Stone circle at the Stonehouse B&B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph

Stone circle at the Stonehouse B&B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph

Art and Views in Equal Measure at Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast

Salt Spring Island visitors can enjoy the character and comfort

  • Sep. 6, 2018 1:20 p.m.

When I first get to the Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast on Salt Spring Island, I quickly find myself alone as my travelling companions — Pearl’s Don Denton and Lia Crowe — trek

outside to seek out exterior photo opportunities.

Left to my own devices, I’m drawn to the selection of books balanced along the low stone windowsill of the great room; I spot a Mark Twain biography as thick as my ankle and a hefty stack of New Yorker magazines. The well-worn leather furniture is regal but comfortably opulent, in a way that invites you to nestle in and tuck your feet up.

Positioned in a place of honour behind me is an exquisite Bösendorfer grand piano, and as I am alone, I can’t resist laying my fingers on its keys.

I plunk out the first few bars to Bach’s “Suite No. 1 prelude” and listen as the notes resonate out and up into the open space. Already, I feel like this place has a particular personality all its own.

View of the great room at Stonehouse B & B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph.

When owner John Lefebvre appears, he shakes my offered hand, then pulls me in for a “West Coast” hug. Despite the impressive surrounding architecture, almost immediately we start talking about the art that inhabits the place. Three life-size terra cotta sculptures of women in various poses of submersion hang suspended from the ceiling in the great room, the work of Salt Spring artist Kathy Venter. They’re fascinating in their movement and sheer size, and how they take up such space and yet aren’t the dominating force in the room.

Looking around, much of the art is figurative: a soapstone woman lying beneath the piano, a subtly toned painting of a geisha tucked into the hall and a compelling piece hanging in the kitchen that I cannot take my eyes from. A portrait of a pair of legs, the painting is full of rich earth tones and crimson flowers strewn at the base. The flesh of the legs at their unfinished tops seems almost petal-like, with fluttery edges, while below it’s pierced through at odd, surgical angles with branches.

The artist, fellow Salt Spring Islander Leanne Brusatore, had been involved in a car accident which irreparably damaged her legs, John tells me.

“When I met her, she was considering having one of them removed,” he says. “This is her artistic rendition of trying to heal her ruined legs the natural way.”

It’s at once beautiful and deeply unsettling, a combination John is often drawn to in his ongoing pursuit of art. And to have it hanging front and centre in the kitchen speaks to his predilection for bold design choices.

View of the great room at Stonehouse B & B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph.

As we move into discussing the renovation and the building itself, I note there are a number of aspects which, taken individually, seem like they would lean toward being overwhelming: the steel wall studded with rivets surrounding the fireplace; the five-foot-tall, iron-framed lantern laced with cow hide hanging from the peak of the vaulted ceiling; the sharp-edged iron blades reminiscent of fish bones, and the heavy, dark wooden beams overhead.

Some of the decisions did give him momentary pause, admits John.

“I think people tend to back away [from design choices] when they get that feeling,” he says.

But instead, he pressed forward, and the result is a space that has a distinct, bold personality.

Looking around, I think one of the reasons it works so well is because of the abundance of heavy, grounding materials in combination with so much open space.

Panorama room at Stonehouse B & B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph.

During the renovation process (which took several years after John bought the property in 2006), two walls were removed from the main building to drastically open up the space, and reinforcing steel was added throughout the structure. Tiles were stripped from the floors, and the concrete beneath ground and polished.

Outside, the stone exterior — which had previously only extended several feet up the walls — had its flat top layer taken off, and local stonemason Ron Crawford then took the stone to the rooflines, giving the building the old-world feel John wanted.

“I wanted to give the sense of structure, of space and capacity,” he says. “I wanted it to seem like the structural elements were visible.”

And just as the interior art informs so much of the aesthetic, so too do the installations outside.

Set directly in the middle of the walkway to the main entrance is a narrow, carved basalt column, slowing down the approach to the building. Flanking the outer stone walls are two enormous bronze statues of empty, kneeling kimonos, at once meditative and sorrowful, a way to honour the Japanese-Canadians who had much of this land confiscated.

Stone circle and dragon sculpture at Stonehouse B & B on Saltspring Island. Don Denton photograph.

Perhaps most alluring though, is the stone circle a little ways from the main building. In the stark sunlight of this windy spring day, these 13 stone structures — some over 16 feet high — stand as silent figures, passively observing the goings-on at the bed and breakfast, offering a further respite from the already relaxed atmosphere of the island.

Inspired by John’s encounters with stone monuments while travelling England, the columns are built of several chunks of stone each, ground to fit over countless hours until each has its own unique shape and identity.

“It was a beautiful way to honour stillness and silence,” says John as we stand in the midst of the circle, just next to a smaller ring of eight stones within called The Witnesses.

Gazing out over the Stonehouse, the view, the circle, John muses: “What I really wanted to achieve was to establish a contemplative escape-type of retreat. Our guests come to quickly appreciate it’s about stillness and thoughtfulness.”

And in that moment, I’m again alone, feeling the reassuring solidity of the earth beneath and the standing stones, breathing in the quiet. And I know exactly what he’s talking about.

-Story by Angela Cowan

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Bed and breakfastBritish ColumbiaCanadaCanadianHolidaysIslandJohn LefebvreSalt Spring IslandStonehouse B & BStonehouse Bed and BreakfasttravelVacation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

(File Photo)
Crash causes delays on Coquihalla southbound, travel advisory issued

A vehicle incident between Merrit and Hope has caused major delays heading south

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Bryan Adams with his mom, Jane Adams Clark, at Lions Gate Hospital. (Bryan Adams)
Bryan Adams gives shout out to North Shore hospital

The singer’s mom was in Lions Gate Hospital for care

Shoppers will be able to get their hands on signed bottles of Ryan Reynolds’ new gin at B.C. liquor stores this summer. (Twitter/Ryan Reynolds)
Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin autographed and coming to B.C. stores

This summer 100 bottles will be available to the public for purchase across five B.C. liquor stores

An official investigation will be launched after VPD officers were recorded posing near a dead body at Third Beach on Wednesday morning, Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
VIDEO: Vancouver officers under review for allegedly laughing, taking pictures next to dead body

Two officers were caught on video by a local beachgoer Wednesday morning in Stanley Park

Most Read