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photography by ema peter

A Minimalist-Modernist B.C. Home

“We were pushed out of our comfort zone, to embrace things we would not necessarily think of on our own”
BY Iris Benaroia

April 22, 2024

When Sarika Ghag and her husband, Happy Ghag, married in 2010, they both wanted a home with a huge backyard, where they could raise kids on a steady diet of sunshine, exercise and fresh air. First, they moved into Happy’s pastoral childhood home in Chilliwack, B.C.—a colossal house where Happy had freewheeling afternoons as a boy playing soccer and driving tractors around the fields behind his home. By 2016, Sarika and Happy had two young children. It was time to build their dream home and move out.

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The kitchen features cabinetry painted in Benjamin Moore’s Raccoon Fur.

Happy, an orthodontist, had three dental practices in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Surrey at the time and wanted to be close to all of them. The family also wanted to stay within an hour’s drive of Chilliwack. And so off Sarika went to hunt for a home. Armed with a list of large plots of land for sale, she spent six months driving around Langley, B.C., scoping out real estate. On one of her reconnaissance missions, she saw a for-sale sign for nearly four acres of forested land and flagged it to her agent. She and Happy ended up touring the site together. “You don’t see the magnitude of the property until you drive into it and then it opens up,” says Sarika. Towering snow-dusted trees, some soaring 100 feet, dotted the property. Blown away, the couple knew they had found the One.

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In April of 2017 it was theirs, and they tapped Vancouver firm PlaidFox, a studio co-founded by creative director and interior designer Ben Leavitt, for the new-build. “It was a no-brainer. He’s my brother-in-law,” says Sarika. On the flight back from a family trip to the Mayan Riviera, Sarika bonded with Ben over plans for the house; he sketched design plans for the house on a paper napkin that Sarika has kept to this day.

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In the main bedroom, the Philip Jeffries wallpaper is meant to look like hand-painted silk and adds a touch of softness to the room. 

Ben spent the next two years bringing the dream house to life. His firm, which has appeared in Architectural Digest, is known for its gutsy and splashy interiors. He brought the fun here, too, but not before sorting out the family’s must-haves. The couple have a large extended family and love to host, so spacious rooms topped the list. They are the home base for schoolmate playdates, as well as holidays and special dinners for grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins. Sarika is allergic to clutter, so another request was for a minimalist and mellow vibe that was still engaging and dynamic.  

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And that’s exactly how the house feels. Ben’s punchy yet placid design features walls of windows framing lush views and a staircase that floats over a Japanese garden. The eight-bathroom house is 8,000 square feet over two levels—and the bulk of it is devoted to the main floor. Ben didn’t want it to feel like a cafeteria with a jumble of furniture, so he carved out zones using textural wall treatments and bursts of colour to delineate the spaces. The living room has a slatted oak wall sprayed charcoal grey, with an oak-lined wine niche next to it. The bar area, meanwhile, is defined by groovy geometric tile and the bank of black cabinetry. 

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There are a few kooky details, too: for instance, one of the black dining room chairs is randomly white. There’s also a piece of graphic art in the living room called “Hold On Let Me Overthink This,” which Ben commissioned and gifted to Sarika as a joke—because she agonized over every single detail he presented. “When he said, ‘The kitchen nook should be pink’ I said, ‘Absolutely not!’” says Sarika. Today, it’s pink and Sarika’s into it. “We were pushed out of our comfort zone, to embrace things we would not necessarily think of on our own,” she says. The pink elements in the kitchen for instance, plus the green marble amoeba-shaped custom desk in her office and the black feature wall in their son’s bedroom. Even the art is wilder than she’s used to, down to the outlandish portrait of the yarn-wrapped face in the powder room.

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The “Roly Poly” chair from Toogood is one of Sarika’s favourite pieces of furniture. “It’s art,” she says.

Since the house’s completion, both Sarika and Happy have a newfound appreciation for the magical mix of modernism and minimalism: the fat-footed Roly Poly chair in the living room, say, sided with the ginormous swoopy linen sofa; the artful dangling-disc light fixture in the family room and the nonplussed tiger lithograph over their bed. “People think it’s just the hanging art pieces in your home that are art,” says Sarika. “What I learned in this process is that it’s a combination of elements like furniture and lighting that are an art form that gives the home personality.”  

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In this playful forever home, even the yard is kitted out for fun, with a trampoline, basketball court and tennis court. The next phase of the build is to add an outdoor entertaining area with a pool, a hot tub and a fire pit along with a pool house. Sarika and Happy wanted to raise their kids in a home where the backyard doubles as a playground—and they got it.