This story has been amended since first posting.
Arriving at Normanby house in West Vancouver is a grand approach. At first glance, there’s a steep incline, with a slightly winding stone driveway that looks a bit daunting. But the next glimpse is of the house itself, and it makes you want to put your foot on the gas.
Navigating the driveway leads to a motorized turnabout, flanked by two double garages, both with the square footage and height capacity for four cars each, making this house the first one in Vancouver with eight-car capacity garage space. With the press of a button, and an automated turn, you can slide into a parking spot, and then back out and spin around, perfectly positioned for descent.
Looking up at the house itself invokes the spirit of Old English-style Tudor architecture, but with a modern casting. The house is symmetrical, with two large front-facing gables, and the result is visually dramatic. This house is the brainchild of David Christopher, one of the biggest design forces in the British Properties.
Christopher said the whole building was designed to impress – the homeowners, their guests, and passersby. “The house itself is taking some design cues from Tudor architecture from England, and that’s almost a testament to where it is located, in the British Properties,” Christopher said.
“It’s got kind of like a Lions Gate attitude, as we watched the house grow, that’s one of the parts that really impressed itself upon me. When you start to do something that is period, the perfect thing to do is to make it epic, but at the same time have it [made] for today’s livability.”
Entering the main floor of one of West Vancouver’s only three-floor homes, (there is no basement) there is a 30-foot-high front foyer, leading the eye up to the gilded ceiling on the top floor, and it has almost a cathedral-like feel.
The ceilings are infused with gold leaf, and have large, ceiling-mounted chandeliers. All the light fixtures in the house are either Shonbeck or Glow, and the crystal in the lighting fixtures throughout the house is Swarovski.
The architecture of the staircase is stunning, as the eye follows its winding upward path. The staircase rails are all hand-forged wrought iron. Walking up the grand staircase, with its deep, white wool carpets imported from New Zealand, feels like a foot massage. Across a bridge sits a Steinway & Sons grand piano – the perfect setting for the ultimate entertaining scenario.
"The piano gallery, and that radius glass area, that, to me, is really the heart of any party that would happen there. As far as entertaining, that house is the perfect layout, with the flow of the whole main floor,” Christopher said.
Normanby house, a 10,300 square-foot new build on a 22,000 square-foot lot, wasn’t easy to pull off. The builder is Future Living Developments, and operations manager Kiafar Ghaffari said the structural and geotechnical aspects were
“When we took over this lot, there were about 148 trees, and 80 feet of elevation difference from the front to the back of the lot. The challenge was they had to build different tiers,” Ghaffari said. The whole process of dealing with the earth took eight months, and the house itself took over three years to complete. But Ghaffari, Christopher, and their team did it. This home is designed for a big family – and company. There are six bedrooms, including two masters and one guest room, all with ensuites and walk-in closets.
Entertaining family and friends, long and short term, was top of mind when the plans were drawn up. The house is outfitted with an elevator that accesses all three floors, a theatre room, and a grand main-floor office. The second floor has a large family room on one side, flanked by an open living room on the other. A full, temperature-controlled wine cellar is attached to the dining room.
Rounding the corner to the kitchen, with traditional painted cabinets and tiles sourced from Italy and an adjacent pantry, the showstopper is the island, beckoning with a warm golden glow. This marble masterpiece is onyx, under lit with perfect uniform light.
The interior is only outdone by the outdoor entertaining spaces. One of the house’s seven decks contains a heated pool and hot tub, flanked on the other side by a putting green, where golfers can hone their skills. There are sweeping, panoramic views of the city, the sea and Mount Baker.
The pool offers a rare privacy because of its height. “It's almost as if the pool is suspended in mid-air, when you’re actually in the pool. “You’re so far above the street that nobody can see you,” Christopher said.
Leaving Normanby house is a bit deflating. You turn around for another look at the grand foyer, and all its intricate details. This house is a home – and it makes you want to stay, simply because it captures the true romance of traditional architecture.