Light is often at the top of the wish list when homeowners are designing a new place in this neck of the woods, where sunshine and sea views feel so much more integral than square footage, stainless steel fridges and other amenities. But the Vancouver family who uses this spectacular home on B.C.’s South Pender Island year-round to escape from the bustle of city life — just a 15-minute flight away — wanted way more than just bright spaces. This is a house where the line between inside and out has been all but erased. Nature is its soul mate. The rooms are kissed by breezes that sweep through wide-open sliding glass doors designed to let in as much of the landscape and light as possible. The only color palette is one that mirrors the stone and sky and sea and natural beauty all around it.
Keep scrolling for a look inside this spectacular family getaway!
“The site was the biggest inspiration,” explains graduate architect Howard Airey of Vancouver’s The Airey Group, who the homeowners called on to design the home. “It’s perched on a natural plateau more than 100 feet above the ocean with distant views through craggy, windswept trees, so it called for a more minimal architectural design,” says Airey, who also has a place on the island. He took great care to create a home that “maintains a low profile on the site and is positioned to frame the views and capture maximum morning and evening sunlight.” And since it’s visible from above, the design also incorporates an environmentally friendly green roof covered in sedum that helps it blend into the landscape.
Airey’s unique 3,800-square-foot design features a large, communal living-dining-kitchen “pavilion” with a cedar-clad wing stretching out from that on either side. A courtyard opens off the back of the pavilion, while a huge, partially cantilevered terrace overlooking the water below runs almost the full length of the house on the front.
The glass-walled pavilion is the hub and heart of the house. It holds the living, dining and kitchen spaces and links the family wing, to the right, and the guest wing on the left. Furnishings here are sleek and low-slung, so they don’t block the views. The huge white oak dining table and benches are designed to feel like a modern picnic table. Over time, the newly planted trees and low- lying bushes in the entry courtyard will fill in, further enhancing the connection between indoors and out.
Despite the remote, rugged setting, the family — whose city home is a colorful Mediterranean-style villa — resisted the pull of a rustic country interior and opted for a modern look that focuses on comfort and family-friendliness above all else, a look in sync with the landscape and their lifestyle. No antlers. No plaids. No cottage tchotchkes.
Their one concession to the pastoral is a massive wood-burning fireplace crafted from local stone — but that’s balanced by the citified luxury of heated polished-concrete floors tinted the color of the ocean on a stormy day. “The materials and colors we chose for the interior are all subdued and earthy,” says Vancouver designer Carrie McCarthy, of McCarthy Hinder Interior Design, who, along with partner Tanja Hinder, created the quiet, understated interiors. “It’s very calming; there are no jarring contrasts. The design focused on four materials — concrete, natural stone, white oak and cedar — which we used as a foundation and repeated throughout the home to give it a cohesive feeling and seamless flow.”
Since bare feet and bathing suits are the summer-long dress code here, every decision was as practical as it was aesthetic. The polished floors not only bounce light and reflections throughout the house, but are built to withstand the small army of little feet and frisbees that fly across them on weekends.
The courtyard includes a grassy area where kids can play and a firepit perfect for toasting marshmallows. “They wanted their children to feel free to run around, have adventures and explore,” says Hinder.
Artful pendants delineate the dining area without blocking views. In the kitchen, the cabinets’ vertical grain leads the eye up to the cedar- clad ceiling, for a treehouse effect.
In the powder room, streamlined rift-cut white oak cabinets run up and over the vanity.
A nook in the guest/playroom is a refined distillation of the home’s drawn-from-nature palette, with the art and console echoing tones in the stone wall.
In a guest room, hits of grey-blue in an exotic pillow and throw reflect the hue of the water outside.
Complemented by art inspired by the landscape, a low-slung sectional sofabed and tiered coffee table add understated style to a guest bedroom without taking up too much visual space or competing with the view.
The principal bedroom is cantilevered out over the landscape and wrapped in windows. The ceiling’s cedar panelling extends out to the soffits for continuity. Plush carpeting, linen drapes and cosy bedding in soft, calming shades of grey and taupe balance the industrial austerity of concrete floors. The spiky wooden light fixture is a modern take on an antler chandelier.
With its walls finished in horizontally veined travertine slabs and the ceiling in matching tile, the principal bathroom’s walk-in steam shower has an enveloping, spa-like feeling that reflects the rocky seascapes outside. By making the threshold level with the cement floor, the designers have focused the room on the unbroken flow of natural light instead. The window opens to allow excess humidity to escape and provide the luxury of a shower with a view.
A vivid pink rug, pillows and pretty lighting in the daughter’s bedroom adds fun without going all-out girly. A double- bed lower bunk provides lots of space for overnight guests, while cedar panelling on the ceiling adds warmth and texture. McCarthy and Hinder designed a storage unit with painted-pink cubby holes to make the bed feel more enclosed and create a spot for her to display collectibles.
In the son’s bedroom, mod wood wall hooks offer a spot for storage or display.
As country places go, this one’s really more glam than granola. “The owners are from South America, and they wanted some elegance — a bit of glamor,” says McCarthy, pointing out the dining area’s organically shaped pendant lights lined in gold to create a mellow, shimmery light, and the kitchen’s gleaming onyx backsplash, as sexy and streamlined as a strapless evening gown. “It’s lovely here in the summer,” says McCarthy. “But on a dark and stormy night, surrounded by the sky, cocooned and cosy, fire going, it’s really quite exciting.”
When they’re not entertaining friends, they’re kayaking and swimming and touring the local farmers’ market. Indeed, for all of its carefully considered design concepts, this is a surprisingly relaxed home. You can spill, drop things or crayon to your heart’s content. “Nothing is too precious. The priority was comfort — a modern home made cosy. Everything in it needed to be functional — it had to work,” says Hinder.
The design is exactly what the homeowners had hoped for: a private, clean, modern retreat where they can relax and embrace the natural surroundings with their two children, plus extended family and friends. In summer, when all the massive glass doors are open to the courtyard and terrace, the home feels like a treehouse suspended above the ocean in the boughs of windswept cedars.