British Columbia is the westernmost province in Canada, which is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. With some of the most picturesque views in the country, the province is home to more than 5 million people and is Canada’s third-most populous province.
Along British Columbia’s West Coast, there are homes that revel those seen on the U.S.’s West Coast, with endless seaside views and expansive layouts. One of these homes, which sits on a 23,000-square-foot lot in White Rock right across from the Semiahmoo Bay, was designed by the homeowner and local architectural firm, JM Architecture Inc., to pay homage to the area.
Owner, Rana (Ron) Aadmi, founder of A&A Construction, a successful commercial development company, had a vision to create a West Coast contemporary masterpiece in his own way. The simple design goal was to fully leverage the southern exposure lot by inviting in the sun, which inspired the home’s name, “Casa Solaris,” or “House of the Sun.”
Working alongside Joe Minten of JM Architecture Inc. and Ryan Fasan of Centanni Tile, Aadmi strived to design something one-of-a-kind using innovative materials -- a feat that began back in 2015. “The initial plans for the four-story residence were developed and submitted to White Rock city hall for permits. The first roadblock as usual, came from the zoning and bylaw officials there,” said Ryan Fasan, in marketing and creative at Centanni Tile Inc. in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. “The newly minted plans featured the garage access designed at street level off Marine Drive, which the lot was not zoned for. Neither was it zoned for the over 4,000-square-foot living space that was required for Rana’s vision and growing family.
“After over two years of litigation, dispensations were granted and permits delivered with both crucial attributes being approved,” he went on to say. “Anyone looking for a 5% increase in volume or any other bending of rules knows the stress, effort and heartache belied by the preceding short sentences. Bylaws have since been changed specifically so that no other homes will be able to have a Marine Drive garage access like Casa Solaris was granted, immediately making of this home something even more special and unique.”
In 2018, three years after the zoning process commenced, permits were finally granted. Aadmi and his newly contracted builder, Kliewer Bros. Construction (KBC) Ltd. in Vancouver, began crafting the bayside masterpiece. Since Aadmi had a strong vision of what he wanted to achieve with the home, he oversaw the design, sourcing, procurement and execution himself.
“Working closely with his point-man Ron Kliewer from KBC, they commenced with making Aadmi’s vision a reality,” Fasan explained. “Body, soul, blood and bone went into the design and execution of this project, with deep thoughts and personal touches along the way. This home was to be a family legacy that stood for generations, seemingly un-weathered by sun, wind or waves. So much of themselves being imparted to this project, Rana and his wife wrote a handwritten letter of thoughts and hopes that was placed by hand upon the bedrock before the foundation was poured.
“The winter storms whipping through the straight, the railway directly across the street and the steep topography of the site meant the envelope, insulation and glazing were critical success factors for this project,” he went on to say. “From the outside in, the goal was to achieve the necessary technical performance with sustainable, long-lasting materials. A minimal vocabulary in the design language was called for here. There would not be four or five metals, wood varietals, porcelain or lighting fixtures -- there would be one or two of each at most. The site itself and environment were the protagonists here, the building was to get out of the way. Honest and unpretentious other than the attention to detail, this project was designed and built like a Bertram sport-fisher to not only withstand but thrive in the toughest maritime conditions with style and grace for decades.”
To complement the home’s unique floor-to-ceiling windows and aluminum composite cladding, a variety of Spanish porcelain tile was selected for the ground floor cladding, interior walls and floors and exterior patios. “Rana went to nearly every tile supplier in the city, seeking allies for his vision of a unified design language that spanned all four stories and connected all living spaces inside and out,” Fasan said. “He needed a large-format tile to take advantage of the open-plan stories.
“Stories are, in all meanings of the word, the correct term for each strata of the residence, as each are designed for a specific purpose and like all stories, have unique titles -- complete with nameplates in the family elevator,” he detailed. “The top floor, ‘Sunrise,’ houses the main kitchen, dining room and in summer months opens two-thirds of the glass wall to incorporate a massive patio to the living space. Next down comes ‘Sunset,’ home to the master bedroom, ensuite, exercise room and another sweeping expanse of patio. The first story wears the moniker ‘Solstice’ and includes a second kitchen, the children’s rooms and playrooms. The ground floor, which houses Rana’s office/man cave/wine cellar and toy box for his vintage Firebird and custom chopper, can only be called ‘Eclipse.’”
According to Fasan, the ground floor cladding needed to withstand more abuse and potential impact, which is why large-format, gauged porcelain tile panels were selected and supplied by Centanni Tile. “The street-level cladding required a bonded facade in a more durable material than the extruded aluminum panels used for the rainscreen in upper stories,” he said. “The vertically installed 39- x 98-inch panels from Spanish manufacturer, Inalco’s Alea collection, feature a design congruent with the poured-in-place concrete slab of the garage and minimal joints vertical joints to distract from the monolithic look.”
