Modernist Nod To Iconic Retro Design


Ian MacDonald was influenced by the same iconic interiors and furniture that helped make the AMC TV show, Mad Men a retro hit.

“I worked in advertising for many years in Montreal, but without all that drinking and smoking in Mad Men,” laughs MacDonald. “What that experience did give me was an appreciation for art and layout, all driven by branding. I’ve applied that knowledge and need to engage the public at Liquidity Winery, through all aspects of design, landscaping, sculpture, food and wine working together, even before one enters the front door.”

It was a small 1,240 square-foot bungalow built in the 50s on an 8.5-acre property on the Naramata Bench that caught MacDonald’s eye. Sitting atop a steep embankment, with spectacular views of Okanagan Lake, he saw the potential immediately. A 70 year-old boathouse, MacDonald has since renovated, was a bonus. He dubbed the property “Flying Leap” because it was a leap of faith to build on gullied land that could be problematic.

“We tried to save the foundation but some of those slopes had geotechnical issues that could be susceptible to water damage, so building was driven by a design challenge of using the existing footprint, says Nicholas Hill, President, Ritchie Contracting & Design Ltd., who also built Liquidity Winery and its VIP re-vamp.

The triumvirate of MacDonald, Hill and Connie Young of Connie Young Design, Calgary, had already worked together on the Liquidity Winery build in 2012. “We understood Ian’s vision, paying homage to modern winemaking, architecture and design, as well the importance of his collections of art and vintage furniture pieces. The collaborative challenge was how to translate all of that into his personal home,” Young explains.

Their solution was to design and build a 3,000 square-foot, split-level, steel and beam contemporary home with an imposing cement cantilevered 2nd floor. MacDonald asked Hill to dig-out the basement for two guest bedrooms, a media room and small galley kitchen with a cedar and glass walkout to the terrace. “I love it because it looks like a big art gallery,” enthuses MacDonald. “I wanted a box that would be like a big viewfinder to the panoramic scenery here.”

“It was a crazy time in 2013 because as Nick was building the house in Naramata, I was staying in the VIP suite at Liquidity Winery that was also under construction, MacDonald admits. 


A custom floating zig-zag walnut staircase leads from the split-level and front door up to the open concept 42 square-foot by 22 square-foot great room, a minimalist’s sanctuary. Facing west, floor-to-ceiling triple-glazed windows allow an eagle eye view for miles along Okanagan Lake. Motorized shades can easily shutter the summer’s intense dry heat, while some windows open to catch a cross-breeze. 

“It’s a sleek, timeless look and its beauty truly is in the details that are mostly hidden from the viewer,” says Hill. “There is absolutely no trim in the great room and the kitchen and cabinets, by Vancouver’s Room8, have no pulls. The walnut cabinets hide the fridge and a coffee bar, behind which is a pantry.” Two large islands, one with a composite sink molded right into it for prepping; the other a walnut slab dining table with pull-up white Spoon bar chairs by Kartell, provide front row seats to the best art show in town – nature. 

Like an endless infinity pool, the seamless, polished salt and pepper textured cement floor with radiant heating, seamlessly meets white walls (no baseboards) throughout the home. They are the perfect neutral canvas for MacDonald’s extensive art collection. 

“We took our inspiration from Ian’s abstract painting, Arbutus II by John Dann. In fact the wide black glass fireplace was designed specifically to accommodate the positioning of the painting above it and really makes the great room sing,” says Young. Other pops of colour that punctuate the otherwise stark white great room, are found in the vivid woven sari silk area rug by Eilersen (not pictured), leather Baxter furniture and fuchsia beanbag chair by Pianca. 

The great room segues into a small office library and powder room. 

But it’s the 14-foot sunken tub in the master bedroom, framed by 7-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, that’s the biggest wow-factor with friends who visit MacDonald’s home. ”Actually, we’ve noticed that this look of the tub in the bedroom, is a growing trend among our clients and we’ve created a niche for ourselves when we build them into contemporary homes, says Ritchie’s, Nicholas Hill. “Ian and I custom picked the statuary Carrara marble surrounding the tub, in Vancouver. We also used it in the adjoining ensuite’s walk-in shower and for the vanity located between a private water closet with built-in cabinetry, and the shower.” 

“It’s certainly a way to be fully immersed with the spectacular views,” jokes MacDonald “and I’m far enough away from other properties to not have to worry about privacy.” 


“The modern architecture, design and build of the VIP suite really follows the same natural flow from that in Ian’s home and the winery,” Young explains. 

Built one floor above the Bistro and Tasting Room to accommodate his business partners or visiting artists, the 1,500 square-foot open concept two-bedroom luxury suite is almost like living right in the vineyards! Light streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the undulating slopes, with a private lap pool and terrace below. 

Says Young, “You know, Ian has this knack of bringing in just the right people to realize his parallel design strategy for both properties and it really worked. ”