Mid-Century Modern Family: Inside Jacqui Cohen's Home

Army & Navy successor Jacqui Cohen and daughter Kasondra spend an afternoon in Jacqui’s renovated childhood home. 

“Come up here … you’ve got to see this!” Jacqui Cohen exclaims excitedly, motioning to her UBC home’s climbing entryway garden, framed photo in hand.

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We were having a catch-up on the sprawling terrace of her Northwest Marine Drive, home taking in views of the Straight of Georgia when she was compelled to show me the “before-and-after.”

I follow her through the patio threshold, across the mid-century modern home’s silver travertine floor and through the floor-to-ceiling glass front door. We walk under the porte-cochère, across the driveway and skip up the stone path of the entryway garden for a bird’s eye view of the front of the house.

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The photo Jacqui is holding was taken from this exact spot in the late ’40s when her parents first received the home as a wedding gift from Jacqui’s grandfather, Sam Cohen. As many Vancouverites know, Sam founded Army & Navy on West Hastings Street in 1919, selling World War I army and navy surplus goods at low prices, building an empire that brought notoriety to the Cohen name.

Jacqui tells me the story of how, in 2012, she decided to renovate and rebuild the bungalow she grew up in, rather than tear it down. In a city where real estate is, to say the least, at a huge premium, we hear far too many stories of projects that do away with the heritage of a structure. Though it has been completely gutted and updated, the Mid-Century Modern bungalow originally designed by the celebrated Charles Burwell Kerrins (C.B.K.) Van Norman remains, with the updates and add-ons designed with architect and friend of Jacqui’s, Russell Hollingsworth. Keeping the bones of the house was of the upmost importance to Jacqui on this project—having grown up here, every nook and cranny tells a story.

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We venture back through the front entranceway and Jacqui points to two stained-glass windows on either side of the door and to two more adjacent panes on the opposite side of the great room. These four panes came from the second home she owns, located in Point Grey and designed by Robert Ledingham in the early ’80s.

We wander past the grand inundating brass Martha Sturdy sculpture perched on a stone wall in the entryway, across the threshold and out into the back yard where Jacqui’s lookalike daughter, Kasondra is entertaining friends and their kids by the pool. The house is full of family, dogs and friends—“Just how it should be,”—says Jacqui. The original kidney-shaped pool, which Jacqui and her family spent so many summers enjoying, is intact but has been expanded and modernized.

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I feel lucky to call Jacqui a friend, and if there’s something that has always struck me about her, aside from her magnetic personality and business savvy (she is still boots-on-the-ground at the family’s near hundred-year-old department store chain) is her sentimentality. I remember when the renos, which took four years to complete, were unveiled in 2012 at “Daddy Cohen’s” as she calls it, just in time for the Face The World Foundation Gala she hosts every year. She is just as excited and proud of the result now as she was then—regaling anyone who walks through the doors with stories of growing up in the house.

This year marked a special milestone for Face The World Gala—which has been going strong since Jacqui founded it in 1991—as the foundation merged with Kasondra’s charity Face Of Today to become “Face The World Today” where almost a million dollars was raised in one stellar night. It was a proud moment for mamma Jacqui to join the two charities together, as her daughter has chosen to follow in her philanthropic footsteps. As always with Jacqui—it’s a family affair. Over the years, Face The World and now Face The World Today have raised $18 million for underserved local charities, such as women’s shelters on the Downtown Eastside.

We head back into the kitchen, which is every chef’s dream. With its Sub-Zero & Wolf refrigerators and freezer drawers tucked away neatly behind quarter-cut North American walnut cabinets, Viking gas cooktop, Wolf wall ovens and integrated Miele coffee machine, it is ideal for entertaining—which in Jacqui’s case often means throwing a gala for 300 or so of her well-heeled friends.

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The day of our shoot, was, as with everything Cohen, an event. For lunch there were beautifully catered sandwiches, desserts and rainbow-hued macarons. Flowers from Jacqui’s favourite flower shop, Kits Market on Yew Street, festooned the house and Champagne flowed with the cork popped by Ms. Cohen herself.

Perched upon the oatmeal ottoman nestled between two lush Minotti couches in the living room flanked with a triptych painting by Vancouver’s Cori Creed—who is a generous donor to Face The World Today—Jacqui and Kasondra flash their mega-watt smiles for the camera. For the next shot we move into the sitting room just off of the kitchen for photos with Martini, Jacqui’s beloved Shih Tzu Poodle Cross, who, after a long day is doing everything in her power to keep her eyes open. On the wall behind the trio hangs one of my favourite pieces by artist Tiko, the perfect backdrop to the black Los Angeles-imported dining room table.

As we wrap up for the day, I ask Jacqui what’s in store for the family biz, Army & Navy. With a wink and a nod she will only say, somewhat cryptically, “Stay tuned for what’s next for Cohen Crossing.”

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