House Beautiful: A very un-Brady renovation

When the original Brady Bunch House in Studio City, California, was being transformed by HGTV into an exact replica from the 1970s television series, a similar house was undergoing its own renovation in Victoria.

But instead of turning back time, this work was focused on modernizing a 1974 house.

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The home belongs to Corine and Dan Wood, who bought it in June 2017, beating out a developer who planned to demolish it and build new on the prime lot near Rockland.

The Woods had been looking for a post and beam-style house they could renovate, so when they came across this “Brady Bunch house,” they were able to see past the fake wooden beams, low ceilings and dark wall panelling and imagine its potential as an open, light-filled contemporary dwelling.

A bonus was saving the home from the landfill — a fact not lost on the seller, who had been raised there and was pleased to hear the Woods intended to renovate.

The renovation took 18 months, and although the exterior hardscaping is not quite done, the family was able to move in this past January.

“When you spent $1 million on a house to tear it down, it does seem crazy. We wanted to find something with good bones and work with it,” says Corine, a wine agent for the past 25 years who made sure to include an enviable wine cellar in the design plans.

Her husband Dan, a Saanich deputy fire chief, knows a thing or two about renovation, after starting a residential construction company with his brother in 1989, where he worked part-time until 2012.

“We really wanted to put a modern twist on a house that looked more like a ranch house with heavy stone on its outside. It was dark and gloomy and looked like an old hunting cabin,” says Dan.

The stone has been replaced with concrete, with accents of wood panelling on the exterior.

Dan has built all styles of housing, but prefers modern design for its simplicity and ease of living. Prior to marrying Dan in 2016, Corine had flipped five homes, but most were character fixer-uppers that just needed cosmetic work.

While their styles may have seemed different initially, they both embraced the idea of living in a modern, light-filled home and knew a renovated post-and-beam house from the 1970s was the way to go. With Dan’s background in construction and Corine’s savvy design esthetic, they were up to the challenge of a major renovation.

And just like the Brady Bunch, where two families blended together, the couple wanted to create a space that would work for their own children. Corine has a 12-year-old daughter, Lola, while Dan has two grown children, Abbey, 24, and Josh, 27.

Only Lola lives at home and she is loving her huge bedroom, which combined two of the original home’s upstairs bedrooms, says Corine. The extra space allows Lola to have her own walk-in closet and a large bathroom that sparkles with Italian terrazzo on the floor and wall behind the tub.

There’s also a spare bedroom on the main floor for visiting family, which could be mistaken for a master, given its size and high-end bathroom details. The upstairs master bedroom doesn’t disappoint, with a formerly brick-fronted fireplace that now boasts large-size, floor-to-ceiling porcelain tiles, a cantilevered bathroom with a double shower, and a porch directly off the bedroom that will soon support an outdoor hot tub.

While the Brady Bunch house is known for its iconic staircase, the Woods’ house has its own showstopper — a glass-sided catwalk bridging both sides of the house.

Dan explains that the walkway was built after the main floor’s ceiling was lifted from 2.4 metres (eight feet) to seven metres (23 feet), and two steel support beams were inserted, in addition to an existing main support beam.

The house was taken down to its frame, maintaining its original footprint. Had they changed the original site plan, they would have had to reduce the size of the house to conform with today’s building code.

The house, which is set far back from the road, would also have had to be moved closer to the front of the property. Instead, they got to keep their large front yard, which is hidden behind a cedar hedge and an old, shade-giving Garry oak tree.

At one point in its history, this property had public gardens on it, and the Woods made sure to keep its tree-like 150-year-old rhododendron, lovely azaleas and abundant apple trees, to name just a few of the old plantings. The mature landscaping provides a lovely view from the symmetrical floor-to-ceiling, heat-efficiency windows on both the front and back of the house.

Sitting in the new living room, it’s hard to imagine that it was once compared to a bowling alley — the original room was 11 feet wide and 36 feet long.

They worked with Tara Gronlund of the New Westminster design firm Gronlund Dare Partnership, since Dan knew her work from his former life in construction.

“The overall space was very miserly in its layout on the main floor, primarily in terms of head space. So when you walked into the house, you had this nice tall perspective, but then it was immediately limited because of the second floor,” said Gronlund.

“We ended up taking out the centre, so the volume of the public spaces of the house were opened up and felt more expansive. Introducing the catwalk dissects the open two-storey space, so these big moves were really at the heart of the renovation.”

She adds that reconfiguring the windows and doors openings, especially in the backyard, also helped create an indoor/outdoor feel to the house.

And thanks to those many large windows, the house is flooded with natural light. There are heated concrete floors in the main entryway and kitchen, while wide-plank, white wood flooring adds warmth to the main living spaces.

The two flooring surfaces work well together, because there’s a step up from the lower-level kitchen to the main open-concept living/dining space.

The custom kitchen cabinets were done by Jason Good Custom Cabinets of Victoria, who Dan says provided “unbelievable” service.

The dining room, which also has a fireplace, is just off the kitchen and a niche was purposely built into it for a family treasure. Finally out of storage is Corine’s family’s Wurlitzer jukebox from the 1950s that she and her sister spent “hours and hours dancing in front of.”

Other family keepsakes incorporated into the house include a surgeon’s cabinet now used as a liquor cabinet, a hunk of cedar Corine’s stepfather cut down that was converted into a floating bathroom vanity, and Dan’s grandmother’s mid-century teak console.

“This is a family project. We love it here,” says Corine.

And while the family is content to stay here for now, they also recognized the time will come when the renovation bug bites again. They say they’re looking forward to that challenge — albeit on a smaller scale when all of their children are out of the house and they’re ready to downsize.

kpemberton@shaw.ca

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