Photography by Merle Prosofsky
On a sizable plot of land in Sherwood Park, sheltered by stands of poplars and tucked at the base of gentle wetlands that are still home to wildlife, rests Erin and Travis Holowach’s dream home.
The two were raised in small towns east of Edmonton – Erin in Mundare and Travis in Lamont – so the lot fulfilled their desires by providing the natural surroundings they craved, a relatively short swath of asphalt away from their parents’ places. “Having a young family, that was important to us,” says Erin.
Attention to family is evident throughout the design of the impressive two-storey, which features a balcony off the master bedroom large enough to hold a covered, cushioned swing where the couple and their toddlers – ages two and three – cuddle for story time. As owners of ComFree Commission Free Realty for Edmonton and Northern Alberta, the Holowaches have gleaned first-hand knowledge of the many components that allow a house to function beautifully for all its inhabitants.
“When ComFree first started, Travis and I were out there listing a lot of houses,” recalls Erin. When it came time to build their own, they had a clear list of likes and dislikes.
Balance and scale are key themes in this home. The 3,600-square-foot house speaks of this from the moment Erin greets me. Wide and custom-made of dark wood, the front door is framed by airy window lights. Large dark tiles flow from the entry into the kitchen, which is highlighted by a backdrop of maple cabinetry in a clear stain. The same grey stone that arcs gracefully over the front door on the exterior catches your eye from the entry as it descends along the curving staircase wall into the family’s lower-level recreation spaces.
The stone is repeated in the great room, where it frames the fireplace and covers the lower half of the two-storey wall. A solid slice of slate hangs above, but water flowing over this feature softens the effect. As stone and wood elements of the rugged acreage exterior blend with interior comfort, there’s a sense of being grounded by natural materials.
The rooms boast dramatic uses of space, but don’t overpower. “Although it is a big house, none of our floors are super-vast,” says Erin. “We wanted to keep it cozy.” This is especially evident in the modestly sized children’s rooms – designed with a jungle theme for their son and crafted around a dainty little chandelier for their daughter. With some walls set at angles that create nooks and crannies perfect for play, these places allow the junior members of the household to feel comfy and in control.
Kevin Birkholz, owner of Birkholz Homes, helped the Holowaches achieve pleasing scale by taking drawings they had created from the best features of many show homes and merging them with reality. “Even though the house is large, there is a lot of practical space and they use every room in the house,” he says.
This knack for mixing fine living with function can be seen in the kitchen, a splendidly crafted blend of hard-working components and family-friendly touches. Staking out the walls are a side-by-side stainless steel fridge and wine bar, two stainless steel wall ovens and a dramatic stove and steel hood fan. Past the brown granite counters, there is a vast, harvest-style table that invites family and guests to relax before a two-sided stone fireplace. Behind the fireplace, and a couple of steps up, is a six-sided room with light streaming through its many windows. This is where the children often play, safely within view of those caring for them, yet in a zone where they can feel independent. As the family ages, the room will become a formal dining room.
Drawing all of these spaces together in grand style is the open-tread maple staircase that winds from the centre of the home to the second floor in a graceful, oversized curve. It was challenging to build, says Birkholz, because of its atypical width.
After a busy week, the family enjoys socializing in the lower level, which opens onto the backyard. Its backlit bar abuts the pool table area and media room. In keeping with the family-oriented flavour of the home, the theatre area is not a dark, sealed-off space. “More than movies, we are often watching the Oilers game,” says Erin, explaining a design that welcomes socializing.
Yin and yang, dark and light, solid and transparent. Rather than assert itself as modern or contemporary, this home derives its individual look from how very well it balances luxury with real family life.