Tina Moizer DesignsMedia / Press
House Beautiful: Downsizing by the sea in Mill Bay
Grania Litwin / Times Colonist | NOVEMBER 4, 2017 06:00 AM
The one-level living area covers about 1,800 square feet, with stairs down to guest accommodation and the tractor garage. A long shed dormer over the front door adds volume and light to the home’s foyer. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
Fifty years after he left home as a teenager, Ken Hillyard returned to the family cottage where he grew up. But he wasn’t there for long — just enough time to build a brand-new retirement home on the gently sloping property in rural Mill Bay.
“It was rather fun for us moving back, as Ken had left that home when he was aged 18,” said his wife, Eileen, a retired nurse.
Both Ken and Eileen were born and raised in the Cowichan Valley. Before their latest move, they owned a farm for almost 45 years, raising a few pigs, some cattle, chickens, dogs, cats and bumper crops of apples
A solid mantle and strong painting over the stone fireplace make an attractive focal point in the living room. Most of the furniture was acquired when they built the house, except for the glass coffee table. The armchairs are covered in a Jacobean-style print.. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
A broad expanse of windows in the kitchen adds an open feeling to the workspace, while storage is maximized around energy-efficient appliances. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
But a few years ago, they decided it was becoming too much, and began thinking of downsizing after the deaths of Ken’s parents, Tony and Jan Hillyard.
Ken’s mother and father had bought their five-hectare waterfront property in the early 1960s and lived there in a little yellow cabin that they completely renovated and turned into a full-time home.
After his parents were gone, Ken and his sister discussed a variety of options for the acreage, but decided to keep it for the family.
Ken, a retired land surveyor, divided it into five roughly equal-sized portions. They sold the uppermost lot, closest to the road, to pay for servicing the subdivision.
A lower covered patio offers protection from the rain in winter and is a great spot on a hot, sunny day, too. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
Tall white wicker chairs create a relaxed indoor atmosphere, clustered round an unusual, hammered stainless-steel-topped table. “It reminds me of water,” said Eileen, who found all the pieces at Chintz & Co.
– Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
His sister kept the old beach cabin, where her great-grandson now lives, and Ken and Eileen’s children built a home on the site immediately behind them. (The fourth lot is, as yet, unoccupied.)
Ken and Eileen moved back into the old beach cabin after selling their large farm in 2014, and while their new home was being built.
Both struggled with the move initially and missed their bigger spread.
“Ken was in a little denial at first and I missed my flower garden, which thrived on all our manure, but we love it here on just 21Ú2 acres and neither of us has looked back. The time had come.”
The master suite opens onto a deck that continues in front of the living and dining rooms, too. “When I bought the linens in January, right after we moved in, I was remembering my beautiful former garden. Here, it was all rock and piles of dirt still, so this was the only flower bed I had,” says Eileen.. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
Tucked into a corner window, the large soaker tub offers a great view across the inlet to North and Central Saanich. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
One thing they are happy about is the creativity, competence and productivity of their building team — “They all did a beautiful job,” Eileen said — which began with a house plan created by Bruce Johnson of Pacific West Home Design and lumber from a nearby Shawnigan sawmill.
Ken especially likes the home’s English-style bonnet roof, which has a steeper upper slope and more gentle lower one, offering excellent cover over the verandah.
The separate garage has a matching roof, as does the pump house.
“Ken is mad about a roof that kicks up at the bottom,” Eileen said with a chuckle.
They also appreciated the work of S & B General Contractors, “who did an amazing job. We were very, very happy with everything they did. They were always on time, hard-working and professional.”
Even a soft drizzle and overcast day can’t spoil the view of Saanich Inlet, looking toward Central and North Saanich, although it’s brightened by still-blooming scarlet geraniums.. – Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
Eileen and Ken Hillyard were both raised in the Cowichan Valley and recently downsized from a farm to this small acreage in Mill Bay.
– Photograph By DEBRA BRASH
They praised the work of interior designer Tina Moiser Design. “Tina has a wonderful eye and came very well recommended,” said Eileen, whose husband joked that the designer also tactfully managed to “tone down” his wife’s vivid palette.
“I’m a real colour person,” admitted Eileen, who had picked out a very rich, deep green for the exterior, but says the current colour is much softer and more pleasing.
“It was perfect. I hired Tina and realized I needed to trust her.”
The couple wanted solid-oak flooring for their open-plan living area, but it took a while to find it.
“I looked and looked, and just couldn’t find what I wanted,” said Eileen. Then one day, she visited The Finishing Store and spotted a large pallet of boards.
“It was out of Quebec and really cheap. The boards were narrow and short, so not in vogue, so they were trying to get rid of it. But I liked the weathered-oak finish … it was exactly the beachy, driftwood look I wanted.”
They enjoy the look of mostly bare floors and chose not to have mats or area carpets everywhere, especially as tripping can be an issue with aging.
Master-bathroom floors are porcelain tile, but around the tub, they laid some pebbled sections. “When our contractor saw it, he thought it might be uncomfortable to walk on, but he took off his boots to test it and said it was OK,” she said, adding it’s soft to walk on, and almost feels like a massage.
Ensuite cabinets have a weathered-wood look — “I wanted them to have a washed-out patina” — and in the other bathrooms and laundry, she chose a sandy grey-taupe shade.
All the home’s ceilings are nine feet and doorways are extra-high, too, for a designer touch. “That was Bruce’s idea and although it cost a little more, it is a really nice look,” Eileen said.
Cowichan Woodwork in Cobble Hill designed the kitchen, with its white cabinets and a quartz counter top that combines taupe, cream and rust with a little sparkle.
Eileen, who just finished making 22 apple pies for the freezer with a friend — something she’s been doing annually for 35 years, for a grand total of about 700 pies — said it’s the most efficient kitchen she has ever had.
“I do 90 per cent of my cooking in that corner at the left of the sink, which is close to the stove, outlets, mixing bowls, flour,” she said.
While his wife loves the kitchen, Ken loves his wood-burning stove in the basement. He chops and splits wood every day, considering it his outdoor exercise, and says the extra heat comes in handy when the power goes out, which it did last winter for three days. They also have a heat pump.
And they are both are grateful for one-level living with 1,800 square feet on the main and 1,000 downstairs ,where there is a generous guest suite and Ken has a big tractor garage.
Building their retirement home was a relatively smooth undertaking, except for a few surprises along the way. One of the big shockers was the blasting.
“We had no idea it would cost so much … but this is part of Malahat Mountain,” said Ken, who added they initially wanted to site the house lower in the ground, so as not to obstruct views from farther up the property.
They called a halt about 18 inches higher than they wanted, and the blasting bill was $50,000
“It took almost three weeks,” said Ken. In the end, they removed 180 truckloads of rock, leaving enough to still build several retaining walls.