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Shakespeare Homes takes North Van residence from rags to riches
William Shakespeare was known for his literary masterpieces. Now a North Vancouver building company that bears his name brings that same attention to detail and zeal for perfection to every project.
Mark Cooper, president of Shakespeare Homes, cites a recent full-house renovation as the perfect example of the work the company does. As a North Vancouver resident himself, Cooper says he and his team love working in the community in which they live and are very familiar with the building restrictions that make North Vancouver and West Vancouver different.
The original home was built in the early 1960s, and it looked it. It had two storeys, no space for a garage and just didn’t work for the family. However, it was located on a seriously beautiful piece of property, backing onto a creek and with tons of natural greenery surrounding it. It was time to make the house match its surroundings. One of the homeowners had grown up in a heritage home and had dreamed of living in a similar place as an adult. So, he brought in Cooper and his team to make his dream a reality.
“This was a great opportunity for the homeowners and my people to express themselves,” Cooper says. “We didn’t just construct something that looks like it’s from the 1800s, we actually built the home like it would have been then, while meeting today’s building codes and ensuring energy efficiency.”
Working with Cooper’s team of professionals, including Susanne Doise of Sensitive Design, Shakespeare Homes tore the original house down to the broken foundation and began the process of rebuilding it. Among the changes are a third storey and a detached garage for the “man toys” of the homeowner. The garage is built to look like a carriage house, and has its own heat, power and bathroom, making it a true man cave. It’s built with a vaulted cathedral-framed ceiling, making it an architectural masterpiece in itself. The homeowner is planning to install car and motorcycle lifts inside.
The biggest challenge that Cooper found while planning and building the home were the strict rules governing the location and the height of the finished
product, as well as the regulations around its stream-side location.
“We weren’t able to move the house within the lot because of the setback restrictions,” Cooper says. “So, we had to renovate and add within the existing perimeter.”
When you walk onto the property, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the dormers on the third storey. The heritage influence is readily apparent, and continues with the double-exposure cedar shingles that cover much of the house, the wood double-hung windows and the exposed rafters and soffits. The outdoor space will soon include an outdoor fireplace and seating area, complementing the stone retaining walls that have been constructed to allow greenery to return to the property. Brand-new decks and patios afford the homeowners gorgeous views of the city, something that they didn’t have in the original house. Hand-cut granite is featured throughout the exterior, including a double-wide chimney and front entrance.
Inside the house itself, the vaulted ceilings include hand-cut rafters to showcase that heritage charm.
“There was a lot of architectural and homeowner design involved,” Cooper says. “There’s real craftsmanship here. Nobody frames like this anymore. It’s very rare.”
Even the accessories inside the house are heritage-style, including an authentic cast-iron claw-foot tub. The character kitchen is built in an open-plan layout with custom millwork and plenty of space to entertain. There is also a suite on the ground level that has its own private entrance.
“All of the features and fixtures of the home have been selected to fit that period of time,” Cooper says.
The entire renovation took about 14 months, including three months dealing with the variance process.
“The house has been appraised well beyond normal market value,” Cooper says.
Because Vancouver can be a generally rainy city, what to do with water runoff was an important part of the building process. The city had originally asked Shakespeare to pump the storm water up to the district system on the street. However, that wasn’t an easy thing to accomplish due to the slope of the property. Instead, Cooper designed a water treatment system for the home that collects, stores, filters and then releases the water back into the natural environment surrounding the house.
In fact, the District of North Vancouver called the new house a “masterful example of stream-side protection.”
Shakespeare prides itself on being a high-quality build-green company, and this is evident in the home. All of the shingles are made from British Columbia wood, and much of the other building materials have been sourced locally as well.
“It was built with environmental stewardship in mind,” Cooper says.
In fact, the old cedar roof system was recycled into several structures, including the table in the meeting room at Shakespeare Homes’ office.
The house is unrecognizable from what it started out as. Where it once was in danger of sliding down the steep slope into the stream, the house is now truly a masterpiece and perfect for the family who lives in it.