For all of the interior floors and walls, Centanni Tile supplied 24- x 48-inch porcelain tiles from Navarti Cerámica’s Ziro collection. The lighter “Blanco” color was employed on the feature and bathroom walls, with the darker “Perla” color used on the floors. “Both colors are very close to each other, with ‘Perla’ being a shade darker than the ‘Blanco,’” Fasan said. “The decision was made to have the darker color on the floor but keep the same aesthetic throughout to use continuity to give the illusion of bigger space. The natural variance in color perception on horizontal versus vertical planes is subtly enhanced by using the two colorways of the same material.”
For the exterior patios on the second, third and fourth stories, Centanni Tile also supplied 24- x 48-inch porcelain 2-cm pavers from Rocersa Ceràmica’s Contract collection in “Grey.” “The aesthetic and color tone is a great compliment to the graphic on the Ziro collection and allowed for seamless aesthetic and gridlines to flow through from interior to exterior. Again, giving the illusion of more space and even when doors/windows are closed, creating the perception that the exterior spaces are a part of the living space,” Fasan said. “The end result is continuous color, aesthetic and even grout joints that span 30+ feet from indoor to out in some locations. Simple, elegant and timeless in every sense of the word.”
Ten slabs of the porcelain panels from Inalco’s Alea collection were used for the cladding, 4,300 square feet of porcelain tile from Navarti’s Ziro collection was placed on the interior walls and floors, and 800 square feet of porcelain tile from Rocersa’s Contract collection was laid on the exterior patios -- all of which was specially chosen after much consideration. “Many other products were considered prior to the final selections,” Fasan explained. “In fact, the interior design firm that came up with the original designs went a completely different direction. The homeowner had a strong vision and wanted a cohesive and continuous flow of materials throughout the entire building. The most important thing for him was to have a single, large rectangular format of tile throughout the interior and exterior spaces.
“The house is large, but narrow, and the continuous graphic aesthetic as well as grid-line matrix of grout joints was critical in creating a spacious feel,” Fasan went on to say. “The owner of the property spent a long time reviewing options at every importer in the city before settling on Centanni Tile because of the broad array of Spanish tile that met all the requirements. The final design shown in the project details was a collaborative design achieved by the homeowner and president at Centanni Tile.”
The tile selection was one of the most challenging aspects of the project, aside from all of the structural specifications and zoning issues. “No one in town could supply a 24- x 48-inch tile in the right look that had a corresponding anti-slip, 2-cm paver format for those huge patios,” Fasan said. “It was critical for the interior and exterior paving to speak the same language, as the patio decks were a crucial part of the living space and visible year-round whether the sliders were open or closed. The tile conundrum persisted until Rana met Donny, president and owner of Centanni Tile. The two hit it off, and thanks to Donny’s efforts in curating tightly complementary collections of European-made tile, managed to put together a specification using only two products from Spain that could match the high standards of the project’s aesthetics and more importantly the technical requirements of this legacy focused design.”
Ornament Tiles and Surface Ltd. in Surrey, British Columbia assisted with the tile installation for the 4,120-square-foot home. “The installation crew are absolute craftsmen,” Fasan said. “They know their work and do an exceptional job. When working with consummate professionals such as this, you don’t say more than you have to, if that. They did an unbelievable job throughout the entire residence.”
Altogether, Casa Solaris took a little more than five years to complete. “Everyone that sees it believes that it’s something incredibly special,” Fasan said. “It is in perfect harmony with its surroundings, and in fact, pays homage to the setting, allowing the environment and view to take the lead. Further, the owner had legacy firmly in mind throughout the design and build process. It was vitally important to him that this project look and function as good for his great grandchildren as it does today. The methods and materials (not least of which being the progressive Spanish ceramic) that went into this project truly embrace the build for life framework of sustainability.
“From performance to aesthetics, Casa Solaris is a masterpiece homage to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by this unique site in one of the world’s most desirable cities,” Fasan concluded. “It’s easy to see the pretty face and be swept off your feet, but the real magic of this project is by looking deeper and seeing the thoughtfulness and care taken to create something that is as enduring as the bedrock cliff and encapsulated hand-written note from the creators, its foundation rests on.”
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada
Architect: JM Architecture Inc., Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Designer/Builder: Kliewer Bros. Construction Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Tile Supplier: Centanni Tile, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada (Inalco’s Alea collection, Navarti Cerámica’s Ziro collection and Rocersa Ceràmica’s Contract collection)
Tile Installer: Ornament Tiles and Surface Ltd., Surrey, British Columbia, Canada