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

The Delta Police Department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit: (from left) Const. Joel Thirsk, analyst Jody Johnson and Staff Sgt. Sukh Sidhu. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police respond to rising number of hate crimes

Police have received 15 reports so far in 2021, compared to 12 in all of 2020

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

(Photo: Creative Outlet)
YOUR MONEY: Tax tips for a complicated tax season involving CERB and more

With April 30 tax deadline, ‘it is important to understand the tax implications (benefits) will have’

This map illustrates the number of active COVID-19 cases in Greater Vancouver from April 4 to 10, 2021. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
Active COVID-19 case in Delta hit new high

262 cases for the week of April 4 to 10, most since BC CDC began releasing weekly city-level data

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read