Interiorssneak peeks

In Vancouver, A New Townhouse Renovation Inspired by Lifestyle

by Karla Dreyer

Most homeowners see a “new build” and are in awe of the fresh flooring, new cabinets and design. But what I love about Erin and Darren is that they had a different vision for their new townhome in Vancouver, British Columbia. For this couple, it was a priority to truly love their home and everything about it, so they reached out to family friend and designer April Tidey for some help.

The new 1,250-square-foot townhome was dominated with builder basics like brown melamine cabinets and, for a purpose-driven foodie, an uninspriring kitchen. Erin, a small business owner and food reporter, is passionate about spotlighting the restaurants and businesses that prioritize responsibly sourced ingredients. She is also the co-host of Mindful Movie Nights — a series of documentary screenings which aim to raise public awareness about the impact our food industry has on our health and our planet — and Mindful Book Club, which largely focuses on books about veganism and animal rights. She and Darren wanted a space that represented their values and lifestyle.

Darren — who is partner and head of digital strategy at independent creative agency Rethink — and Erin love nature and natural materials. They wanted to fill their home with quality items made by local artisans. “We avoided the ‘big shops’ as much as possible and instead worked with local crafts and trades people,” Erin shares.

So the renovation began to make the new house accommodate their needs and reflect their personalities. Erin and her dad ripped out all the upper cabinets in the kitchen. They were replaced with 12-foot exposed iron shelving, complete with a tall ladder, designed by April and built by Erin’s uncle Russ. A second similar shelf was also installed on the opposite wall. They left the space around the oven vent bare and wrapped it in iron. An iron shelf was also installed above the stove for ingredients Erin uses often while cooking. It completelty transformed the space, creating a setting you might see in a European restaurant. The lower cabinets were replaced with a light, ashy plywood. The kitchen island was given a new look thanks to concrete artist Brett Riekert, who poured white slabs of concrete for new countertops. Brett also poured a beautiful piece which would become a kitchen desk.

The couple’s lifestyle continued to influence the interior design as Erin had a web-based cooking show in mind when making their home choices. “My goal is to showcase how easy plant-based cooking can be — and how vegans enjoy eating more than salad and tofu,” Erin says. They wanted the kitchen to be a simple yet attractive backdrop for the show.

For flooring, they ripped up their wide-slat dark hardwood to expose the concrete underneath. Concrete worker Brett Mauer ground the floor down leaving a matte finish with natural imperfections. In all, the whole home’s design process took about five months.

With many condos and townhomes out there today that are stocked with builder basics, Erin and Darren’s home is an inspiration on how we can still create a home that feels unique and aligned to our indiviual preferences and lifestyle. —Karla

