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The design team at Parker and Harlow bring sophistication to a secluded isle.
Photos by Renae LeBoe
Cortes Island may be remote, but in this 4,250-square-foot house from West Coast design firm Parker and Harlow, you’re not exactly roughing it.
The stunning modern home, originally designed by architect David Shipway and Cortes construction team Blue Moon, is located on a rugged 42-acre piece of coastline (think boulders, cliffs and dense forest). The project takes inspiration from its setting, but design duo Deb Vanderkemp and Paige Gray—a mother and daughter team—infused the space with a refined city vibe via sophisticated pieces and finishes, and a celebration of West Coast modern architecture.
It’s a place where the homeowners (two professional divers) can comfortably host friends and family in the same way they do in their Vancouver penthouse, while still getting that shoulder-dropping, away-from-it-all vibe that the island (population: 1,050) is known for.
The overall log and timber framing, windows, rooflines, interior layouts and kitchen are unchanged, but Parker and Harlow took these good bones and reworked the surfaces inside and out. They also executed an extensive plumbing and HVAC overhaul. Here, the Parker and Harlow principals share the key design lessons for crafting a dream home, even in the wildest of settings.
Parker and Harlow stripped the house down to its bones, and while every surface, finish, facade, interior, and exterior received an overhaul, it’s the new floorplan of the primary suite (the bedroom, ensuite, and closet) that truly makes this renovation a revelation. The layout now allows more breathing room and connection with the coastal rainforest outside.
From the exterior, the architecture is now low and unassuming, but once you enter and descend towards the ocean, the home opens into what the designers describe as “an extraverted posture,” using design details to focus the gaze on the incredible windows. “No area feels neglected or secondary,” says Vanderkemp; she and Gray made sure every room had a gorgeous view.
A state-of-the-art solar system allows the secluded cabin to become a self-sustaining model of efficiency, collecting enough power to give back to the grid.
“My favourite parts of the home are the transitions between spaces,” says Gray. The formal lounge between the kitchen/dining room and the living room offers a moment to pause and entertain guests. Moving through the property, the shift into the courtyard brings such a serene sense of space amongst the more robust and wild acreage: “As you close the gates behind you, the whisper of aged Japanese Maples in the wind surrounds you, and the stillness of the centre ponds grounds your presence. It is the perfect place to curl up with a book or meditate.”
Though getting furniture and décor to the remote location was challenging, Vanderkemp believes the headaches were worth it. “The blending of cultures, crafts, and beauty of the natural environment come together and make this home stunning and timeless,” she says.
The Walter Knoll dining table is from Germany, and the Agnus dining light fixture from Brooklyn is made by hand, one piece at a time. Vanderkemp and Gray paired these international finds with local pieces like a Tillicum bench, hand-made in Victoria, and beautiful pieces of art from local artists (several of the paintings, in fact, are by Gray herself).
“The more streamlined, luxury finishes of this home feel unexpected for how remote it is, and yet right at home in its surroundings,” says Gray.