“Home and hill should live together, each happier for the other”
Frank Lloyd Wright
by Laura Goldstein
Like a bird’s abstract aerie, black power-coated aluminum intricately criss-crosses the upper street-level windows of The Nest Beach House. They are a decorative tribute to the surrounding environment high upon the bluffs overlooking Skaha Lake in Penticton.
“Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles resonate with me and he is an important inspiration because he created modern residential architecture as part of the land not just plopping down a house anywhere, ”explains Kim Larson, Director, All Elements: Design- Manage-Build.
Looking back at her childhood growing up in Penticton, it’s not surprising that she chose to build with Lego instead of playing with dolls. Larson was obsessed with drawing neighbouring homes at ten and eleven -years -old. She studied Architectural Technology at college in California while revelling in the outdoorsy lifestyle (she recently bought a get-away beach condo there.) Returning to her roots in the South Okanagan as a Project Manager for various residential and commercial projects, Larson established her company based in Kelowna in 2009 with a passionate dedication to streamline the often arduous task of building luxury homes. She is extremely cognizant of the importance of net-zero sustainability in her own home including solar panels on the rooftop and to those her company builds with up to 80% energy efficiency. Multiple Tommie, Georgie and Builder Awards attest to her ingenuity and environmental practices.
Larson is a person who, when confronted with a problem makes lemons into lemonade: “I had just started to build my four-storey beach home in 2019 but then Covid hit and we required a pause. This home has been a life-long dream of mine to live on the lake so I just hunkered down with my little bubble and we would have our own party on the dock. Luckily I had built that first!” she laughs.
“You know, Penticton has become more development friendly, being more proactive to create housing. They are promoting densification while still maintaining its small town feel, which I just love.“
“I designed a house where you actually go down a level from the street to enter the main living space,” she explains. “It was quite a complicated build because on the side facing the lake they had to blast down two levels to lay the foundation.”
A glass floor at the entrance allows light to stream through and peak into the living area below, before going down the stairs that separates the kitchen from the dining area.
The compact open concept home is only 23-feet wide on a 30-foot lot but appears much larger because Larson, though a “minimalist”, has a few tricks up her sleeve: She lets the light and spectacular views on every floor do the talking through many floor -to -ceiling unframed windows. She chose a colour palette throughout that is monochromatic which contributes to a natural room flow on each level. And, she uses mirrors expertly, giving the illusion of larger spaces. In short, “I hate clutter – I’m a clean freak.”
Larson’s streamlined kitchen has no hardware on any of the white oak cabinetry that instead, open easily with a finger pull. The fridge and dishwasher are hidden behind matte-finished built-in panelling. “I chose the colour of all the cabinetry because it’s like the sand on the beach,” she says. Black wire stools at the island and a black striated cabinet panel above the sink, riff on the bird’s nest motif on the front of the home’s exterior. Porcelain tiles throughout the home resemble concrete flooring and half-inch black reveals give a floating look to the island’s countertop. “I don’t like baseboards,” Larson admits, “so no baseboards throughout the house and we do black shadow lines instead. It’s a very clean, modern, contemporary look.”
A massive deck for entertaining leads out from glass doors in the kitchen and runs the entire width of the house overlooking Skaha Lake.
Jacqueline, (aka Jac) comes bounding into the living room with a shoe in her mouth. The eight-month-old Chocolate Lab stops short of the six-foot-wide linear burner fireplace that uses porcelain rocks. “It has zero clearance which means you can hang anything above it right down to the glass,” Larson explains. “On the walls I brought in Dekton panels made from recycled porcelain from Spain and I also used it on the kitchen island’s countertop.”
Off the kitchen is a laundry room with an energy efficient heat pump dryer. For the nearby powder room, Larson gave carte blanche to Sean Dolan one of her company’s craftsmen, who built a dark emerald green cabinet topped with a blonde hickory wood that contains raised profile double sinks. The bird’s nest theme of criss-crossed lines continues through the wood with an addition of an epoxy configuration that resembles a meandering river. A barn door, a clever design element used several times throughout the home, pulls across for privacy.
Upstairs we catch a glimpse of Larson’s love of the outdoors. Doubling as art hung on the wall in the off season is her Pau Hana Oahu stand-up paddle board designed in California. “I just love paddle boarding in the summertime on the lake for a few hours. It’s so calming,” she says. She also enjoys taking friends aboard her Mastercraft X46 surf boat and cruising Skaha Lake. Her office on this level, is where Larson still sketches by hand and then gives the designs to her team to put on CAD software. A sliding barn door can easily be closed for meetings with clients.
A guest bedroom on the very top floor faces the street but it’s the ensuite that captures your attention: A clear glass and steel barn door slides across the shower surrounded by black-veined marble and grey geometric floor tiles. “That door is really different and one of my favourite things in my home that I designed,” says Larson.
A converted narrow hallway segues into a relaxing space with sofa and TV leading to the the master bedroom and ensuite. “Viewed from the lake the room juts out 10-feet further than the downstairs portion of the house,” she enthuses. It’s a cantilevered nod to an iconic Frank Lloyd Wright element of creating living spaces in what appears to be midair. “Looking through the floor-to-ceiling-windows when I lie in bed in the mornings makes me feel like I’m hovering over the lake and at night through the skylight, the stars are amazing!”
- 5 bedrooms/3.5 bathrooms
- 4 levels just under 3,000 square feet
- lower level is completely self-contained for vacation rental
- Net Zero build with solar panels on the roof
- 2-car Garage
- 80-foot dock