SLR Designer Sarah Corker ~ On Vision, Inspiration, and What’s Next at Spring Lake Ranch

Can you describe your role at Spring Lake Ranch? What might you be doing on a given work day?

My role with SLR is tremendously varied from sales to marketing to design and everything in between. A typical day includes: Working with our clients and suppliers, so perhaps a meeting at Robinson’s Lighting and Bath to review a lighting package for a home. Receiving an enquiry sales call to set up a tour for one of our homes or lots. Working with my amazing marketing team to develop new content for social media, newsletters, and blogs. Being in touch with our client’s mortgage broker and lawyer to organize the financing for their home. Also, I walk through our builds regularly to see the progress, ensure the proper selections are being made, check paint colours and finishing details, and take photos. 

At night, after my children go to sleep, I work on design and planning. This is when my creative juices flow and I like to dive into new floor plans, colour palettes and lighting inspiration and check in with the various design blogs I follow. This is also when my husband and business partner and I get a chance to talk about the “big picture”, plan our next builds, bounce ideas for events, and actively discuss our dreams.

SLR is known for its natural beauty and gorgeous homes. What’s it like seeing people discover it for the first time?

Often, people will walk into one of our homes and be in awe with the oversized windows, high ceilings and open concept of the heart of the home (kitchen, dining, great room). After lots of questions and the “getting to know you” conversation, there will be a pause and this is when people all of a sudden realize how quiet it is at Spring Lake Ranch. They take in the sounds of the birds in the summer or just the absolute silence in the winter. It’s magic!

You and the SLR team started creating the community almost a decade ago. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned along the way in bringing this vision to life?

In the early stages of the project when Dad, Rainbow and I had a vision and 66 acres of wide open land, our mantra was UNWAVERING FAITH. Faith that others will find this natural gem on a lake, fall in love and want to call it home. That unique homes will be built. That a community will grow and flourish here.

I have learned that some people, like our earliest residents, can see things before they exist — I call them ‘visionaries’. The rest of us are more tactile, needing to touch, feel and walk through a house in order to understand how it can become a home to raise a family, to rejuvenate in, a home to love in. Now this community is a thriving, special place thanks to all the people who live here, who have chosen Spring Lake Ranch as their home and have seen our vision come to life.

                   Rainbow Williams, Sarah Corker, and Terry Williams

Let’s talk design. Wilcor Homes has always specialized in open floor plans, high ceilings, and natural elements like wood and stone. In what ways has this aesthetic shifted or evolved in the last decade? How do trends shape the way you approach a new build?

We moved here from the West coast, where you see many more two storey homes, whereas here we have the space with our half acre lots to do bungalows. Previously, in my mind bungalows were a home for retirees (my Gran had a charming one in Lloydminster!) but there has been a big shift in the design, making them more open in concept and appealing to all age demographics. We now specialize in bungalow designs and are building them for families of all ages and sizes.

The other big shift in our designs is seen in the more functional parts of the home — the mudroom and laundry room. Alberta mud is a real thing. After one full season here (and getting stuck in the mud many times) we learned the importance of making this space really functional. We now add extra square footage, a window if possible, and an oversized closet for the many jackets you need in this four season climate.

Another area of change has been in our exteriors. We love using Hardie Board siding as it requires no future maintenance, is a fire retardant, and is incredibly durable — important in this climate where a flash hail storm can occur.

We always love incorporating natural elements. Wood and stone give a home a solid, secure feeling of time-honoured design. We use real stone veneer in all of our applications both inside and outside the home and love to highlight the entrance with solid Douglas fir timbers. I would say this has become our trademark on the exterior of many of our homes.

You and the Wilcor Homes team have built several custom homes at SLR. There are obviously many design decisions that your clients need to make along the way. How do you help guide people through the process, while keeping true to their vision?

Building a home requires so many decisions as a family, with the building team, and with the product suppliers — all staying within an allocated budget determined by the bank. But mostly it requires vision, like the ability to see how the paint colour will work with the flooring and cabinets and then adding lights to fully showcase the work. 

We allow our clients the freedom to make selections for their home, as it’s our goal to make their vision a reality. We share our expertise throughout the process, meeting regularly to provide design and finishing options, review selections, and pull all the details together.

They say that every time you build, you learn something new. This is where our experience and expertise come in — we understand every aspect of creating a beautiful quality home. Building custom is not for everyone, so we also build Wilcor Homes to completion, using exceptional materials and finishings that are contemporary while still having that timeless appeal. People love this option — it’s essentially falling in love with a showhome and then moving in and making it your own!

