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White oak, black stained cypress wood, concrete and crisp white drywall balance warmth and airiness.
Even without the layer of natural seasonal touches brought in by designer Denise Ashmore, this Whistler home would be a wonderful place to spend the holidays. It’s a modern update of a classic mountain chalet for a young family; a 4,200-square-foot all-season home, designed by Ashmore’s Project 22 Design and Murdoch and Company, with an expansive interior defined by clean lines. At Christmastime or otherwise, it’s a space that feels like a true gift.
White oak, black stained cypress wood, concrete and crisp white drywall balance warmth and airiness. Step up the striking concrete-to-oak staircase and into the open-concept living space; there, a generous kitchen with a marble-wrapped island acts as a gathering hub beneath a dropped ceiling. But while the flow of the floorplan keeps the space connected and cohesive, Ashmore has given each room its own flair: here, a distinct colour scheme (like the blue and green kids’ bathrooms downstairs); there, a surprising detail (see: the burnt-cypress cladding in the powder and family rooms). “Rooms have their own personality, even the ones without doors,” says the designer.
And speaking of doors, a huge oak-clad one slides to close off the family room when quiet time is in order; downstairs is what Ashmore calls “the kid zone,” where the pre-teens can do their thing while Mom and Dad entertain upstairs. This is a home designed for bringing people together: a space for family to gather and play and connect. It’s appropriate, then, that the holiday decor here is as warm and unfussy as its surroundings. “It doesn’t have to be complicated, it doesn’t have to be overly themed,” says Ashmore. Great decor is about setting a mood, after all—making people feel good, not breaking the bank or stressing. “Spend your time making the house smell good,” she laughs.
And so, for last year’s Kids Help Phone’s Home for the Holidays tour, Ashmore decked the halls of this warm, modern home with quietly festive natural touches. In other words, you won’t find any red-and-green, jingle-all-the-way fare here. “Traditions are changing. The world is changing,” says Ashmore. “It doesn’t have to be about Santa Claus on the towels.” With help from Hunters Garden Centre, florist shop Cadine and gift store Three Singing Birds, the Scandi-cool chalet became a textural, nature-infused holiday haven.
Ashmore and the Project 22 team have spent memorable afternoons together on decor projects—making dried oranges for a table centrepiece, threading clothesline through cotton balls to make a quietly whimsical “snow” garland, wrapping gift boxes in linen. “That process is all part of it,” says Ashmore. Forget trends, forget colour themes, the designer advises. “Make something your own, make it feel like your home.”
Cadine eschewed traditional forms of evergreen in favour of eucalyptus and cedar boughs, which were incorporated throughout the space wherever a pop of green was needed: wrapped around the banister, popped into a vase, shaped into a wreath. These are plants that dry beautifully and are low-maintenance. “Our brief was: let’s make sure this is going to look good for two months and smell great,” explains Ashmore.
The most striking natural element here is the oversized, moss-covered bough that overlooks the stairwell, zap-strapped to the railing and decked out in simple wire twinkle lights, but natural branches sourced by Ashmore herself grace the table, too. Windstorms ravaged Vancouver’s tree-lined Shaughnessy neighbourhood back in 2019, leaving huge branches in the streets. Ashmore snagged a few choice pieces while walking her dog. “The moss on it is so beautiful,” she says. “You can’t recreate that. It’s not flocked, it’s just nature.”
Downstairs there is a more traditional Christmas tree, though all the ornaments—sourced from Three Singing Birds—are crafted from felt: no baubles here. “We wanted everything to feel homespun and handmade,” says Ashmore. “Everything was intended to feel like hands had touched it.” The table is similarly organic in feel, with textured pottery (also from Three Singing Birds) and simple, neutral linens from Cloth Studio. Candleholders from Provide and candlesticks from Walrus complete the minimalist tablescape.
“Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but everyone wants to get together this time of year,” says Ashmore. “I want to make a home warm and welcoming to everyone.”
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