The Smith Home

Our largest project - finished in 2009


Planning  Preparation Construction Finishing Kitchen Landscape Railings FrontDoor TheRest  Views Wine Cellar

Master Bedroom Dresser  How to build a drawer

To home page     



We first visited Fairwinds in 1994, when my Uncle and Aunt, George and Vonnie Sutherland, hosted a family reunion for their 50th anniversary at their home just north of Fairwinds.  Part of the fun was a family golf game at the challenging Fairwinds Golf Course, where we were impressed with the golf course, the great houses in the neighborhood, the beautiful scenery, and Peter Sutherland's hole in one on the sixth.  It never occurred to Steph or me that we would one day live here.

What a beautiful area!


Fairwinds GC

Ninth green and first fairway

Little Qualicum Falls

Great hiking trails all through this Park.

Sand rats

The 2004 Parksville sand castle competition

Hike from Cable Bay leads to an overlook of Stuart Channel and Mudge Island

The stag who lives in our front yard

Double rainbow after a summer rain


When we visited Maureen and David in 2000, shortly after they had moved to Nanaimo, we came out to Fairwinds to see how it had changed in the interim.  We couldn't believe how many great lots were available and how reasonably priced (especially in US$!).  With M&D's help in choosing, we made an offer to the sales agent.  I told him that this was an impulse buy that was unlikely to survive our return to California the next day.  That wasn't really true, as we had fallen for this place, so we were really pleased when the agent persuaded the reluctant owners to accept our offer.


Maureen & David Thomas' first home in Nanaimo

Thomas view south

Nanaimo Bay.

We bought our lot!



The plans for the house started the day we bought our lot.  I had an idea for the style and shape of the house when we were exploring the lot and I asked Steph to drive the first leg of the trip back to California so that I could get our ideas down on paper. 

The next step was to ask a local surveyor, Peter Mason, to do a topological survey.  This gave us a plan showing contour lines for every 2' of elevation change, as well as major tree locations.  I traced the contour lines onto 1/4" plywood, cut, and stacked the sections to give us a 1/4"=2' scale model of the lot.  Once the lot model was finished, we could finish our house design and see where our house should be located.  I build a balsa model of the house and "dug" out some of the plywood to provide a level spot for the house model.

Seeing the house in 3D gave us more confidence in our design and ensured that the house would blend into the landscape.


Topographical Survey

Building the Lot model

View from SE


A lot of people contributed to our design in the next couple of years, but we are most thankful to our good friend Judith Paul, who gave us many ideas, including the curved stairs leading up to the panoramic view across the great room and a much better entrance into the upper bedroom area.  (Of course, the curved stairs caused all involved in building many headaches, but the results are worth it).

When we were finally ready to build, we asked Peter Jorgensen to take our sketches and come up with a plan that could be used for building.  He added a tremendous amount of experience to the final result with many significant improvements over my initial plan.


Ian's original design

Upper floor

Jorgensen house design

Upper floor

Jorgensen house design

Lower floor

Lot Preparation


Peter helped us arrange a contract with Tim Rann, who agreed to start construction February 3, 2003.  He agreed to build the house to lock-up (lockable doors and drywall installed) and he told me that it would take him 17 weeks.  After that, I planned to finish the house myself.  Not only would I have a lot of fun, but it would save some money and I would have projects to work on for years!

We were concerned that the natural environment of our property might be damaged during construction, so we hired Victoria Drakeford, a local landscape architect, to create a plan for the finished lot.  Once that was done, she, Peter Jorgensen, and Tim Rann met to discuss how to build the house while minimizing the impact to the property.  As an example of how seriously Tim took our concerns, his crew carefully set aside the moss on the route from the house to the service feeds, cut a trench in the rock by hand, laid the service piping, and recovered the trench with the moss.

Tim started rock excavation on schedule and a couple of weeks later was laying foundations.


The Landscape Plan

By Victoria Drakeford

Granite smasher

Clearing rock for the foundation



Framing is the most exciting time for the owner of a house under construction.  Within days, you start to see a real house!  I was able to come up twice from California during construction - at the start of framing and just before the electricians started.

