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Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West Vancouver

Steven and Renée Rechtschaffner first met on a ski hill when they were both pro skiers. Today their lives still revolve around the outdoors, which means their deck, backyard and views are important as the inside of their home.
By Kim Christie
Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West Vancouver

Photo, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

West Coast dream house

Nature lovers

Anyone can park a house on the beach, but it takes a creative couple to skilfully blur the distinction between indoors and out and blend past with present. Renée and Steven Rechtschaffner moved into this 100-year-old cottage in West Vancouver just as their three children (Conor, Michaela and Luke) were becoming teenagers. Counting themselves lucky for finding a rundown property that hadn’t been touched since the ’60s, but unable to afford renovations, they filled the house with Ping-Pong tables and video games. (Steven was a video game producer at the time and always had the hottest pre-release games.)

Both former professional skiers (Renée travelled the World Cup circuit for five years on the Canadian ski team and was number 2 in the world for combined skiing in 1981; Steven was a freestyle skier for the U.S. team), the couple shared a passion for outdoor activity. They would spend early mornings in the kayak, late evenings on the paddleboard and every sunny afternoon splashing in the waves. Ten years in, the constant cacophony of sleepovers and joyously shrieking teens drove them to build the “Bunker,” a quiet place to escape from their children. The couple constructed their master bedroom in a new 900-square-foot wing of glass and concrete with massive, unobstructed views of the ocean. Renée knew she wanted a contrast of old and new, hard and soft, so she turned to her old high school chum Frances Zago, now an architect. Together they designed a sculptural space that took its cues from the natural rock the house is built on. As functional as it is beautiful, their bedroom became their own private tree house where they could both observe and hide from the chaos of family life.

Then, as the kids left for university one by one, Renée and Steven began to reclaim the rest of the house. While tearing away at their 1915 gem, the couple uncovered original features like rock walls under aging plaster and a stone fireplace complete with thick black grout. To contrast the historic pieces, they added modern elements like concrete floors and countertops in the kitchen and as much glass as the house could hold to make the most of their waterfront location.

Through it all, Steven left Renée, a painter, to her own artistic devices, always supportive, never interfering with her vision. Now that the kids have moved out, Renée says, “it’s our turn to play in this house.”

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

Soften hard surfaces with luxurious touches

The bedroom is the perfect place to play with texture. Concrete walls and white marble floors contrast nicely with sheer drapes and indulgent bedding (thick pillows, velvet, Mongolian wool and soft chenille throws). A chandelier overhead is a glittering focal point that reflects the sea beyond.

Bed, Inform Interiors. Bedding, Pisolino. Side table, Brent Comber. Chair, Livingspace. Painting, Renée Lee Smith.

Bedroom-West-Coast-decor-concrete-walls-oceanview-floor-to-ceiling-windows-marble-floorPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.
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Mismatched chairs make a dining room less formal

Early in their married life, Renée couldn’t afford an expensive dining set (a young family and a house in need of major renovation were the priorities). Renée scoured yard sales and vintage shops for chairs, and years later this eclectic assortment of furniture still welcomes people to the table.

Painting, Renée Lee Smith.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

Mix it up

Renée left the original fireplace intact and made it the focal point of the living room. To update the space, she chose a mix of modern furnishings combined with rustic wood and quirky accent pieces.

Coffee table, Sturdy. Sofa, Inform Interiors. Chair, lamp, Livingspace. Throw, 18 Karat. Accent table, Brent Comber. Painting (above fireplace), Ross Penhall. Painting (in hallway), Janieta Eyre.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

Create a calm corner

Renée loves the original heavy swing-chain windows, which lend a cottagey charm to the kitchen. The classic Saarinen tulip table and chairs add a sculptural element and a cozy place for the couple to enjoy their morning coffee.

Dining table and chairs, Livingspace.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.
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Play with cabinetry

Symmetrical open shelving draws the eye and showcases Renée’s pottery collection. Frosted glass is an unconventional choice and makes everyday dishes and glassware look surprisingly pretty.

Globe light, Inform Interiors. Cabinetry, SnaideroUSA. oven, Bosch.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

Make a door a work of art

Framing a garden with glass doors creates a seamless transition between inside and out. Renée spent years landscaping the rocky outcrop her house is built on, so when she renovated her entrance she used a large sheet of glass to show off the stunning setting.

Paintings, Derek Root. Doors, Imperial Glass, 604-985-7622. Bench, Avant Gardener.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

Indulge your creative side

After Renée’s three children had grown and moved out, she converted their basement playroom into an artist’s studio. A kitchen trolley houses her art supplies, and the wall has become her mood board.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.
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Bring the indoors out

Renée and Steven created a sensational deck that is their outdoor oasis. Several seating areas with natural materials and decor elements (including a dramatic centrepiece of shells and eye-catching driftwood sculptures) are set against a backdrop of sea and sky. The outdoor shower and a short climb down to the beach give the home a perpetual vacation vibe.

Peek inside a luxurious oceanside house in West VancouverPhoto, Kim Christie. Prop Styling, Heather Cameron.

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