This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s January 2023 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:
Words by Jill Macdonald, photography by Jessica Stewardson.
What is he building?
Anyone who has driven south of town toward 12-Mile beach or Echo Lake has witnessed the gradual progress of the 4538 Airport Way property. What at first looked like a clearcut and gravel pit became a small sawmill site with a large timber shell and a parking lot for heavy equipment. It was eye-catching, in the way of a visual puzzle, a what-the-heck is going on there pondering. Maybe some not kind thoughts came to mind.
Full disclosure: Given the recent surge in our city of large, modern mountain-style architecture, I was one of those people who questioned the development. Although I knew nothing of the owners or their intentions, I felt disappointed. Why another giant home, what relevance did it have to its surroundings? If I am going to be honest, I was judgmental.
Happily, fate delivered me a knock on the head. By coincidence, I found myself invited in for a tour of the residence, and as soon as I stepped inside, the beauty, craftsmanship and creativity on display smashed my perspective into its rightful place.
4538 Airport Way is a stunning portfolio of imagination, cross-pollination and the fusion of incredible local talent. Owners Dave and Pam Mair, along with Kyle Legate, are creating a Revelstoke legacy.
For those not familiar with Dave Mair, he is a long-time resident. For years he ran Silvertip Aviation, working as a bush pilot and heavy equipment operator. While grading roads, Dave met Kyle, a certified carpenter who was in charge of maintenance at a CMH lodge. They hit it off right away. The two discovered they were kindred spirits with a shared craze for wood and building with logs. Ideas flowed. Brainstorming followed. Dave said, “Let’s do this.” And the project at Airport Way began.
They built a massive shop. Large enough to manage the size of their ideas.
Pam: “If I knew what I was getting into, I never would have agreed.”
Problem solvers and creators
The property became a sawmill site. The shop rose up, wings were added on and at some point, a road across the rocky outcrop behind the building appeared. Logs and wood piles were the landscaping. From a distance, the property lacked coherence. Yet it was clear that something large was at work. The place was a hive of hidden activity.
Fast forward to 2021. A plateau of progress gave way to visible changes. The building took on definition, some additional landscaping happened and the sawmill was running full-time. The backstory from Pam goes like this. “We sold our house on Hay Road. Dave brings me here and Kyle asks, where would you like the kitchen? How about the windows?” The crucible had birthed. This was to be their new home.
Turning space into liveable space
The Mairs gave themselves a year to move in. Pam walked through the industrial-sized spaces and tried to envision a home. There were massive posts, enormous ceilings and no defined points of entry. Working full-time as a school principal, Pam’s bandwidth was limited. She called on local interior designer Heidi Hopkins for help.
Pam described the process of working with Heidi as an extended conversation. “We got to know each other. She helped me visualize the floorplan as we retrofit everything to suit our family.” Heidi divided the long wings into intimate spaces using offset doorways to create sight lines that would draw the eye through the interior.
Kyle talked them into round doorways. A local fabricator crafted wide steel arches and upon Heidi’s suggestion, rounded metal doors with glass insets to carry the effect through. They kept the space intimate by linking the living spaces with a flow-through kitchen.
Nooks and crannies
Some of the home’s most unique and spectacular features happened by circumstance. Kyle and Dave moved the stairs from a wall into the middle of the living space, creating a floating steel and timber stairwell that pays homage to the home’s wooden beams. Thick plank treads showcase marks from the sawmill’s blades. The move also required a new entry to accommodate the changes and that led to the front door design. To hide the in-floor heating infrastructure, Kyle borrowed techniques used in boat building to craft a curved, concave cabinet with an access panel that lifts out. Space between the shop and the kitchen was transformed into a walk-in pantry and workspace for Pam.
Battle of the boards
Treated with used engine oil and then torched to burn off the excess, the preserved timbers are burnished, black and smooth. Dave and Kyle both loved the wood look, seeing the grain outlined in shades of dark. They admired the steel doorways and the staircase as the metal oxidized from silver to brown. It was rustic. But for Pam, it became too much. There was wood on wood on wood. She took charge and when a window of opportunity presented itself, she whitewashed all the panelled walls with a translucent stain and painted the steel. Everyone agreed she was right. “The grain stands out better. Black painted metal has presence.” It was all part of the process of figuring things out.
Property legacy & future plans
This piece of land once belonged to Walter Kozek, a log scaler and mechanic who loved flowers and fruit trees. He lived a long life in Revelstoke and his family is still here. Pam and Dave plan to honour that history by replanting Walter’s orchards on the land in their original locations. They also hope to build a barn. Pam’s retirement project is already underway; she planted four different types of lavender this year and intends to work her way into being a commercial farmer and fabricator. The laboratory is already in place, a full-scale space cached between the pantry and Dave’s shop where she can cook up her own experiments – lavender scents, soaps and candles.
What would Pam like people to know about her home? “Dave has touched every piece of wood in this building. All of it has meaning, it’s all from here. We only use local trades, we support local artists and we want everyone to know that we’re working as fast as we can!”
As for Dave, he was busy. It didn’t feel right to interrupt him.
Construction is nuts. The way things unfolded, the Mairs had a swimming pool before they had a front door. As passersby, we never know the whole story. The best part of this stunning local architecture is that it is not finished. It is a work in progress. Like most of us.