Framing the great room

Framing view from the NE

Garage and craft rooms framed

MBR wall

The "beak" framed

Curved stairs from the foyer

  And once the roof and the siding goes on and the windows go in, it REALLY looks like a house.

Dennis and Tom on a break

Tiling the jack roof

Finished from the front

  It is amazing how many things go into the walls.  Plumbing lines, phone lines, electrical, central vacuum, heating and ventilation ducts, LAN wiring, audio/visual wiring, security wiring, intercom wiring, gas lines, blocking, vapour barriers, and insulation.

James installing heating ducts

Great room fireplace

Wall between garage doors

- typical busy wall




And then the drywall is installed and taped. 

What more can you ask from a builder: great workmanship, highly collaborative, positive attitude, on schedule, and on budget.  Thank you Tim!!

After that, it was my turn.  Steph and I moved from California to Fairwinds on June 20, 2003 and moved into our 23' travel trailer with our two cats.  Cozy.

I worked on the house for 10 or so hours most days until September to get the house to a stage where we could live in it.  Namely a bathroom, a working kitchen, and a place to sleep.  Of course, I had to start with the workshop, because that's where everything happens.

At the end of every day, a welcome hot tub!



Our trailer at Nanoose Creek Campgrounds

Step 1: paint the garage/workshop

A messy, but happy spray painter

The tool area

Workshop workbench

First usable thing in the house - the hot tub!


The Kitchen


The next step was the kitchen.  The first thing that I did was to install the under tile electric heating grid, which was time consuming.  The wire coils hither and thither around the room and then I filled in the blanks with 3/8" plywood.  Next step was to cover everything with mortar and then lay tile on top of that.  Two weeks later, we had a floor!

All of that to get to the part that I had imagined I would be doing -- building the kitchen cabinets.  What fun!!

The biggest challenge was installing the oven.  How do you hoist up a large 300 lb box and slide it into a hole in the wall by yourself?  I finally figured out a way to do it.  I tipped over the oven and Steph put a 3' 2x4 under the side.  Then I tipped it the other way and did the other side.  Then backwards, forward, left. and right repeated until the oven was PRECARIOUSLY two feet off the ground and more or less in line with the oven cavity.  I slid it backwards and it went in as smooth as silk.  The 650 lb fridge was less of a problem because it didn't have to be elevated.  I just used a dolly to wheel it into place.  (I will never cease to be amazed that movers do this for a living!).

I designed the kitchen specifically for us.  For example, we each have our own sinks on counters of different heights (forearm at 45 with hand resting on the counter).  Although we watched our budget in other areas, we didn't skimp on anything in the kitchen.  I installed a Viking gas range with grill, 42" built-in fridge, and Thermidor double ovens.  The garbage compactor, recycling bins, and microwave are all built into the cabinets.  It's a large kitchen with plenty of storage space, including a walk-in pantry.


Steph's counter started

Ian's counter started

Floor heating grid installed

Steph's lower cabinets started

Ovens installed

Getting ready for the fridge

Recycling bins installed

Range hood installed

Ready for the dishwasher



During that first summer we contracted with Dale Cunningham to complete our landscaping. The first step was to have Tim Rann finish his contract which was to shape the property with his large equipment contractor.  This "landscaping day" included the digging and preparation for the large ponds that we had planned for the front "magic garden".  The picture below shows the rubber liner that took six people to install.

Later, we learned that ponds have a few drawbacks.  Raccoons and even otters eat the fish and regular maintenance is needed to remove leaves and debris from the ponds.  We had imagined fish swimming happily in our pond and we really don't like yard maintenance, so we scrapped the idea of a pond.  I found someone to take away the liner and we filled in the hole.  Note the maintenance-free dry creek that replaced it!


Victoria directing the burm construction

A future birch tree

The upper pond done

Soon to be no more pond starting to fill

Building the dry creek

Secret garden finished

Stair Railings


The next big project was a real challenge - making curved balustrades (guard rails) and a hand rail for the stairs.  I'd never done anything like this before and didn't know the best way to do it.  Steph came up with the idea that we would use wrought iron fences (upper and lower) with wooden cap and newell posts.  We contracted with George Ewing to do the iron work and he suggested that I could use the pre-painted version as a jig to do the laminate glue-up.  That worked great.

