Justin O’Connor and his parents took something modern, sterile and cold and turned it into something that looks luxurious, rustic and warm. And they did it while using the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. They did it so well it earned them a nomination for a GOLD TOMMIE AWARD in ‘Best Outside of the Box‘ category from the Canadian Home Builders Association awards.
Justin’s parents, Jim and Heather O’Connor, own 7 Half Diamond Ranch, an 800 acre, private fly-fishing property near Merritt, BC. They rent cabins and provide guided fly-fishing tours on the 15 acre lake that is stocked with Kamloops rainbow trout.
“It’s the best private fly-fishing lake in BC and people come from all over Canada and the U.S.” said Justin O’Connor, who launched the Sotheby’s International Realty Canada brand in Kelowna two years ago, plus publishes Kelowna’s OkanaganHOME Magazine &, in his spare time, he’s also vice-president of CHBA. “The biggest fish caught last summer was 34 inches and 14 pounds.”
Since the ranch is so popular, and cabins are booked years in advance, the O’Connors needed short-term accommodation. They also wanted something they could easily lock up and not have to worry about.
They settled on a used, 40-foot shipping container. “It was great to work with because it’s square, we can transport it, it’s sealed and level; it was a good foundation for us to work off. It’s easy to maintain, easy to heat, durable and rustic.”
The O’Connors built two 20-foot units — each a mirror of the other — inside with hardwood floors, granite countertops, custom, hickory cabinetry and efficient windows and doors. Each unit has its own bathroom, double bunk beds and small appliances. The washroom doors are 80-90 years old from the family farm in Saskatchewan. “It has a has a lot of ranch character because we used old barn board and reclaimed materials… Because it’s used mostly in spring, summer and fall, we built a 12-foot covered deck. We cut a big, yellow pine slab and used it as a table on the deck. A lot of the living is done outside.”
The ranch has a sawmill and cuts most of the lumber from dead fir and pine trees on the ranch. “We tried to use whatever we could because we wanted it to have the ranch feel.” The O’Connors added a facade that makes the revamped shipping container look like a saloon, with a Texas barn star up at the top. “It looks like a big building, but you have to investigate to figure out that it’s a shipping container.”
It fits the theme because the ranch has a real saloon for entertaining and hosting corporate events and functions. “I’m a fourth generation rancher and we have collected old saddles and guns, so the saloon is a place to showcase all the family heirlooms. We have horse trainers and clinicians come in from the States and Vancouver and the Okanagan and they bright their clients and their clients’ horses and you can sit out on the deck off the saloon, which is perched about the riding arena, and watch people working down there and doing horse events.”
O’Connor said the overarching goal was to build something luxurious using reclaimed material that has history and a story to tell. “My folks have a creative way of going about things and using what’s available to them, but in the highest level of quality. Old ranch stuff is unique; it has character and that’s what makes the projects our company (O’Connor Ventures) does, unique.”
Original article written by ROSS FREAKE and published in the Daily Courier, Okanagan Sunday, December 6, 2015.