Higher Learning at Origin

From the Western Living Magazine, Fall/Winter Edition | Written by John Burns | Photographs by Barry Calhoun | Styling by Joseph Torio

When it was time for Gordon Harris to move on from his South Granville home, two factors determined its successor. The first was his job. As president and CEO of UniverCity, the 200-acre, sustainability-minded residential community atop Burnaby Mountain, he needed a home that was both environmentally aware and handy to his SFU office.

Higher Learning—Bringing Sustainability & <br>Environmentally-friendly to South Granville

[Clutter is corralled onto a few shelves or tucked into cupboards and custom pantry space. This leaves visual room for the art to speak. Hanging high is a painting by Angela Grossman; in the passageway, a pair of Gordon Smith photographs, and beside the fridge, Douglas Coupland’s “West Coast Still Life.”]

A second inspiration came from Western Living. Back in 2011, he read about an update to the Stegeman home, a British Properties residence designed by a young Arthur Erickson. Everything about the project and its refurbishment clicked: Harris loved the simplicity and elegance of the elements, materials and finishes, the tall spaces, dramatic white walls and warm wood floors. He resolved that in his own new nest he would capture something of that mid-century panache “without looking like it was trying too hard,” he says now. “I wanted spaciousness, room to look at the art on the walls, a space that would feel intimate and calm and yet allow for large gatherings.”

Higher Learning—Bringing Sustainability & <br>Environmentally-friendly to South Granville

[The great room is divided by the 12-foot island, conversation seating and, when company comes, a dining space framed by an area rug and George Nelson pendant light (its sibling hangs in the foyer) sourced by the owner.]

His 1,200-square-foot top-floor loft in UniverCity’s Origin building has managed all of that. Working with Cheryl Broadhead of BYU Design, who had done the building’s interiors, as wellas developer David Porte and Tom Bell of GBL Architects, he twinned his drives for mid-century modernity and an eco-friendly upgrading of the out-of-the-box amenities. (Green is UniverCity’s driving value.) The Stegeman’s striking wooden window frames became dark-grey-painted baseboards and casings grounding otherwise pristine walls, 25 feet high in places; its wooden floors carried over, though the BYU team devoted considerable effort to sourcing responsible materials: the floorboards are FSC-certified teak, and walnut veneer frames doors and bathroom vanities. Both flaunt their natural flaws and variations in colour—honesty of materials being a hallmark of the mid-century aesthetic.

Higher Learning—Bringing Sustainability & <br>Environmentally-friendly to South Granville

[Materials like the teak floor, the walnut of the far door and the island’s fins tone down the white.]

To humanize such dramatically tall spaces, Broadhead dropped frames above the 12-foot-long kitchen island and the upstairs master bed. (Humans don’t always sleep comfortably under double-height ceilings.) She used wood on the stairs and guardrail and terrazzo-like quartz tiles in the master bath (with recycled content, of course) to visually divide the otherwise-unbroken walls, and played with pacing as well: visitors pass through a gallery tunnel with an eight-foot ceiling only to emerge into the cathedral space of the living room. “You’re just hit with this light because of all the windows,” enthuses Broadhead.

Higher Learning—Bringing Sustainability & <br>Environmentally-friendly to South Granville

[Walnut continues in the master bedroom and adjacent main bath, where terrazzo tile sounds a nostalgic note but upholds the green factor with its recycled stone content.]

Higher Learning—Bringing Sustainability & <br>Environmentally-friendly to South Granville


An enviable collection of local art—Angela Grossman, Rebecca Bellmore, Geoffrey Farmer—covers the walls; everything else is tucked into purpose-built nooks. Clutter doesn’t exist. “This is a space where serenity prevails,” Harris says. “There’s nothing unnecessary in the design or finishes. If you want a place to sit and read or listen to music, to quietly contemplate all that is going on around you, it offers very few distractions. It’s so important for us to regroup and regenerate as we race through life. What better way to do that than in a comfortable, supportive space that sustains everything about our lives?”

Source: Western Living Magazine