Homes & Design Photo Credit: Kristen McGaughey

Mountain Modern—Whistler Chalet

Forget the bearskin rugs and flannel throws: this contemporary Whistler chalet is a sleek and stylish reimagining of the classic family cabin.

 

The warm modernism that dominates this lakeside retreat in Whistler feels comfortably familiar for its owners: they call London home when they’re not hitting the slopes on the West Coast, so they tapped Vancouver design team Heffel Balagno to create a chalet that would satisfy their active lifestyles and modern tastes. “They weren’t shy about going for a clean and contemporary look,” laughs designer Jennifer Heffel. “They wanted to incorporate new ideas, and urged us to push the envelope. It was a designer’s dream.”

Family Ties | The sturdy table comfortably fits a family of five and plenty of guests. Custom designed by the contractor out of solid wood, it’s designed so that dents and scratches can be easily buffed out—kid friendly, just like the durable white leather seating.
Family Ties | The sturdy table comfortably fits a family of five and plenty of guests. Custom designed by the contractor out of solid wood, it’s designed so that dents and scratches can be easily buffed out—kid friendly, just like the durable white leather seating.

In fact, the modern design here isn’t without a few nods to the home’s rustic surroundings. The whitewashed, wide-plank oiled oak flooring is warm and welcoming, and cozy cream-coloured furnishings offer a dash of traditional chalet style. But modern touches—like oversized Moooi pendant lights, floating like ethereal snowballs in the entryway atrium—hint that the space was ahead of its time when the family of five first moved in a few years ago.

Winter Wonderland | Squamish-quarried brougham stone and charcoal-stained cedar help this modern architecture fit right into its woodland surroundings.
Winter Wonderland | Squamish-quarried brougham stone and charcoal-stained cedar help this modern architecture fit right into its woodland surroundings.

In the main living spaces, bright white walls are paired with dark wood cabinetry and black-framed windows; the strong contrast is softened with lush textiles scattered throughout the seven-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot home. Custom rugs from Burritt Brothers offer variations on a theme: the pattern of the front hall carpet is remixed with different sizes and hues and reprinted on other rugs throughout the house in soft alpaca wool.


Though it’s a sophisticated space, this home was built with family in mind. During dinner parties, kids are set up on the oversized Camerich sectional for movie night in the media room (the ceiling lights create a diffused glow thanks to wood slats installed over them in a subtle wave pattern). Meanwhile, when they want another bottle of red, the parents can pop into the custom wine cellar, where backlit LED panels with blown-up black and white photos of snow-covered trees offer a dreamy backdrop for the racks of pinot noir. A low-key rec room, with durable basalt tile flooring that extends out onto the patio, plays host to downtime for the whole clan. Upstairs, modern, cantilevered built-in bunks in the kids’ room and child-friendly details like easy-cleaning leather chairs in the dining area keep everyone happy, and make entertaining other guests—big and small—convenient.

Modern Marvel | Twelve-foot ceilings and oversized windows make for a master bedroom that’s light and airy. Floating night tables emphasize that sense of space, while the sophisticated-but-simple custom headboard, made of ebonized oak and shagreen leather, has substantial presence without dominating the room. Across from the bed, a custom fireplace heats up cool winter evenings.
Modern Marvel | Twelve-foot ceilings and oversized windows make for a master bedroom that’s light and airy. Floating night tables emphasize that sense of space, while the sophisticated-but-simple custom headboard, made of ebonized oak and shagreen leather, has substantial presence without dominating the room. Across from the bed, a custom fireplace heats up cool winter evenings.

Every Whistler cabin needs an attention-grabbing fireplace: here, three custom-made oversized hearths (one in the master bedroom, one in the living room and another downstairs) are done up in sleek slabs of polished concrete—a material that nods to the house’s natural surroundings and appeals to the homeowners’ minimalist sensibilities. A bright original Damien Hirst painting hangs above the living room fire, a colourful break from the room’s neutral palette. It’s also on view for anyone in the kitchen, thanks to a cut-out that was added at the last minute. “We stood in the kitchen when it was framed out and realized that it would be so beautiful to look through to the other room,” the designer explains. (The gap has function too: it acts as a pass-through during dinner hour.)

Home Away From Home | The kids love the built-in bunk beds (right); the ladder acts as a cantilever support for the twin and double beds.
Home Away From Home | The kids love the built-in bunk beds (right); the ladder acts as a cantilever support for the twin and double beds.

On the top floor the sloping ceiling—it climbs from nine feet in the bathroom to 12 feet in the master suite—is decked out with lightly stained hemlock that remains clear and beautiful thanks to clever lighting alternatives. “We wanted to keep things clean and architectural, so we strung cable lights between cedar beams,” Heffel explains. The master bathroom is an experiment in symmetry: beside a floating tub, matching vanities flank the full-length mirror, and the toilet is tucked away discreetly in a frosted glass cubicle that mimics the look of the separate shower.

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“This house was ahead of its time,” Heffel muses. “The homeowners were willing to go to the effort to find something different for Whistler.” It still stands out today: a unique mix of family cabin warmth and Euro cool.

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