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There’s always a beautiful dual intention that goes into designing a space: finding that sweet spot between the way you actually live and the way you want to live. And multi-hyphenate Jackie Kai Ellis—author, TV and podcast host, entrepreneur, pastry chef, creative woman-about-town, etc., etc.,—walks the tightrope between aspiration and actuality with impeccable style in her South Granville heritage home.
But before her now-15-month-old son Kai came along, Ellis and her husband Joe Chan were happily living in a very different space downtown. “I had imagined this life with my husband where we were going to be this fabulous cosmopolitan couple. I demolished the walls so we could just have a big dining space for entertaining, and everything was all black and hardwood and concrete,” says Ellis. “And then just a few weeks after our wedding it was, like, ooh, I think I’m pregnant.”
And when their little family expanded and they needed to rethink the number of sharp objects and low-hanging accessories in their decor (“The tables were just covered in books and knitting needles,” laughs Ellis), her eye turned toward a new vision for the future—one with this English cottage-inspired kitchen at the centre: “I think, ‘What do I want my Tuesdays to look like in five years?’ and design for that.” That meant freshly painted Clark and Kensington Cottage White shaker cabinets that practically glow in the warm morning sun, a hard-wearing marble countertop that will patina beautifully over time and a whimsical animal-print wallpaper that’s sure to inspire a million stories when little Kai is older.
One more example: instead of replacing the kitchen window seat with more storage (the usual move in a Vancouver home), Ellis installed a reading lamp above the cozy nook. “I just kept on imagining: what will Kai’s life look like? I want him to get a book and sit here; I want to have mornings having coffee while he’s telling me something,” she says. “It’s all these tiny little things.”
Stylish Bar Stools
“The bar stools came from an Etsy shop that has since closed, but what’s strange is that they mysteriously arrived one at a time through the mail.”
Hanging Pendant Lights
“The lights above the island are from Huey, a company in Toronto. They’re ceramic, and the inside is glazed.”
Cozy Cream Cabinetry
“The cabinets were in good shape. They were originally a periwinkle blue, but we just repainted them the colour of clotted cream and redid the hardware. From there we thought, ‘Okay, let’s go with a Cotswold-type wallpaper.’”
“I’ve used lots of British brands here, like this House of Hackney wallpaper,” says Jackie Kai Ellis, pictured with son Kai. “Even the light fixture in the little window nook is from a British designer. This house is from around the 1930s, and back then a lot of Brits were in this area. So I felt like I wanted to be in keeping with that style.”
“The marble countertop is from Jade Marble in Richmond. The island here is open to the family room—it’s the perfect place to entertain and create a real home for my new family. (It’s also great for dramatic arrangements.) The marble sink is a find from an Etsy shop in Turkey called AegeanMarble.” Photo by Tanya Goehring
Cadine bowl and mugs
“Sometimes this Cadine bowl is full of fruit, other times, a planted flower arrangement. My favourite mugs are from Cadine, too.”
279 E 6th Ave
“Itsumo is amazing. It’s a Japanese-owned store; the owner curates all these amazing little Japanese things—clothes, housewares. It’s one of the most beautiful stores I’ve ever been in.”
This story was originally published in the July/August 2023 print issue of Vancouver Magazine—find the digital issue here and subscribe now for free!