Two talented builders unveil the top trends in home design

“When building a house, it’s all the fine details you can add that make them special.” - Steve Whelan

Kootenay Haven

LWE’s Ian Larsen and Steve Whelan have been building spellbinding homes for nearly 20 years. — Photo courtesy Henry Georgie

Outstanding home designs must be two things—functional and creative. Two men have mastered the art of creating dynamic and lasting houses: Ian Larsen and Steve Whelan of Larsen Whelan Enterprise (LWE) in Fernie. These men have been collaborating together for nearly 20 years and have built jaw-dropping homes that will leave you awestruck. If there’s anyone whose advice you’d want to subscribe to as it pertains to home design, it’s these two.

“We’ve done some pretty cool things over the years,” said Whelan, “floating steel staircases, corner doors, concrete fireplaces—neat things that we had a hand in creating. When building a house, it’s all the fine details you can add that make them special.”

When it comes to popular themes that are making an impact, mountain modern is the design of choice. “Single pitch, shed roof style homes with lots of glass, timbers, steel and industrial elements,” Whelan said. “I like the style but we’re always looking to new things. There’s that danger when things start to get overdone. We try to stay ahead of that.” One of the trends that may be on the horizon is a Scandinavian look that LWE is exploring.

Kootenay Haven bathroom

LWE’s homes are distinct and original. — Photo courtesy Henry Georgie

Looking into the wilderness

Inspiration for a new idea can come from anywhere, but the outdoors is a consistent influence. “Nature is a big inspiration for a lot of design,” Whelan said. “Buildings need to be harmonious in their environment and location.”

That’s not to say that Larsen and Whelan are bombarded with an overabundance of original ideas. Their clients are typically responsible for the home’s layout. “First off, it’s theirs and what they want,” Larsen said. “Then there’s our part, complementing what they already have. Some come with ideas and plans and want to know how to make it a house. Some come with nothing and want help. I prefer them having a good idea of what they want and going from there.”

The LWE crew and Kootenay Haven building in progress

LWE’s handiwork is present throughout the Elk Valley. — Photo courtesy LWE

Twenty years of change

A lot has changed since Larsen and Whelan began their business in the ’90s: People listen to iPods instead of Walkmans, they play with their phones rather than pogs and homes are energy efficient as opposed to bleeding heat. “Energy efficiency has improved and taken ahold of how we build,” Whelan said. “Fuel cost is more expensive, we’re more concerned about how much we’re burning. Not overheating the planet is another big component of that. The market has moved for more green-built technologies.” As for the practical details of building an energy-efficient home, Whelan outlined some important changes. “Detailing around airtightness is big now: more insulation in the walls and roof, triple-glaze glass and solar heat,” he said.

Home interiors have evolved since the time Larsen and Whelan began their carpentry careers. “Houses looked pretty chopped up from when I first started,” Larsen said. “The dining room, living room and kitchen were all broken up. Now I find it’s an open concept. It might make the house feel bigger.”

Fernie dreamin’

Besides auspicious homes, LWE has built a reputation of trust in the Fernie area. “People are coming to us with their dream home, something they’ve been thinking about for years,” Whelan said. “We need to jump on board with them and see their dream to fruition.”

For more information about LWE visit 

Kyle Born

Kyle Born is a writer for Kootenay Business and his initials match that of the magazine—it must be fate that brought them together. View all of Kyle Born’s articles

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