Sooke-tacular home for Winnipeg couple

Post modern industrial architecture meets nature

  • May. 31, 2019 7:00 a.m.

– Story by Darcy Nybo Photography by Don Denton

Expectation exceeded. That was my first thought as I drove up the driveway to this spectacular Sooke home.

At the front door, I froze. I barely noticed the great room through the double glass doors. All I could see was Juan de Fuca Straight and the Olympic Mountains beyond. After a few moments of taking it all in, I rang the doorbell and met Don and Bev Sault — both the homeowners and the builders.

Don is an engineer and Bev is an artist and the two combined their talents and passions to create this beautiful 7,800-square-foot home. The tour started in their expansive, south-facing outdoor living space, where Don began by easily sliding away the corner glass walls, leaving nothing between the deck and the great room.

There is over 2,000 square feet of deck area on this side of the house. A large, infinity-edge pool sits inconspicuously beyond a large rock outcropping. They’ve built a waterfall into the rock which flows down into a calming koi pond. To the right, sits an outdoor shower. The built-in hot tub is barely noticeable between the pond and the pool.

Further along the deck — which has propane connections for outdoor heaters and a custom-made fire bowl — is a separate entrance to a lovely self-contained two-bedroom guest suite. The suite exits into a short hallway that leads to a large laundry room to the right, and a kitchen to the left.

“All the cabinetry and decorating was picked out and designed by me,” Bev said. “Don designed the big stuff and I did the little stuff. It’s all about the details, and it was fun!”

The kitchen is as warm and inviting as the rest of the house. The island has a raised bar on the end with an arbutus top. There’s a cosy window seat with built-in storage.

The great room, dining room and kitchen have a beautiful open-concept style, and an open walkway of metal and wood soars above, connecting an upper floor art studio to an office, gym and library.

The entire main floor is a mixture of gorgeous, warm woods, quartz countertops, metal beams and modern lighting. The floors are Doussie, also known as Afzelia Africana, a sustainable wood product. The wood that stands out the most in this house is a 37-foot-tall red cedar that is over nine feet round at the base. They found it felled on a property in East Sooke, fell in love with it and decided it would be the centerpiece of their home.

“We had to bring it in and place it before we could even put up the walls,” Don said.

Once in place, Bev went to work. “I remember coming here in the dark with trouble lights, lying on the floor and pulling off the bark and removing the limbs. After a few weeks of sanding and carving the knots, we had it sand-blasted smooth.”

Then, it was time to finish it.

“It took about 10 gallons of linseed oil to get it looking the way it is now,” Don said. “It just kept soaking it up!”

Once the cedar was in place, the couple could focus on building the house. The tree is surrounded by a curved staircase that extends from the lower floor, through the main level and up to the top floor.

“The riser on the winding staircase is tubular steel bent into a curve. Each of the risers weighs 800 pounds,” Don said. “The treads of the staircase are laminated fir.”

Once upstairs, you get a better feel for the size of this house, especially as you stand on the 40-foot walkway. All the railings inside are made of structural steel and hand-painted by Bev. Don designed the railings and fabricated everything on site.

“We had three companies come in and quote,” Don said, “but none of them could do what we wanted. It’s definitely one of a kind.”

This home displays several true feats of engineering. As Don explained, “I was the general contractor and oversaw the entire build. When ordering the steel and concrete, the suppliers couldn’t believe the quantity. There are miles of rebar and 100,000 pounds of steel in this home. On top of that is 450 cubic metres of concrete. We used a lot of insulated concrete forms as well. If steel is resting on anything in the house it’s on concrete or more steel. Where it’s less structural, we used structural insulated panels.”

The lower floor is as expansive as the one above it with two guest bedrooms, a bathroom, media room, games room and a lower-level garage that easily holds eight or nine vehicles.

The house has some other great features. The large, double-entry front doors are made with switch glass and with the press of a button become opaque. The island-sourced, stone-faced fireplace reaches up 26 feet to the ceiling of the second floor. The Rumford wood-burning fireplace is flanked on the left by an artistic-looking metal cage to house the wood, and to the right, by floating cherry wood shelves.

Beside the living area is a guest bathroom, with an entrance out to the pool and hot tub. The inside shower has an ethereal mural of Bev’s daughter, who looks as if she has just stepped out of a dream garden.

“The airbrushed mural took me three months to complete,” Bev said. “It is protected with an epoxy finish.”

Then there is the master suite. The bed faces a wall of glass that looks out onto the waterfall, koi pond, infinity pool and beyond to the relaxing ocean and mountain views.

“I love waking up in the morning, looking at the mountains and watching the birds play in the waterfall,” Bev said. “It’s the perfect way to start the day.”

Don and Bev loved creating this home together and are more than thrilled with the result.

“A lot of it was about the project,” Don said. “We may have gotten carried away with the design. We didn’t envision having a house like this, but we both turned it into something special.”

Don and Bev Sault didn’t plan on moving to Vancouver Island. The Winnipeg couple were considering becoming US “snowbirds.” But when they visited Vancouver Island, they fell in love with the area.

Don, an engineer, had his own commercial real estate development company. His first project was to restore a 100-year-old building in Calgary now known as Woodstone Manor. He returned to Winnipeg and purchased an old building that was near demolition. The now-renovated six-storey building in the heart of downtown Winnipeg is home to APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. On top of his business successes, Don hoped to one day build and design his own dream home.

Meanwhile, Bev, a graphic artist and designer, had her own business as a decorator, mural painter and restorer. She did restoration work on a mural painted by famous artist and sculptor Leo Mol in a small church in Manitoba. She also created murals for schools, churches, private residences and commercial spaces.

Don and Bev met in 1999, bought an old house by the river and renovated it together. They were happy to discover they worked well together. But the Winnipeg winters were wearing thin on them and they decided to start looking for a place to escape the freezing prairie.

They came to Vancouver Island in 2009 to visit friends and decided this is where they wanted to live. After an extensive search, they found the perfect lot in Sooke, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountain range, and in the middle of a rare arbutus forest.

It was a dream come true as they created their dream home together.

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