COLIN JAMES: On Gardening, Great Gadgets, and Getting Away To His Home
By Carol Crenna
Singer and guitarist Colin James looks youthful and energetic for his 48 years. And that obviously has influenced his latest achievements that keep him really busy.
Recently inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, and releasing Twenty Five Live a month ago, and also travelling a lot on tour, and accepting more award nominations to add to the others spanning his 25 year career, you wonder whether he is ever home.
But he is. Here, the BC musician sounds practically like a homebody as he kicks back in his garden at his ocean-view home.
CAROL: You have a beautiful house.
COLIN JAMES: We bought this home, a ’70s rancher, in 1996 just north of Horseshoe Bay (near Vancouver) and began to dissect it. The house was very dated, with sunken living room and brown plush carpet, so it was difficult for me to see its potential.
My wife, Heather, had the vision though, and we both kept focusing on the views, which had been wasted on small windows that sweated condensation.
We ripped the roof off and added an additional floor to create three levels, though from the road it looks like a single level because it recedes down a bluff toward the ocean.
We replaced every window in the home and can now see Howe Sound from the living room, and Anvil Island while washing dishes in the kitchen.
CAROL: Do you wash the dishes?
COLIN JAMES: Yes, sometimes.
CAROL: Did you play a part in the house’s design?
COLIN JAMES: We hired West Vancouver architect Leith Anderson to design it — we loved the elements at the resort called Middle Beach Lodge in Tofino which he designed, so added them to our home. It’s a blend of earthy, natural and contemporary (but not cold) styles.
We completely refinished the floors in recycled fir and slate, and rebuilt the fireplace to be heat-efficient with propane. When we built an extension to one side of the house for the family room, we came close to missing its point.
At the last minute we completely changed the window positions, and now the TV is eclipsed by a view that makes you not want to turn the TV on.
CAROL: Where do you work?
COLIN JAMES: I made a studio downstairs and we have produced all guitar overdubs and vocals for records here for the last 12 years. Though it’s a nice space, today a modular studio simply means a laptop, good software, a couple of preamps, and your voice and guitar!
CAROL: What’s your favourite room?
COLIN JAMES: My favourite area is the dining room. It’s hard to believe that the original owners had installed tiny windows in this room because the view now is like looking at a painting.
CAROL: Do you like to entertain?
COLIN JAMES: Yes, so I love our dining table. It was made by furniture designer Nathan Weins. He owns The Chapel Arts funeral-home-turned-gallery in East Vancouver.
The table is very big – seating 10 people – and round, cut in two and a half inch thick fir, and sits on a simple cylindrical pedestal.
CAROL: Is the house practical as well as beautiful?
COLIN JAMES: Two of the house’s best features are for cleanup. In the kitchen, which we totally remodeled, we installed a self-contained vacuum cleaner beneath the cabinets. It’s an automatic dustpan so whatever falls on the floor gets sucked up.
CAROL: Do you cook.
COLIN JAMES: Heather does most of the cooking.
CAROL: Any other practical gadgets?
COLIN JAMES: I also love our laundry chute that reaches from the top floor to the laundry room. We almost decided against it because it was difficult to install, but now it means one less trip down the stairs with your arms full.
CAROL: You like to be outside.
COLIN JAMES: Outside, I do all of the gardening.
COLIN JAMES: I find it relaxing.
CAROL: Did you landscape it?
COLIN JAMES: I added a pond and planted Japanese maples around it, pond lilies in it – the whole bit. I tried to have fish repeatedly but they just became sushi for the raccoons.
I have been very pleased with the way the seasonal displays turned out, staggering flower blooms over the entire summer and leaf colour in fall.
CAROL: You have another home, too.
COLIN JAMES: We also have an ocean-view cottage on the Gulf Islands. I come from Saskatchewan so crave ocean views.
We have solar power there and rarely need to run the generator since it’s a small space – just big enough for four with our son and daughter, and we’re there whenever we can be.
Original By Carol Crenna, featured in Canada Wide Media’s BC Home Magazine