Edmonton’s modernist landmark Poole House gets a green  Upgrade

The Poole House has long been considered a design and architectural landmark in Edmonton. It’s credited with helping to shape the design movement in town back in the sixties. Now, as a result of some four-year renovation under new ownership, it’s starting a brand new, greener,nbsp;chapter.

Produced by Don Bittorf and James Wensley, the Poole Residence was built in 1968 for local philanthropists John and Barbara Poole. Constructed entirely from cedar and stone, the home is nestled among six hectares of woodland, overlooking a ravine, in Westridgenbsp;Park.

It boasts all the hallmarks of classic West Coast modern layout: floor-to-ceiling wood-framed windows, exposed post-and-beam structure, flat roofs with shady, protective overhangs, clean lines and an expansive and airy inside. It’s a design that has won the house a legion of admirers through the years; one of them, the current proprietor, Seanbsp;Taubner.

“This was my dream house because I was five years old,” says Mrs. Taubner, 43. “My mom and Barbara Poole were best friends, we were acquaintances, and my mum used to swim in their indoor pool in the winter and I would always get to tag along. I simply loved everything about thenbsp;home.”

“I still can not quite believe that it is our family home today,” she adds, “I’ve been pinching myself for fournbsp;years.”

In 2007, John Poole passed away, followed by his wife, Barbara, in 2012. At that moment, now married with four children, Ms. Taubner and her husband, John Bradley, were planning to construct a family home on two lots on Saskatchewan Drive in Belgravia.

“We were going to build a home as close in design to the Poole House as we can manage to build,” Ms. Taubner states. “I am a lawyer but I had been taking some design classes at the University of Alberta to better understand that process which was our objective. That is how big an impression that this house was made on mynbsp;life{}”

Then a phone call changednbsp;everything.

“We have a call in the Poole family attorney who stated John and Barbara’s children want to offer us the opportunity to purchase their late parent’s home,” Ms. Taubner states. “They knew how much I loved the house and they wanted to safeguard its future so they said, if we could manage to pay the appraised value of the house, there would be no discussions, it would be {}”

“I was floored. Seriously, I was just in shock,” she adds. “When we had gotten the unhappy news that Barbara had passed away we did wonder what the destiny of the home may be, we really hoped it would not get torn down for a subdivision, but not in our wildest dreams did we imagine we could purchase it.”

“We were so thankful they thought of us that we decided we had to try,” shenbsp;states.

And so they did. By selling the lots they had intended to build on and accepting financing from family in addition to the lender, the few “scrimped and scraped together” the funds they had to secure the sale of Ms. Taubner’s youth dreamnbsp;home.

Taking ownership in December, 2013, the Taubner-Bradley family made the decision to embark on a lengthy and elaborate renovation to sympathetically add two extra bedrooms into the three-bedroom home to accommodate their loved ones. They would do so by adding an upstairsnbsp;expansion.

“I was really nervous about that, in all honesty, because we desperately wanted it to seem like it was a part of the home but we knew we would need a very skilled architect to be certain that was the situation,” Ms. Taubnernbsp;states.

The architect they hired for the project was Tai Ziola, working with Effect Home Builders, which would replace all doors and windows, bathrooms and thenbsp;kitchen.

“It was an extremely distinctive job to work on,” recalls Sydney Bond, design consultant at Effect Home Builders. “The house itself is unlike any other; it’s a warmth about it and it actually brings nature inside it with the clean lines, big windows and cedar inside. The family were very worried about losing any of the magic so it was a really considered and detail driven renovation. However, verynbsp;gratifying.”

In addition to retaining the house’s magic, the project also aimed to restore and protect many of it’s unique features, including the cedar cladding, the outside patios, slate paths and the full-sized indoor swimmingnbsp;pool.

“The plan was to reestablish while keeping everything as accurate to the original house as possible and that is exactly what we strived for in each part of the endeavor,” Ms. Taubner states. “We actually ended up stealing cedar from areas like the swimming pool changing rooms, where it is not so important, to use on the expansion. Retaining the gist of the home was our biggestnbsp;priority{}”

From the end of January, 2014, upon getting their initial energy bill, the family’s priorities suddenly expanded to include geothermal to heat the home and a solar array to heat the indoornbsp;pool.

“We were shocked when we received our first energy bill,” Ms. Taubner states. “It was astronomical. I said to John, ‘This house will break us. We wear parkas inside all winter or we need to do something about it{}’ We had looked into geothermal and solar to the house we had intended to construct, so we understood the advantages and determined that it was the only waynbsp;forwards.”

“Considering that the geothermal system was set up, our electricity bills have been much less shocking,” shenbsp;adds.

With the floor lifted to match the geothermal system, the family decided to pour white concrete flooring throughout, instead of the house’s original fitted woolnbsp;rugs.

“When I was taking these design classes at the University of Alberta, I researched universal design that’s accessibility and design to all periods of life, and I really wanted to incorporate as much of the ethos as possible in the house since our purpose is to reside here for the rest of our times” Ms. Taubner states. “Concrete floors flow throughout the home, even into the shower rooms, making zero barrier. They’re also a excellent conduit for geothermal and ideal for cleaning up after the kids. Our youngest is 5 and our eldest is 12, so they are like littlenbsp;piglets.”

Searching for a seamless finish inside and outside, the family decided to also paint the exterior of thenbsp;land.

“I really did not need to paint the whole house, I wanted to attempt and blot the new cedar to make it blend in with the old cedar but our builder told us painting the house could really be better since it would protect it for the long run,” Ms. Taubner states. “It was a fantastic decision. Folks tell us they would never understand the upstairs extension was not part of the first house and that is what wenbsp;desired.”

Nearly four years on, the Poole Home renovation is finally in its final stages, just in time for the house attaining itsnbsp;half-century.

“We moved into the house 14 months ago from necessity, but there has not been a month go by without builders. We are now having slate walkways replaced out and we are hoping to get down some lawn where the trenches were dug for the geothermal soon. In addition, we have ongoing issues with light; the intricate layers of lighting that were installed in 1968 are certainly making our electrician work difficult. But we’re getting there,” Ms. Taubnernbsp;states.

“It’s been a long and arduous journey, but well worth it,” shenbsp;adds.

Ms. Taubner keeps in contact with all the Poole family, sending them picture updates on the renovations. “It will always be the Poole House,” she says, “and I love that, it is important that we keep this relationship. I hope John and Barbara would have been pleased with the decisions we have made and we expect the home stays in our family for quite a very long time tonbsp;come{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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