Five Eccentric B.C. Houses

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Switzer House, a futuristic  house that was painted shocking pink and looked like a space ship. The West Van house only survived 11 years and was sacrificed for the Upper Levels Highway in 1971.

Here are five of my favourite eccentric houses that still stand (or did at the time of research).

1. The Hobbit House(s)

The Hobbit House
587 West King Edward

There are two in Vancouver and one in West Van designed by Ross Lort in the early 40s, and against all odds, all survive. Hobbit house at King Edward and Cambie is now part of a town house development. The future looked shaky for The Hobbit House on West Broadway when it sold to a developer six years ago, but instead of razing the place, James Curtis did a deal with the City where he sunk close to a million dollars into renovating the house, designated it, and in return was allowed to subdivide and build a second house on the large lot.

2. The Rotating House

5321 Old West Saanich Road
5321 Old West Saanich Road

Barney Oldfield (1913-1978) was a mechanical genius and inventor. In 1969 he built a 12-sided rotating house out of steel on the Old West Saanich Road on Vancouver Island. This house rotates at a complete 360 degrees, can spin at two speeds and reverse. His other inventions include a specialized 24-ton logging truck, bulldozer blades and a custom-built aerodynamic car he built in 1940 called “the spirit of tomorrow.” When I took this photo in 2010, the house was still in the Oldfield family, but renters had hooked up a television in a way that interfered with the houses mechanics and stopped it from turning.

3. Chuck Currie’s Polka Dotted house

Chuck Currie moved here in 1989 and painted his house three years later
2105 East 3rd Avenue

Technically, the only thing that’s eccentric about Chef Chuck Currie’s house is the paint job. But it’s so startling that it rates a spot on this list. Chuck bought the house at 3rd and Lakewood in 1989 and painted it white with huge red polka dots a few years later. It was a joke, he says. A friend who owned a painting company went on holidays and came home to find that his friends had painted his house with purple polka dots. Chuck loved the idea and thought it was a great way to spruce up his neighbourhood.

 4. The Steel House

3112 Steel Street, Victoria
3112 Steel Street, Victoria

When I wrote about this house in December 2010, Shaun Torontow, its designer and owner had it for sale. I suspect he still does. At 35 feet long and three levels, the house comes in at just over 1,000 square feet. And at just nine feet wide, it’s one of the skinniest houses in Canada (The Sam Kee building in Vancouver’s Chinatown holds the record at just under five feet). Shaun, an artist and welder, built his house out of steel and outfitted it with steel furniture, a bathroom that looks like a laboratory and an elevator to an underground pool.

5. Paul Merrick’s Tree House

Larson Place, West Vancouver
Larson Place, West Vancouver

Architect Paul Merrick designed this West Vancouver for his family in 1974. The original structure was less than 900 sq.ft. Later Merrick added a major addition incorporating cedar stone and glass and recycled building materials. There are soaring ceilings, multiple levels and exterior decks that blur the indoors with the outdoors. Because it’s built on a rocky promontory and nestled within private forest much of the house has the feel of living in a tree canopy. The current owner describes it as “part tree house, part Winnie the Pooh.”

“Living in this house is a lifestyle, it is your life and it becomes who you are,” she told me for my chapter about West Coast architects in Sensational Vancouver.

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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9 comments

  1. There’s another “skinny” house on the west side of Vancouver. Can’t remember the exact location but you’d have to get out of your car to see it because it was hidden behind a tree. It was around west 14th-15th between Camosun and Alma.

  2. I think it was built in the early 1970s – there was a Vancouver Sun story written about it at the time. It was built on land between 2 other houses. I saw it many times because I would take all my friends to see it -I just can’t recall exactly where it was and unfortunately it’s easily missed because it was behind a tree. I think the last time I saw it was in the mid 1980s.

  3. I loved this post. I fell in love with the hobbit house in 1981, when I first noticed it while driving about with my boyfriend. (now my hubby) I screeched when I first saw it, and said it was mine! LOL Now it’s rather famous so I think it’s weird that I loved it so much and am glad it’s saved. There’s a weird house with a turret near my street, near the Joyce Skytrain station…it’s at the end of Ann street near the ravine. It was built in the 1980’s I think. There are so many unique styles here in Vancouver.

  4. So you know, the round house still rotates and the cable hook up does not interfere with the spinning or the mechanics….

    ‘The Renter’

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