The Dunbar House

Renovation & Addition of a Hamptons Style in the North West

Dunbar House Renovation/Addition

Before and after

About the
DUNBAR HOUSE project

The aim of this project was to transform an exhausted Dunbar residence into a sophisticated cottage, reflecting the luxurious and trendy style of the Hamptons, but located in the city of Vancouver.

This unique home has seen three major renovations since its beginnings as a small cabin in the wooded area of the municipality of Point Grey, when 37th Avenue was known as Whitehead Road. Water and building permits were issued to William Fairey in January 1914. It is believed that he built the original structure sometime after this, although he was never listed as a resident at this address. William was the third of 12 siblings born in Liverpool, England. Emigrating with his family to Canada, he worked in construction first in Victoria, then in Vancouver. His younger brother, Francis Thrower Fairey, later became BC’s Deputy Minister of Education and a federal MP. The rural cabin may have been a retreat from the crowded family home on E King Edward Avenue. 

The first known residents were Ernest and Phyllis Townsley, who moved from North Vancouver to the little cabin in 1921. In 1923, they took out a building permit for $3,000 for “repairs,” which were likely the major renovations to enlarge the cabin and make it a proper home. The Townsleys hired architects Bowman & Cullerne, who designed a number of Vancouver-area schools from 1910 onwards, and builder R.C. Dawson. An accountant who had served in the military, Townsley was known by neighbours as “The Colonel”. He used the attic to display his extensive gun collection, reportedly the largest private collection in western Canada. 

Renowned shoe designer John Fluevog followed the Townsleys in 1983 and made further additions and modifications, and the house sold once more before being purchased by the current owners in 2009. The current owners lived in the house for three years before they began their year-long renovations. With a deep setback from the road, the house does not conform to current zoning which made the design and permitting process difficult. 

Despite initial challenges, the owners were able to add a second-floor master suite, raise the ceilings in the dining room and study, upgrade the kitchen, overhaul each of the bathrooms and add the covered porch. The home was a collection of elements and additions so this was not purely a restoration project. Instead, the owners, architect and interior designer took cues from the unique vaulted ceiling of the living room, perhaps Fairey’s original cabin, to create a characterful home that consciously highlights its historic roots.


A collaboration with Jakobsen Associates