house is heading to the market, and Brian Danyliw with The Agency will be the listing agent.
Pacific West Home Design
Heronwood Custom Cabinetry
Construction & Interior Finishing: Vandine Construction, Strickland Finishing Carpentry
Gordon n’ Gordon Interiors
Painting: Black Sheep Painting
Cabinetry and Millwork:
Heronwood Custom Cabinetry
Flooring: Hardwood Valley Floors; carpet by Jordans Flooring Nanaimo
Tiling: City Tile, Cowichan Tiling
Doors: Windsor Plywood
Windows: Westeck Windows
Lighting: Mclaren Lighting
Splashes Bath and Kitchen, EMCO
Countertops: Flo Form
Woodstove: South Island Fireplace
Appliances: Coast Appliances
Joneson Siding and Soffits