A greenhouse served as the inspiration behind an indoor/outdoor West Vancouver home and garden renovation
When Marianne Dobslaw completed a multi-stage home and garden renovation in 2009, the outdoor deck was almost an afterthought. She is now amazed how much she uses the outdoor space, both by herself – coffee in the morning – and when she is entertaining. The addition of the deck forged a link between the garden and home. “Before the deck was built, I never really ate outside. The deck made a way to move from inside to outside and changed the way I live in my home.”
At the time Marianne purchased the home in 2002, the yard was little more than a sloping patch of grass with a rotted fir and an old apple tree. Today, her garden is completely oriented toward food production. The herb garden is tucked beside the house surrounded by blueberry and currant bushes and bay and fig trees. A trellis supports a living wall of yellow and red raspberries, tayberries, a cherry espalier, grapes and sunflowers that thrive in the full sun and change with the seasons. The cluster of aronia trees produces tart berries high in antioxidants; Marianne has used them to make jam and to flavour vodka. The majestic trees from the park on the north side of the property provide a stunning backdrop to her garden, but don’t block the sunlight.
A greenhouse that Marianne received as a Christmas gift in 2008 inspired the garden renovation. Not knowing how best to integrate the structure, she hired Kevin Paetkau to work with her to design and implement a garden plan. Marianne now does all the gardening herself, grows tomatoes in her greenhouse, and has four raised beds that are used to grow vegetables year-round.
Paving stones and greenery were used to create structure to the garden. A paving stone deck creates a place for Marianne’s dining table and chairs. Further in the garden, broken stones are used to create a more informal and seemingly ancient deck where Marianne and her guests gather at the end of the evening to sit around the fire pit. The ancient apple tree still stands in the corner surrounded by more recently planted cherry and plum trees.
Making what is old, new
The interior renovation of the home took place in stages. First built in the late 1940s, the bungalow is considered small by today’s standards, with a footprint of only 1,000 square feet. Marianne considered several options prior to renovating. She wanted a large master bedroom, but the simple bungalow didn’t lend itself to expansion and she didn’t want to move. In a time where fine old homes are being torn down to make way for larger houses, her decision to work with the original house and make better use of existing space was unusual.
Marianne hired interior designer Susan Parker to reconfigure her interior. Because she often entertains, Susan recognized that Marianne needed to have personal space, her own sanctuary. The small, old master bedroom on the main floor was converted to a warm and intimate den/media room, which Marianne loves. “This is a wonderfully intimate room to hang out in, to read and watch TV,” says Marianne.
Inspired by a triptych of a Tuscan garden, which Marianne owned long before her own garden was built, Susan selected colours for the walls and furniture – greens and purples, golds and oranges. Although Marianne originally couldn’t envision the green and purple feature walls, she trusted Susan’s strong intuitive sense. “Susan worked with colours, textures and organic ingredients to create a sense of serenity in my home. Everyone who visits comments on the peaceful energy,” she says.
Various items that Susan picked out are displayed throughout the house: lamps, vases and bowls, mirrors with organic frames, glass. Each item is beautiful on its own, but together the items create an interesting and colourful interior. One of the first pieces that Susan and Marianne found together was an unusual chartreuse area rug for the living room, which brings the concept of a lawn indoors.
Food as connection
Marianne likes to celebrate and indulge in food by inviting four to eight friends to share an evening of food, pleasure and company. She starts the evening inside or out for cocktails and appetizers, then a sit-down appetizer and dinner, followed by cheese and dessert. Marianne and her guests move with the setting sun from one outdoor space to another starting with drinks on the deck, followed by dining on one patio and finally gathering around the fire pit.
The completion of the deck in 2011 capped off the renovation and created a unique space for Marianne to entertain her friends. Susan designed and built the deck to accommodate a sectional, which is why the furniture fits so well in the space. She also added a few more pieces to create an intimate seating area as well as a bar overlooking the garden.
Marianne feels strongly about the importance of entertaining and of creating and reinforcing connections between people, the food they eat and the earth. Marianne grows much of the food that she serves to her many friends, and senses that people enjoy being part of that process. She often asks her guests to pick mint for tea, or peas for brochettes; this is her way of sharing her life with her friends.
Says Marianne: “Gathering around a table together to share food is a big part of my family tradition. In a somewhat disconnected world, one of the simplest and most accessible ways to reconnect is to return to the most basic thing that all cultures and people do – sitting around a table to dine.” ■