Dark no more. . .

Vancouver Sun

Dark no more, bungalow glows with 50-per-cent more living space

Hard to believe, but the spacious, light-filled Arts-and-Crafts-style North Vancouver home of Eric and Lisa Sandberg was once a cramped and dark 1950s modernist box.

While most people would have simply torn down the dated bungalow to make way for a new house, the Sandbergs instead opted to upgrade the existing house to accommodate their lifestyle.

When they bought the couple and their two children were living in a two-bedroom home they had totally renovated.

But with only 1,500 square feet the family had outgrown the 1919 heritage home, where Dylan, now seven, and four-year-old Rebecca, were forced to share a bedroom.

Searching for a larger character home in a neighbourhood they wanted turned out to be an exercise in frustration. All of the houses they were interested in were out of their price range. The answer was eventually found in buying the bungalow and its 50-foot-wide lot.

"A lot of our friends were a little surprised," says Eric, of their new house purchase. "Our last house was nicely finished and we had just done the kitchen before we bought this place."

But Eric, who owns his own construction company on the North Shore called Desakota Developments Ltd., looked beyond the house's poor showing and realized the south-facing bungalow, in a great neighbourhood, had the potential to give the family the space they needed.

"The house's cosmetics didn't concern us. It was the location and the bones of the house we were looking at," says Eric. "This was the cheaper option [to building new]."

The bungalow's large footprint and heavy floor joices (2 X 10s spaced on 12-inch centres) meant the basic structure was not only sound but could support a large addition.

The bungalow conversion not only added an upper floor, gaining an additional 1,000 square feet for three bedrooms, two bathrooms, small office nook and hallway closet, but improved the home's floor layout and admitted more light into the once dark home.

The original living space was 2,000 sq. ft. but it is now 3,000 sq. ft. with an unfinished basement.

The bungalow's original kitchen was quite small (9 X 12 feet) with plywood cabinets, no dishwasher and a small window that failed to take advantage of the south-facing exposure. The new kitchen is spacious, with cherry cabinets, tumbled slate backsplash, has stainless steel appliances and the convenience of a kitchen island. Light streams into the open concept kitchen/family room from large windows and the French doors, off the family room, to the deck.

The Sandbergs still have a formal dining area and a living room but they are located forward in the home, and both still with the home's original oak floors. Also on the main, Eric added a powder room.

Eric, who serves on the City of North Vancouver's heritage committee, incorporated many heritage features into the bungalow. In the dining room, for instance, he installed six foot-high wainscotting with a plate rail and added mouldings, that would have been commonplace in turn of the century homes, on all of the doors.

The only foundation work the home needed was adding two pillars to the front porch for support, giving them an additional 25 sq. ft. for a more welcoming entry way.

Work began last January and was completed within eight months.

Although Eric declined to comment on the price they paid for the bungalow he says it was basically close to lot value. As for the extensive conversion, he says, generally it would cost about $250,000.

But the price was still a bargain "because to build new you would spend twice that (amount)," he says. "We didn't really make any sacrifices and we still got the house we want."

Also, from an environmental perspective, Eric adds he is pleased the conversion saved a considerable amount of demolition waste, and they were also able to retain the mature landscaping on the lot. A lovely old Maple tree, likely planted when the 1954 house was first built, continues to thrive in the front yard.

"The North Shore grew up in the '50s and '60s. A lot of the housing stock that is here is dated but it is solid."

But Eric says most of these older homes are being bought and demolished when for many there could be another option. Sandberg's company has done about five bungalow conversion since it began eight years ago.

"Because the North Shore is so expensive I would expect there will be more conversions of bungalows going on."