So pretty much all posts in this wee blog of ours to-date have been either technical aspects of what we do, how we do it, but not so much about why we got into the home renovation business & what drives us to keep on getting better. So here’s Barry’s account of why he keeps on going in what can be a very tough business at times … but also an extremely satisfying one.
As a very young kid in Edinburgh, I can personally recall always being fascinated with architecture, whether it was spending countless hours on the living room floor building Lego models or drawing up complete plans of my dream home as a 10-year-old with pencil and paper (even down to the placement of electrical fixtures and furniture). My favourite subjects at school were German (largely because of an amazing teacher), maths (just because I seemed to be good at it having that engineer’s mindset), and technical drawing … my German is now very limited, I can barely recall how to do long division & certainly any complex mathematical formulae are out of the question, but the technical / design side of me has become more ingrained over the years.
I grew up in a cookie-cutter home on a housing estate where all homes were pretty much the same other than the interior finishes. However we were surrounded by an amazing assortment of architectural inspiration from the likes of Edinburgh Castle (the oldest part of which is approaching 1000 years old), St. Giles Cathedral, the Forth Rail Bridge, the 18th century tenements of the Royal Mile, the Royal Scottish Museum, Georgian & Victorian townhouses everywhere, not to mention much much newer structures such as the new Scottish parliament buildings. If nothing else this instilled a feeling that buildings can and should be made to last for longer than a generation. Now obviously there is a huge difference when it comes to comparing something built with 2′ thick stone walls versus 2×6 fir stud construction … the latter is certainly a whole heck of a lot easier to renovate for starters & we build with what materials are readily available around us. In Scotland that happens to be primarily brick. For anyone living in a typical Squamish split level home I don’t need to tell you that things have changed a lot in terms of build quality from the 70’s … there seemed to be a bit of a blip for some homes built in the rush up to the 2010 Olympics when contractors were harder to come by, but largely the quality now is a vast improvement over what it was. Building codes have also changed significantly in this time as well as new technologies and products being available. There is also a greater focus on environmentally conscious construction, of course.
Anyway, where was I … oh yes, what inspires me? Well living in Squamish BC or anywhere in the Lower Mainland for that matter, you would need to be completely lacking in any imagination not to be somewhat inspired by what is around us. OK so we don’t have the history of buildings where Royalty once lived, but wood and stone are certainly major elements in design here. Typically homes are much larger here than I was used to in UK & most of Europe … I had never seen or heard of a 4-bathroom home until arriving in North America & I recall seeing the first home that had a master with an en-suite when friends in Edinburgh got married and moved into a new(er) place. I think gradually some of us are realizing we don’t necessarily need 6,000 sqft to be comfortable. There is the stereotypical Whistler look with exposed fir beams, slate-a-plenty, grand fireplaces, etc but there is also the sleek and contemporary look of many Vancouver homes. With Vancouver especially having such an ethnic mix with many “imports” such as myself there are lots of different influences that keep it fun & exciting. Literally, just in the last year, we are seeing lots more clients asking for a simpler “clean” look with a more contemporary feel … white is definitely “in” at present and never really looks old.
There’s a reason our first website had an image of Mount Garibaldi as the background … other than staring at it every morning from our deck, it symbolises what brought me here and why I am still here. Not that specific mountain necessarily, although it ain’t half bad … being a skier and biker and hiker it was bound to be here or the Alps (sorry Australia … beautiful as you are, I need my feed of snow).
My partner and I go running & hiking a lot around Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton (when it’s not scorching hot) … and of course, I drive the Sea to Sky highway on a very regular basis … however, it never gets old (other than perhaps on a Sunday at 3 pm with the Whistler mass exodus). The surroundings constantly remind me why I chose to move half way around the world on a bit of a whim (thanks, Warren Miller for the ski movie inspiration) … I have been lucky enough to live in some amazing places (Edinburgh, Paris, London, San Jose / Bay Area, Amsterdam, Sydney, Meribel – French Alps), but as I was recalling a recent conversation with a client in Vancouver, when I first came to BC I felt like I was coming home even though I had never been here before. In fact, I started looking at homes to buy on day 4 … and that was before I had residency so I was taking a bit of a gamble. 13 years on, 13 Whistler Blackcomb season passes later, one Victoria Marathon & 3 half-marathons down, and I am a fully fledged Canadian with a business, a home, partner and a healthy cat. Perhaps in a previous life, I was a Canadian chipmunk or maybe it has something to do with the fact it’s like Scotland on steroids … whatever the reason I would say Vancouver is one of the few cities in the world that I truly like and there is so much to do here which is one reason that we rarely leave BC now. The gamble certainly paid off!
I hope everyone has a fabulous Canada Day next week … and good luck to the Canadian woman in the soccer World Cup.