A Shawnigan Lake build brings a modern twist to this cabin in the woods.
BY DANIELLE POPE | PHOTOS BY JODY BECK
Ashley Howard has a soft spot for Shawnigan Lake — though she was never planning to build there. She and her family spent summers camping along the shoreline, and it became a favourite getaway year after year.
It was little surprise that when a property came available, Howard and her crew were interested. Yet the derelict shanty on the lot was more “haunted cabin” than “rustic getaway,” and it wasn’t exactly the scene Howard had dreamed about.
“The cabin was run down and we knew someone would have to chip away for a long time to make improvements, but we just kept looking at it,” says Howard. “We’d be up camping or playing sports and say, ‘Let’s just take one more look.’”
The family saw other properties on the market, but many lacked the privacy offered by this chevron-shaped lot, with its steep ravine and nearly untouchable corridor of greenery. They finally closed the deal, envisioned they’d camp while slowly fixing up the building on site.
“We thought we’d go with an RV or portable structure and use the land for its water access and just keep it natural, but we wanted my mom to be able to enjoy the space, too,” says Howard. “The problem with the building was that it would have to be levelled either way: its stilts were totally rotten. And, with three kids, there would be six of us in one room and an outhouse 50 metres from the house.”
Seeing the impracticality of the situation, Howard drafted their trusted designer Ian Roberts, principal of Flashhouse, to the cause. Roberts knew a total redesign was the obvious choice, but “rustic” wasn’t necessarily his vision.
“We went to Ian straight away because he built the house we live in now and we love it. You wouldn’t approach Flashhouse to build a cottage because they’re very modern,” says Howard. “As soon as we knew we were going for a build we knew we’d want that modern look and feel. Ian led the charge.”
Howard credits Roberts with everything from concept of the 2,200-square-foot house’s shape — a reverse “V” pointed towards the lake — to the floor-to-ceiling glass walls. With one end of the house cantilevered over rock, every window of this home offers a perfect view of water or greenery.
“I design from a use pattern itinerary. There are always two major itineraries in a home: how guests experience it, and how owners experience it,” says Roberts. “Having a livable view was the idea behind this house. You don’t want to go from your home to your getaway and have a worse experience than you do at your home. That’s like going out to eat at a place that tastes worse than food you could make yourself. Why would you do that?”
To ensure the owner and guest experiences were remarkable, Roberts worked on highlighting the house’s role in its natural environment. That meant emphasizing features like an oversized wrap-around Red Balau wood deck and a new, larger dock.
“You know with cabins, you’re going to be enjoying it with others,” says Roberts. “With Ashley’s mother there, too, they wanted to be able to see as much of the lake as possible from every part of the home and be able to walk straight out the back door and down a path to the water.”
Amid the greenery, the home’s striking features are framed by its surrounding environment. Flashhouse produced the shou sugi ban charred wood siding on site using the traditional Japanese method of burning the exterior of the wood to preserve it from fire and pests.
The oxidized metalwork around the house’s exterior mimics the rust-coloured pine needles on the forest floor. A black Carmanah marble focal wall with white veining in the dining area adds a dramatic touch, and linear skylights welcome natural lighting.
One of the challenges of the build was actually dropping the marble through a skylight opening, says Roberts, as the feature wall was a late decision, not installed before the roof was on. As well, the process of charring the siding on site proved to be an advanced move. Still, the home’s accomplishments are unparalleled.
“The great room is fantastic. Winter and summer, you can sit by the fire orb and look out at the lake,” says Roberts. “Because of the shape of the house, it’s not a very deep room — only about 16 feet — but it’s long. With the wall of glass doors, it creates an immediacy to the outdoors and the water by its sheer dimensions.”
Howard says her whole family has fallen for the renewed beauty of their getaway.
“We really didn’t want this to be a place where we’re always thinking about what has to be done. We’d rather just camp,” she says, adding they still gather around the original fire pit. “Now, we can drop in for the night or stay for two weeks. It’s just far enough away to be perfect.”
Designer: Ian Roberts, Flashhouse
Interior Design: Ian Roberts, Flashhouse
Shou Sugi Ban and gabion walls: Flashhouse
Framer and decks: Cardinal Custom Carpentry
Plumbing: Good Grade Plumbing
HVAC: RedBlue Heating & Refrigeration
Electrician: Pardell Electric
Light Fixtures: McLaren Lighting
Doors and Hardware: Slegg Building Materials Door Shop
Windows: Vinyltek, Marvin Modern by Complete Windows
Roofing: A. MacKenzie Roofing
Tile: Ricardo Pontedura, Premium Tiling
Kitchen Appliances: Coast Appliances
Countertops: Colonial Countertops
Plumbing Fixtures: Andrew Sheret
Flooring: Hourigan’s Flooring
Landscape Design: Clyde Snobelen Landscaping (CSL)
Custom Metal Fabrication: Broadwell Metal Company
Custom marble: Matrix Marble & Stone
Paint: Tyler Harris Painters
Cabinets: Hobson Woodworks
Glazing: Royal Oak Glass