It was love at first sight for Vanessa and Mark Pickering when they found a perfect plot of land for sale on Woodstock Hill in 2010. “After a year of looking at many houses on the island, Vanessa and our real estate agent, Rhonda Casling of Rego Sotheby’s International Realty, went to visit a parcel of land for sale on Woodstock Hill,” said Mark. “Vanessa instantly fell in love with the land. The lot was 0.75 acres, covered in bushes and palm trees with a rather long and narrow footprint. Rather quickly I was also convinced that the lot was very special.
“While we never thought, with small children and two demanding jobs, that we would build a house, we decided this would be our opportunity to build a home that met many of our needs. Minutes away from Hamilton, in an established wooded environment coupled with not-too-distant sounds of South Shore, the property provided the perfect setting.”
With two energetic boys, aged six and three, the young family was in need of a house that would grow with them while also allowing them the space they needed to entertain. “They were looking for a house that would give them options for the future, would take advantage of the large outdoor spaces, connect well to the exterior and function for a young family,” said Jacob Hocking of CTX who designed the house. “They wanted connected yet separate formal and informal spaces and they wanted to have a house that was fun to entertain in.”
The owners were very involved in the design process but gave Hocking the freedom to incorporate his distinctive style. “We discussed every aspect of the design as it developed,” he said. “They respected some of the architectural strategies that I thought were important for their house and worked with me to make sure that we adapted them to mirror their needs.
“I like to design houses that have the scale and massing of traditional Bermudian architecture but try to create more contemporary forms, spaces and layouts that function efficiently for today’s lifestyles. I like simple, efficient spaces.”
“After meeting with several architects we decided that Jacob Hocking of CTX was best suited to making our vision a reality,” added the owners. “It was very apparent, after viewing several of the properties he designed and chatting with several satisfied customers, his designs are all unique and reflect the specific desires of the individuals building the properties. Over the next few years we worked with Jacob to fine-tune our plans.
“While we had an idea of the flow of the rooms, Jacob was instrumental in balancing the weight of the home within the shape of the lot, creating the transitional design we were looking to achieve.”
The 4,000-square-foot dwelling’s grand atmosphere is immediately announced in the main entrance where the designer installed a spectacular spiral staircase that appears to be floating within the space. “The client had seen a curving stair that we had designed in another project and wanted a similar staircase in this new home,” explained Hocking. “The two staircases now look nothing alike but this was the starting point for the entire design of the house. It now forms the centre of the house and all other curves—pool, driveway, planters, etc.—radiate from this point.
“It is a solid concrete suspended stair which was easy to draw but difficult to form and finish on site. The formwork carpenters and masons did a flawless job building the mould and finishing the stairs.”
This sentiment was echoed by our judges who commented that the “design and workmanship were impeccable” and the “architectural details were done so incredibly well throughout the project.” All of them loved the staircase—“What a wow factor!” one exclaimed.
The judges also commented on the excellent flow of the house, reflecting Hocking’s preference for efficient spaces. “I like things to line up and make sense so I often create a strong circulation axis in my projects,” he said. “I try to create a logical direct path between rooms and spaces—interior and exterior—so that they feel well connected yet retain their own character.”
The connectivity is apparent as the house flows easily from one room to another. A garage on the northeastern side of the house connects to a functional mudroom and then to the spacious kitchen and on to an open family room. On the western side, a formal living room connects through to an office, playroom and en suite guest bedroom—an area designed to be easily closed off for an apartment in the future. The second floor features a generous master bedroom suite, an open-plan loft area, two bedrooms connected via a full bath and a well-appointed laundry room.
“When we laid out the floor plan we discussed what the family’s needs might be in the future and made sure that the rooms were set up so that their uses would be interchangeable with others throughout the house should the need arise,” said Hocking. “There are options for upstairs and downstairs master bedrooms; the kids play area could be a future office; the guest suite is designed to meet the requirements for an apartment unit, and so on.”
Taking in the south-facing lawn and ocean views, a curved wall of windows encircling the staircase is capped with a dome roof with a four-foot- round vintage bronze and crystal fixture providing ambient light. Outside, the sweeping porch and kidney-shaped pool follow the same curvature as the house, radiating outward to the substantial lawn. On the eastern side of the back lawn the outdoor entertaining area is complete with a fireplace/barbeque covered with a traditional Bermuda roof and surrounded by a curved, grassy area (“to break up the otherwise mass of tile,” said Hocking).
“One of our favourite characteristics of the house is the staircase which is the focal point of our home and the axis around which everything else was designed,” said Mark. “On either side of the staircase there are two large doors that open up to the patio, pool, lawn and outdoor barbeque/bar area. They create an excellent indoor/outdoor living area for our always energetic boys, Dylan and Tyler. As a family we spend a lot of time in the open concept kitchen and family room and enjoy the outdoor living space.”
The boys were also in mind when designs were drawn up for the interconnected kitchen and den area, perfect for keeping them entertained while meals are prepared. However, beyond meeting the functional needs of daily family life, the designer has created a stunning space complete with a modern twist on classic coffered ceilings. “I needed a way to conceal the air conditioning ductwork and distribution vents, and the clients wanted a ceiling that was as high as possible,” said Hocking. “The bulkheads around the perimeter of the rooms allowed this to happen and the wooden beams were a way of retaining the warmth of a home in what would have been a very commercial looking ceiling.”
This warmth has been c
ontinued through to the other rooms by the use of simple materials in rich tones, even though the ceiling heights were maximised throughout the house and the rooms are generous in size. “We try to keep the material choices simple so that spaces feel connected to each other,” said Hocking. “Travertine tile was used on the tiled floors indoors and out, and walnut was used for all wooden surfaces. The tones of these materials suited the clients’ design tastes for a contemporary space with more classic finishes.”
The detailed workmanship—described as “flawless” by one judge—was credited to their general contractor, SJ Construction, owned by Steven Pacheco. “Steven’s professionalism, craftsmanship and attention to detail really made the plans come to life,” said Mark. “We would highly recommend the combination of CTX and SJ Construction for anyone building their dream house. The teamwork displayed by each of them kept all of us focused and made it a much less stressful and daunting process.
“We simply could not have been more pleased with the final product—this truly is our dream home!”