Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Garden Near the Sea - aka Pink Rose Cottage

For many months since our older son has gone off on his world travels, the nest has been a little emptier. He occupied a large bedroom in the garden level of the house which we had originally designed to use as a Bed and Breakfast. It has taken me a bit of time to adjust to the idea that he is really moved out even though he does come home from time to time to visit. He is a musician currently working on a cruise ship in Asia and once this gig is done the plan is to go study in Italy. So we've decided to go back to the original plan and convert his old room along with an adjacent room which was unfinished into a lovely vacation rental suite.

We are very fortunate to live in a beach community suburb of Vancouver, BC. White Rock is just across the border from the United States and is situated on the Semiahmoo Peninsula. We live in one of the older homes in this community. It would sound odd to a Brit or European to refer to a 1925 house as being "older" but in the west coast of Canada it is. A lot of the original homes in White Rock are now demolished and have made way for more modern buildings which consume the lots they are built on. In 2000 when we renovated this old house we really wanted to balance the obvious benefit of ocean view improvement with the concept of respecting the original architecture and landscape. We were fortunate to have a lovely ocean view on 120ft - the wide angle of the lot, and a very mature garden with a multitude of gorgeous trees. So we compromised our view maximization by not opting out for the flat roof and stuck with the original peaked roof of the house. We still have a great ocean view and I think the peaked roof is so much prettier than the many flat roofs around us. The way we were able to improve our view was to lift the old house by three feet which also created a brand new lower floor eliminating the old scary basement. The lower floor is all above grade with 9 ft. ceilings and is level with the lush garden surrounding the house and it has been a beautiful location for our office, a small architectural firm. Every day I get to look out on the ever changing garden - this week it is resplendent with wisterias, hawthorn blossoms, white irises and a massive pink climbing rose. Once the house was lifted we then added on a new master bedroom and back deck as well as a new front porch. We were able to incorporate a group of old wood sash windows that had been retrieved from a house demolition in Shaughnessey (The most la-di-da neighborhood in Vancouver) and we installed several lovely old stained glass windows and doors too (did I mention my husband designs Churches for a living?)

The garden renovation was the really hard work. Yes, it had good "bones" but it was completely overgrown with blackberry brambles and morning glory - such lovely names for such nasty plants! With the exception of the trees we have planted everything else over the past 11 years. We both loved the idea of an English cottage garden not knowing that it probably is one of the most labour intensive styles of garden. We are not slavish to the garden, it is not weed free - partly because we don't spend every free moment pulling weeds and partly due to the fact that we don't believe in using chemical warfare on our garden. But, we are willing to look past the few imperfections and appreciate the many beauties the garden gives us.

When in came to thinking of a name for our new vacation suite I thought a lot about names with the word cottage in them. If you've read this blog before you'll know I used to call it Pink Rose Cottage but somehow the name just didn't seem to fit anymore. I love the cottage style and I love the relaxed feeling of living in a house that feels like you are on a holiday. We are not fancy people with designer furnishings, instead we have adorned the house with treasures from our travels to Italy, drawings done lovingly by my husband, books, books and more books, and of course my knitting. But is it really a "cottage"? Even though in its infancy in the 1920's and 1930's it was used as a cottage for the railway workers down on the beach I'd have to say no because over the years it has been added to several times and now at about 3500 sq ft I think its too large to really be a true cottage. I eventually landed on this name "A Garden Near the Sea" because the garden really is the factor that makes this place extraordinary and the proximity to the ocean makes it a great holiday destination.

Here are some fun before and after shots: The sequence being, before renovation, during the lift, immediately after renovation. And some photos taken today.


  1. I guess I never realized what an undertaking that was! It has come a long way and both the garden and house are so beautiful!

  2. You had me at "books, and more books, and knitting". You are a woman after my own heart. Thanks for your visit and comment over at my place. Hugs! Bonnie

  3. In love with that garden! I want to be sitting in those Adirondacks with a glass of wine takin in the views.

  4. Those gardens are so lush...you are living in a little slice of heaven. And what an amazing son you have!

  5. i'm so impressed that you guys opted to save this place instead of knock it down. our place had been on the chopping block twice before we rescued it. what an amazing job you have done to restore it also. you are probably right about it not being the size of a cottage but it is still charming beyond words.