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What you can get that's less than 2,000 sq. feet for $1.75 mil in W. Vancouver

Celebrated by architecture critics throughout Vancouver, this Ron Thom home is on the market for $1.75M. Photo: Courtesy of Judi Whyte, Realtor.

A tidy West Vancouver Modernist masterpiece which has been on the market since mid July has created some worthy blogosphere buzz.

The Boyd house has been put up for sale by freelance writer Kerry McPhedran, (personal aside: Kerry is a friend/colleague) and visiting her home about fifteen years ago was my introduction to West Coast modernism. Secluded above the busyness and traffic of Park Royal and Marine Drive in West Vancouver’s Sentinel Hill, “sanctuary” or even “rec property in the city” was the first thing I thought of when viewing the property. And it had a gorgeous view over to the Lion’s Gate.

The listing says: “The Boyd house (named for original clients, painters Joan and Bruce Boyd), is a small architectural gem that seems to belong on its rugged site, growing out of the steep ivy and fern-covered slope but barely visible from Duchess Avenue.”

Like many of these moderns, the house has drawn attention due its architectural heritage and hefty price tag: $1.75M for 1,658 square feet. In the same way that modest bungalows were priced at $15,000 in East Vancouver after World War II, these “Midnight Special” moderns were often built for a wide variety of clients (the Boyds were painters) who were in love with BC rain forest and sought out affordable, modest homes designed to complement the landscape. W

As renowned home historian Eve Lazarus points out, “Kerry McPhedran is selling the house she bought in 1972. It’s not because she wants to—as a freelance writer, it’s her retirement plan, and because of its tony West Vancouver address, it comes with a hefty $1.9 million price tag—too steep for most of us.

And, that’s a problem for Kerry, because she won’t sell her home to just anybody. The house nurtured her when she needed it, she values the part it played in the West Coast architectural movement through its architect Ron Thom, and the aesthetic—one that works with the landscape, rather than imposing itself upon it.

In 1990, McPhedran wrote a remarkable reminiscence of her home and Mr Thom (whom she confesses, she had never heard of) for Western Living magazine. (It also appears here in Alex Waterhouse-Hayward’s blog).

Like the Moon residence in Edgemont Village which came on the market in 2011, the Boyd residence is sure to attract its looky-loos during its open houses. As McPhedran told Eve Lazarus,I want someone who really loves this house and who will be thrilled to be in it. If you have lived in one you do feel your life is better having lived in that space.”

Maybe it will find new life, as the MLS spec sheet says, a “possible laneway house.” Indeed, there is a special heritage covenant that allows for an “Infill opportunity” to be constructed on the property.

What would Thom – who designed these homes as a moonlighting gig because his day-job didn’t pay well enough and who died in 1996 – have made of the inflationary spiral of West Coast real estate?

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