January 30, 2016 - 12:00 PM
KELOWNA – The property with the highest assessed value in the Okanagan, possibly the B.C. Interior, is also among its most unique in history, intrigue and style. Its story begins with the man who built it and finishes with the family that made it their own: The Rock House.
It used to only be known colloquially as the rock house because of the rocks, of course. The entire lot is ringed by massive, carefully-chosen boulders weighing thousands of pounds each. It created plenty of interest and coffee shop debates about the landscaping choices, which naturally followed the man who chose them: eccentric millionaire Tom Poole. Poole was already well-known for odd investment choices before he built the 11,000-square-foot house of glass.
In 2004 Poole sold the home to Roger Hopkins, the owner of a contracting company in Alberta and in 2010 it developed into the perfect showcase for Rock House Style and a roster of design consulting by Alberta interior designer Cheryl Gillespie and daughter Sam Shakura, who showed me around.
Shakura, 28, says the house on Kelowna’s most exclusive street is an ideal location for her and her mother to showcase their eclectic, unique style with a similar mix of the property itself: A scultured glass jewel inset in rough stone.
“The house is a big part of our business,” Shakura says. “We don’t have a retail shop downtown because this house is so well-known. It’s really quite different than your typical house. We treat it like our laboratory where we try new design products and try new finishes and do things that most people don’t do in their home. To come here is like walking into our portfolio.”
The two-bedroom main house is modern and open. Sharp angles are offset by soft textures and there is a random cohesiveness that can be overwhelming when you first walk in. Nothing is usual at the Rock House.
“It’s quite a visually interesting house,” Shakura says as she tosses a piece of banana to one of their three rescue Sharpei’s. “When people first come… there is so much to look at.”
Shakura lets me in through a door in a large chef’s kitchen with stainless steel and granite. The floors throughout the house are polished concrete and the ceiling is a simple, brown tongue and groove pine. The kitchen, living and dining areas are all in one, large room surrounded by glass walls that open to let the summer breeze through. In the middle of the large room is a silver piano Shakura bought in Vancouver for parties.
“This house is perfect for entertaining,” she says. “We’ve had up to 300 people here.”
Between the kitchen and the dining room is a glass panel on the floor with hundreds of wine bottles beneath. Shakura presses a button on a remote and it rises from the floor.
The custom-made wine cellar holds 800 bottles in clear acrylic tubes.
“It’s actually very practical,” she says. “I’m always interested in that Venn diagram intersection where fashion, art, design, entertaining and life all meet and what exists in that place.”
Shakura graduated high school at 16 earning a full scholarship to attend UBC where she graduated with a double major in English literature and philosophy. While at UBC she also simultaneously studied makeup and fashion design at Blanche MacDonald. She moved to Kelowna in 2010 after completing a design degree in New York.
Shakura modestly downplays her academic achievements.
“It’s just the way it worked out.”
Shakura grew up in the business of design. Her mother Cheryl owned a successful interior design company in Alberta before moving to Kelowna and starting Rock House Style with her daughter. Her father taught her how to work with contractors and trades and her own personal sense of style took her the rest of the way.
“For me it’s a really creative, artistic field but so intellectual at the same time. You’re affecting how people live.”
Shakura has no rules when it comes to design. She spray paints on walls, uses Mexican posters as chandelier bases, covers beach wood in silver leaf resin and won’t hesitate to use an old bowler hat as a lampshade.
“It’s fun to be a little bit unpredictable,” she says. “I find inspiration everywhere.”
Between the main entrance and the living room is a laser cut marble pond with 20 large Koi and chalkboards surround one of the toilets. There is a wall of family photos and autographed pictures of celebrities and the master bathroom has a bowl-shaped tub that is filled through a chandelier.
“I like the extremity of old and new, hard and soft, masculine and feminine,” she says. “That’s what makes it interesting. It’s a little bit of Cher’s style, it’s a little bit of mine, it’s a little bit of Roger’s, it’s a little bit of the dogs. That’s the tricky part of design. How to make everybodys’ tastes cohesive. My style is a little bit more Rock and Roll, Cher’s style is more classic. It’s a mixture of edgy and soft.”
Edgy and soft is a good way to describe Sam as well. She’s barefoot, wearing a long flowing dress and a hat. She's friendly and down-to-earth but she doesn't back down. She has been designing jewelry since high school and her bathroom is overflowing with beauty products. But she’s an avid dirt biker as well.
“I could race a motocross bike before I could ride a pedal bike,” she says. She takes me past stacks of wooden crates piled in the carport to the guest house where she stays with her cat London.
“I’m always shopping or looking for inspiration,” she says, motioning to the crates. “I don’t have a job, I have a lifestyle."
Although Rock House Style handles large commercial jobs, for $150 an hour you can hire them to come help you pick out a paint colour or advise on how to perk up your closet.
“More and more people are recognizing the value of having an interior designer,” she says. “There’s a science to this stuff. How colours make you feel or what type of light helps you sleep better. It’s not just about spending money to make your house look good it’s making it function for you personally. It’s going to look great but it’s also going to function great and be a reflection of who you are as a person. What's more intellectual than that?”
TOMORROW: We give you a peak inside another spectacular Okanagan home. And this one's for sale.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016