Photos: Inside a Nautical-Chic Jericho Beach House
Coastal decor and a navy-and-white colour palette rule this Ben Leavitt-designed Vancouver home.
May 25, 2017
“My client originally found me because his favourite animal is the fox,” says Ben Leavitt of Fox Design Studio. That method of choosing an interior designer happened to work out perfectly. The designer transformed the 1940s Tudor-style house into a casual family home that’s fun, soft and comfortable.
“This neighbourhood is coastal and has a distinctly nautical feeling—lots of sailboats and yachts and rowing,” Leavitt says. The location influenced the design inside.
The client hails from New Zealand. “He wanted the house to feel like an old traditional New Zealand beach house,” Leavitt says. “He didn’t want anything to look too formal or too Canadian or too American.” The result is nautical meets British Colonial style.
At a Glance
Location: Jericho Beach
Size: 2,300 square feet; three bedrooms, two bathrooms
Designer: Ben Leavitt of Fox Design Studio
Just off the front door is the homeowner’s study. It’s also the avid chess player’s very serious chess-playing room. Opposite the desk, a marlin painted white stands out against a backdrop of navy blue grasscloth.
“I used grasscloth on the walls in this house because they are plaster and have a lot of imperfections,” Leavitt says. “Because this kind of wallcovering is thicker, it hides a lot more sins, and it was easier, less messy and less expensive than sanding down the walls to make them smooth.”
The table is an antique that Leavitt refinished with a weathered gray look. He chose the striped rug because it reminded him of a beach towel. A wingback chair upholstered in a simple plaid makes a comfy reading spot. “Chartreuse works so well with navy,” Leavitt says of the pillow. Pops of this hue tie the first-floor rooms together. “The white rattan lamp is an example of how we kept a casual global feel.”
The kitchen had undergone a lovely renovation recently and the client wasn’t interested in a second full eating area. So Leavitt’s work in here was adding a small area for morning coffee and tea. The cast iron table has a marble top, and pairing it with the chairs gives it a French bistro look. Burlap pillows with white stitching throw in a nautical touch.
The designer used grasscloth in the dining room as well, but this time in a bold chartreuse hue. “I believe that dining rooms should be colourful and more casual,” Leavitt says. “Go soft and neutral somewhere else, because this is where you want things to get lively and loud.”
White rattan chairs and a woven seagrass rug keep things casual and coastal. The Hicks pendant lamp and local antique oars keep up the nautical theme. The designer had the interlocking fish diptych custom made, based on wrapping paper he’d found in a small shop in Australia years ago and hung on to for years.
A fox appears over the fireplace in the living room. The designer whitewashed the fireplace bricks, which were old and stained and ugly. For the whitewashing process, he simply takes white paint, dilutes it with water and applies it with a rag. “Simply apply more where you want it whiter and scrub harder when you want it lighter,” he says.
Leavitt designed cog-like mirror frames (hanging on the opposite wall) himself. They can be arranged to interlock in different compositions. The fox painting is reflected in them. “I’m a fan of putting a painting on one side of a room and a mirror to reflect on the other,” he says.
The sofa has a traditional look but is stuffed with feathers. “It will get lumpy, slouched down and look less traditional over time,” he says. A second matching sofa rounds out the seating area. The long rug ties everything together from one end of the room, which runs the width of the house, to the other.
“Using a rug with just two colors looks less busy and more updated,” Leavitt says. “By using one long rug, the space feels longer and cohesive, not chopped up.” The rug is a piece of cut-and-bound wall-to-wall carpeting. A toy chest and play area are tucked behind the sofa.
At the other end of the room is another chess spot for more casual games. The designer used a dining table, and the wingback chairs can be pulled closer to the sofas for extra seating when the homeowner is entertaining.
“If you’re going to go dark on the walls, go dark in the bedroom,” Leavitt says. Dark paint provides contrast to the light bedding, rug and nightstands in this master bedroom. “Again, in here it was about keeping it casual,” Leavitt says. The headboard is woven, the off-white nightstands are coastal, the herringbone pattern on the rug is looser, almost like a basketweave, and the quilt is more relaxed than a typical duvet.
Sheepskin pillows add a little New Zealand, while the navy velvet pillows were inspired by the home’s 1940 vintage. The red linen and burlap pillow keeps things nautical.