Photography by Janis Nicolay

Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This is one of the couple's favorite design elements of the downstairs area — that light fixture! This massive but delicate piece is wrapped with linen and held together by thin pieces of bamboo. It was a special find from Home Stories in NYC.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The exposed shelving was a labor of love, but the most special item in this picture is the Sunbeam Mixmaster (very top middle). “It belonged to my Granny Betty who was my kindred spirit. I miss her, and her baking... lemon meringue pie, frozen chocolate cookies, every day,” Erin remembers.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The heart of the space is the kitchen. On the right you can see part of their Janaki Larsen ceramics collection. “I’m in love with her stuff -- it has a matte finish and every piece is different,” Erin says. You can also see some of Erin’s most used ingredients in glass containers for ease of use.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This is Erin making homemade almond milk, which is nothing like the kind you might find at the supermarket. “It's unbelievably creamy and delicious, sweetened with a tiny bit of maple syrup. It's surprisingly easy to make and will be one of the first 'cooking demo videos' I’ll shoot for my cooking show,” Erin shares.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
Erin loves special ethnic ingredients like this rice wine vinegar and sake. “Darren, my hubby, is half Japanese and we are IN LOVE with the Japanese way of life. We try to incorporate as much as of their culture into our lives as possible. Here you can also see my favorite cutting boards from Pacific Design Labs, a local company who uses local reclaimed wood for their creations,” Erin says.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This workspace is perfect for Erin to jot down recipes and access cookbooks. The couple also has an Urban Cultivator full of fresh organic micro-greens. “Aesthetically I'd say it beats a wine fridge easily. It's also fun to gift fresh greens to neighbors and friends." One of their favorite possessions in this picture is the portrait of dog Effie on the second shelf, illustrated by local pet artist Ashley O'Mara.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
More beautiful Janaki Larsen bowls and some fresh lavender from Sole Food Farms.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This coffee table started as a vision that wood artist Brent Comber brought to life. This entire block of wood is from one tree that fell in Squamish, British Columbia. The table stools are from the same tree -- they offer double duty by being able to pull them over towards the living room to create a social circle when they have guests over. The art is by Patricia Larsen. “One day I would love to have her work in each room,” Erin says. In the background you can see beautiful plants from Greenstems, Erin’s go-to local florist run by designer Heather March.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The uniquely designed and crafted coffee table shows its character with those gorgeous tree rings. An oversized salad bowl and dried flowers from Greenstems add the natural and earthy elements that the couple live by.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This is where Erin does most of her food photography. The table is made up of a marble off-cut and a steel base made by her uncle. “We found most of the marble tables on the market to be 'too perfect.' This one has rough edges, an imperfect shape and no finish,” Erin explains. The vases are by Janaki Larsen, and these incredibly unique flowers are called 'blushing brides' from Granville Island Florist.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
A gorgeous Janaki Larsen vase which is also used to hold kitchen utensils.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The adorable family of 4 (one is yet to be born)! “Darren and I are both so in love with Effie and each other. If Effie isn't up on the couch with us, we beg her to join us. Our home is extremely pet-friendly."
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
This is the family’s rescue dog, Effie, from Mexico. She is a huge part of their family — both Erin and Darren are passionate animal lovers.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
As much as they love neutral tones, the addition of texture and vintage items adds so much warmth. This vintage light was a great find from a local shop, and the patterned rug from Country Furniture adds a casual warmth.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The master bedroom is a lesson in simplicity. It’s the mix of old, new and texture that keeps it interesting with its vintage bedside table, the antique bedside lamps and the hanging light their designer, April, made herself. “We got tired of trying to find someone to create her vision, so she got some wire and cloth and pieced it together herself,” Erin says.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
The bedroom chair, from Country Furniture, adds to the open and textured feel of the room.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
When something is handmade it’s special, and when it’s handmade by a family friend it’s even better. This light was made by their friend and designer, April. It balances out the gold vintage wall light from Scott Landon Antiques.
Home Tour of Erin Ireland on Design*Sponge
Although most items are from independent shops, the rug, which is one of Erin’s favorite items, was a HomeGoods purchase. “On the bedside table is my favorite Saje Nebulizer (the aromaOm) which I turn on before bed -- it runs the whole night pumping out stress-relieving air scented by their 'tranquility' essential oil,” Erin explains.
Erin Ireland's Home Tour on Design*Sponge

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  • Ooh, I love this home! Very refreshing and unique. I love the textures (and the dog!). Great kitchen. What a peaceful vibe.

  • So nice to see something completely different. While I could never live that “simply” I do admire the effort and the aesthetic!

  • Beautiful. How fortunate that in spite of the builder finishes the bones of the place were so good with those amazing high ceilings and that window. I love the cloth pendant lights and that high metal shelf and the treatment of the exhaust. Love everything really including the dog who perfectly matches the space! Is the dog vegan too?

  • Your home is lovely: the white, the light, and the wood—with the strong iron bolts of shelving. I too live in Vancouver, and understand how this space brings in and transmit our special (and precious) sunlight.

    Where did you find the couch. I love it. (also love your bed linens).
    Thank you.

    Fix a typo in this version.

  • Congrats to you both Erin and Darren on a unique housing concept I would expect nothing less from you Erin lol!!

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