Swanky Mid-Century Cabin on Pender Island
The mid-century roots of this Gulf Island home provide inspiration for a breezy renovation.
When the newly minted owners of this Pender Island getaway first looked into purchasing the home, they weren’t convinced it could be fixed. The 1968 house on the property had been well loved over the years, but though it was positioned on a glorious spit overlooking the ocean, it had been carved up into so many rooms and hallways that the view was all but hidden.
The couple brought designers Ian McLeod and Kerry Johnson over to the island to assess the property, without telling the duo that the fate of the home rested on their creative shoulders. “They hired us to realize the house and what we thought it could be,” says Johnson.
Johnson could immediately see the potential in the home, despite the copious drywall and floral draperies. And both he and McLeod knew it had soul—it just needed to be released. “All that remains of the house is that rustic, highly pitched ceiling,” says McLeod. The designing pair—who had also worked on the homeowners’ condo in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour—decided to take inspiration from both the mid-century origins of the house itself and from one of the homeowners’ background in cottage country in Ontario. Walls came down and were replaced by glass railings, creating an open entrance to the main living area below; the new layout also included a floating media room and, most importantly, a sunken living room with a vintage ’60s-era vibe. “We loved the fact that it had two levels—a little three-step down into the main seating area,” says McLeod. “It gave us a swank factor, the way late ’60s architecture was meant to be.”
The main living area is open concept, but Johnson and McLeod created intimate conversation zones throughout the space. That gorgeous original sloped ceiling was painted out in chalk white to brighten the interior and tone down the original pumpkin orange. The choice also allowed for wall removal: any ceiling repair wouldn’t have to be matched to the original stain. There are nods to mid-century classics with the Eames dining chairs, Eames lounge chairs and the Scandinavian-designed leather seats in the main living space. And the all-teak kitchen is an homage to that ever-popular material for mid-century Danish design, made modern with a precisely matched grain that runs horizontally along each of the drawers. The 14-foot picture window over the kitchen sink is the room’s crowning glory.
The homeowners wanted a fireplace near the dining room for warming up rainy nights, so Johnson hired a local stonemason to painstakingly replicate the 45-year-old fireplace that sits in the nearby living room. And Johnson custom designed a few pieces himself: the coffee table in the floating media room—ready to showcase the homeowners’ art books and collections—is inspired by glass microscope slides in their box. A prized set of encyclopedias is proudly displayed in another Johnson original, a glass side table precisely measured to house the books.
That floating room also received another custom feature: the same grey barnboard-like tiling that flows through the whole home moves right up onto the back wall here. “I was excited when I realized that back wall could be a grounding feature,” says McLeod. “It creates a real waterfall effect: the tile starts at the highest point of the apex in the room and then travels down a couple of levels.”
The homeowners, of course, couldn’t be happier. “It’s profound for them,” says Johnson. “It’s the first house they’ve ever owned, and it’s entirely different from a place in the city. There’s a freedom—and they didn’t count on that.”
“They’ve lived in apartments all their adult lives, and this is a revelation,” agrees McLeod. It’s made them homebodies, he laughs. “You end up making banana bread.” WL See sources