The TAMARACK Great Room

What room tends to be the #1 priority for people in ‘getting it right’?

The kitchen. Hands down, this is the heart of the home, where it all happens. We gather here and share food, stories, love, laughter, tears, and conversation. I love to design a kitchen that fully functions with the different work zones incorporated (prepping, cooking, cleaning, conversing) while having stunning aesthetics: cabinets that will look great today as well as in 10+ years, a solid surface countertop, oversized island, and windows — as many and as big as possible. Lighting a kitchen properly is very important. I love island lights on a dimmer, separate pot lights (also on a dimmer), a light over the sink for late night dishes, and under cabinet lights for example. With this variety, you can really change the mood in the room, from being focused on function and being able to see every detail to toning it down and creating a more intimate experience.

When designing a home, what do you look to for ideas and inspiration? How do you make each new build feel fresh and exciting?

Often my inspiration for colour palettes can come from nature. I love to be active outside all year round and I also enjoy taking photos. In doing so, I capture the natural surroundings around me and draw upon the photos to see how all of the colours and textures work together.

White is a constant colour used in the world of design. Right now there is a big trend of white cabinets in the kitchen, lighter wall colours, and even white washed hardwood floors. When I go for a walk on a snowy day, I take in all the many colours of white and grey and then think about how to integrate these colours into our homes. I just completed a home using the Benjamin Moore colour Paper White which has a slight blue tone to it. My favourite trim colour, ironically, is called Snowfall White!

Overall I love a neutral palette with layers of texture where you can add accent colours depending on the time of year through soft finishings such as pillows, flowers, tea towels. ‘Pops of colour’. By keeping your background simple and neutral, you can play with different colours and have fun with them without fully committing to a purple room.

To stay current, I also follow a number of design blogs and have a daily does on Instagram where I get tons of visual inspiration. Desire to Inspire is a Canadian and Australian team that posts endless photos of stunning homes all around the world. In the real of Instagram, I love to follow @robinsonltgbath (our lighting and plumbing supplier) showcasing their products installed in gorgeous homes; @interiordesignmag for awe inspiring photos; @dominomag for really functional style and ideas; and @styleathome, a Canadian resource for fabulous decorating, design, and entertaining ideas. 

What is the most fulfilling part of your work?

It’s the moment when I get to walk our clients through their finished home. The look on their faces, the happy tears. The feeling of completion. The ‘thank you’ hugs.

I have learned something from every family we have worked with. Whether it’s been an improvement in the design (such as adding a pocket door instead of a door with a swing so you can increase the use of space), a new material selection (we recently installed shiplap in a house for the first time), or the integration of materials (stone, new hardwood flooring or mixed metal lights). I love all of of it, as the process pushes me to stay present and to be continually improving. Our relationships with our clients and trades allow us to feel proud about the quality homes we build. We have made some lifelong friends along the way and I feel truly blessed by this.

What is the highlight of SLR for you when it comes to the natural setting? What views or “nature” moments stand out?

Spring. After a long winter of snowballs, skating and bundled-up walks on the trails, hearing the Canadian geese and other birds returning home is one of my favourite sounds. Seeing the first buds on the trees and bulbs sprouting through the soil makes me do a happy dance! My kids plant handfuls of sunflower seeds in our gardens as we love watching the goldfinches they attract in the late summer days. Spring is also the start of lake activities that our whole family enjoys: fishing, paddle boarding, and canoeing.

What’s next at SLR? What projects are in the works?

This is a very exciting year, as we are releasing the final phase of the community which includes two quiet cul-de-sacs, Spruce Crescent and Juniper Lane, with lots backing onto the treed ravine. We have done the development of SLR in phases, and Phase 4 marks completion. In June, we will hold our spring 2017 Home and Lot Hop, at which people can tour Homes and Lots For Sale — including our new Phase 4 properties! We are also holding an Open House for the Tamarack Bungalow on Saturday, April 29th from 12-4 pm.

I get goosebumps thinking about driving through Spring Lake Ranch in 30 years from now, showing our grandchildren all the homes we built, tree we planted, and friends we made. It’s extremely gratifying to see that the unwavering faith we started out with has resulted in such a unique and beautiful community.

Thank you, Sarah!

*Interested in learning more about Spring Lake Ranch homes and properties? Contact Sarah Corker at 1.888.867.1055