Discover the love story behind the building of this remote Canadian cabin

·2-min read
Photo credit: Ema Peter
Photo credit: Ema Peter

‘A house should be a world, unto its own, that emerges from the meeting of the experienced environment and the story of the inhabitant,’ says Patrick Warren, partner at Frits de Vries Architects + Associates Ltd. ‘This home is a deeply personal exploration of that idea.’

Located on a one-acre waterfront plot in Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia, it was built as a retreat from city life in Vancouver for him, marine biologist Kevin Kaufman, and their labrador Taavi (meaning beloved in Hebrew).

Photo credit: Ema Peter
Photo credit: Ema Peter

‘The Sunshine Coast can be reached by a 40-minute ferry ride across the stunning Howe Sound,’ says Patrick. ‘It feels remote, but is close to the city.’

‘Kevin and I are both spiritually drawn to nature,’ he explains. ‘As an architect from the Canadian west coast, I think that building a cabin in the woods was inevitable for me. Building it by the ocean was inevitable for Kevin. So when we found this spot we knew it was the one. We actually camped on the site after we first bought it and marked out our favourite places.’

Photo credit: Ema Peter
Photo credit: Ema Peter

The best view of the nearby lighthouse became the living room, while the dining room, oriented to the south, is located to catch the sunrise from the east.

The bedroom occupies a spot very close to where the couple spent their first night when the structure did not yet exist and, where later, Patrick proposed to Kevin. ‘Working on this house together inspired us to get married,’ says the architect. ‘In a way, merging our stories on this land has been a marriage, too.’

Photo credit: Ema Peter
Photo credit: Ema Peter

A large, gently sloping roof protects the living spaces and outdoor patio, while the small guest wing is set under a smaller roof on the opposite side. Designed as a single-storey property, it is divided into three levels, separated by three steps each, that follow the natural topography of the land.

Inspired by 1970s American coastal architecture and traditional Japanese ryokans (or inns) that the couple visited on the island of Kyushu, the materials used for the build are both simple and tactile: Douglas fir for the structure, window frames and stair treads, and cedar for the interior and exterior cladding.

Photo credit: Ema Peter
Photo credit: Ema Peter

Reflecting Patrick and Kevin’s affection for the landscape, eco ideas were integrated into this project from the start. The eye-catching roof maximises solar exposure that powers passive heating in the winter, while all of the wood used is from managed, renewable forests. Furniture choices focused on preloved pieces.

‘Sustainability,’ says Patrick, ‘should not be something that is an added technology at the end of the design process. This home is a place to remember our essential connection to nature.’ frits.ca

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration June 2021

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