I glued together many strips of thin re-sawn cherry wood bent to suit and clamped to the railings.  For the hand rail, I made wooden clamps for each step and glued the thin strips to shape by clamping them against the wall.


Stair clamps for the railing glue-up

Lower guard rail finished

Upper guard rail finished

The Front Door


The work of which I am most proud is our front door.  Patterned after a commercial door that we liked, I used raised panel techniques to create two identical doors from 3/4" cherry wood and glued them back to back with a thin sandwich in between to make up the required door thickness.  The biggest challenge in making a door is to ensure that it is not warped in any way.  By careful wood selection and a lot of care during construction, I managed to achieve that.  The door is not perfect, but I'm happy.



Getting ready to hang

Bob Popple helps lift the 100 lb door into place

A finished (almost professional) front door!

The Rest of it


One of the more important aspects of a home is the interior design.  We brought almost all of our furniture and all of our artwork from California, but how would we choose wall colours?  We had the good fortune to have Deirdre Love recommended to us who showed us how to design the house colour scheme around what we had, what we liked, and what worked together.

However, after painting the garage/workshop, I concluded that not only did I not like painting too much, I was not very good at it.  So I asked Tim Rann to take it on and he selected Lawrence Reeves to do the work.  He did a great job and still comes back for touch ups now and again.  Sometimes you just have to recognize your limitations!

Other major projects of our first year include the foyer tile job, two guest bathrooms, the built in bookcase in my den, and setting up the home theater and in-house audio/visual.  On the latter project, our grandson, Jason, visited us and helped me.  He has since started and apprenticeship in the field and I expect he will be very successful, judging from the way he picked it up so quickly.

The final projects included the master bedroom built in dresser, the nook bookcase, and bookcases and cabinets for Steph's room. 

This wonderful project kept me busy for six years!!


Living room fireplace

Den bookcase beginnings

Den - walnut bookcase

Foyer view

Home Theater doors, laminated maple and cherry

HT chairs - motorized, NASA foam - easy to fall asleep!

A/V closet - house sound and video control

View coming up the stairs

Lower guest bath

Lower guest bathroom vanity

Upper guest bath

Master Bedroom fireplace

Steph's desk



When we bought the lot, we thought that we might have a limited view of the Georgia Strait, so we were very happily surprised to find that our view was quite decent.  We have since visited many homes in Fairwinds and have discovered that a lot of them have good views, some great views, but they are all different.  The original developers did a wonderful job of laying out the property to take maximum advantage of view lines.

The fabulous thing about the view is that it is constantly changing.  Cloud cover, lighting conditions, season, and time of day make large differences.  My favourite is at night, sitting in the hot tub, with stars overhead and the city lights in the distance.

The first winter after we moved in brought a snow storm that delivered 6" of snow that lasted three days.  While it was here, we had the most fantastic views, with everything covered in a soft white and unbelievable light.


View of Nanaimo in the summer

Winchelsea Islands in summer

Eastern winter view

A hot tub in winter!

Garden view from Steph's room

Ian's front lawn

Sunrise over Nanaimo

After the rain

View from the kitchen window


The Wine Cellar


Building the wine cellar was a lot of fun.  When we designed the house, I intended that the original stand-alone 200 bottle wine cabinet that I built years ago would be housed in the Utility room, and we did use it that way for the first couple of years.  When we started visiting the Okanagan Valley after we moved here, I realized that this was not going to be big enough, so I commandeered a corner of the workshop and designed and built a small room where we could store 750 bottles.

The room is constructed with 6" insulated walls, a built up insulated floor, and insulated ceilings.  It has a cooling unit that keeps the wine temperature at a constant 55 F (I never have gotten used to celsius!).  The wine racks are kiln-dried, clear cedar.


How about that grape colour that Steph chose!

Almost full!