A Hamptons-style retreat on Mayne Island brings three generations of one family together for a rural escape from iPads, sports schedules and carpools.
In 2005, West Vancouverites Dan and Carolyn realized they hadn’t been on a holiday in 10 years. “We’d almost forgotten how to vacation,” says Dan. But rather than board a plane for a quick weeklong fix, they opted for something long term: a second home on Mayne Island that would serve as holiday central throughout the year. “Our grandkids are growing up in the city,” explains Dan. “We wanted a country place for them to gain a different perspective from iPads and scheduled sports practices.” The homeowners envisioned a Hamptons-style house that could accommodate children and grandchildren—a home for entertaining and a place that celebrated the property and the indoor-outdoor lifestyle of the Gulf Islands. Bob Irving and Jim Pitcher of Irving Pitcher Architects were tasked with bringing that vision to life. “Working in the Gulf Islands is about context,” explains Irving. “It’s about integrating with the natural landscape.” Architects and owners hiked the forested property on many occasions to determine the best siting based on seasonal sun exposures, rocky outcroppings and distance above the high-tide line. The set of the movie Something’s Gotta Give served as inspiration for the home, a tribute that is particularly evident in the kitchen: a space big enough for complete family gatherings. That first seed of an idea grew into a 5,000-square-foot house with a character all its own—a cumulative collaboration with a cast of local craftspeople. “The challenge of such a large project was to use as many local skills as possible,” says Irving. “Community is important to Dan and Carolyn and they understood the island fabric. They valued local input rather than parachuting people in.” Island residents spent three months drilling into sandstone (with the help of untold boxes of dynamite) to carve out the property’s winding driveway. And to assist with the workers’ logistics during the initial stages, the couple bought two trailers, installed a temporary septic system and hooked up a water line and electricity for anyone staying on property. (They later donated the trailers to the Mayne Island fire department.) Dan and Carolyn initially contacted several interior designers to help with the project, but ultimately Carolyn decided to lead the charge herself. She sourced everything from paint to furniture; Vancouver-based stalwart Brougham Interiors provided much of the furniture, and even arranged for their suppliers to custom build a few pieces. Interiors and architecture dovetail nicely—the open-plan home features a vaulted timber-truss living room and a dining room with 14-foot coffered ceilings—but always with a mind toward detail. The rest of the public spaces are connected to the guest wing by a sweeping circular veranda with an outdoor sandstone fireplace and skylight. “The idea of this house is that you step out onto terraces wherever you are,” says Irving. The couple’s passion project was more than skin-deep: the entire process maintained an abiding commitment to sustainability. The property runs on geothermal heating and features a state-of-the-art septic system that fully treats and reuses water for the gardens. Rainwater is also captured and stored in underground concrete cisterns that hold 7,500 gallons; another 10,000 gallons is stored at the top of the property and provides potable water for the house. (The water can also be made available for emergency firefighting.) Meanwhile, repurposed beach logs make up the retaining walls. With fun additions like a floor hockey rink in the basement, an outdoor clubhouse and a workshop for building projects, there’s room for residents and guests of all ages to run around and play. But whether it’s roasting marshmallows in the outdoor fireplace or cooking in the kitchen, says Dan, “there’s always a place for the family to come together.” HOME DESIGN TIPS Create intentional gathering points in a large space. Several generations of the family gather over the summer on Mayne Island, and though the property is sprawling, spaces like this cluster of Gloster chairs help to make the home warm and cosy. Find design inspiration in pop culture. The set for the movie Something’s Gotta Give provided the inspiration for a kitchen—complete with a 60-inch Wolf range—big enough to host a party. Baker stools positioned around the Carrara marble-topped island offer a space for the kids to help out with meal prep. Extend sightlines with a mirror. The house is sited to perfectly capture the best views on the property. In this ensuite, an oversize mirror essentially acts like a window—you’ll never miss a minute of Mayne Island’s beauty. Add drama overhead with architectural detailing. The ceilings in this home were designed by architect Bob Irving and manufactured on-site using clear, edge-grain fir, which was then painted in Farrow and Ball’s warm neutral, Fawn No. 10. wl