For decades, people have long sought refuge from the outside world at Vancouver’s iconic Bayshore Hotel. From infamous billionaire Howard Hughes who eluded the paparazzi for half a year while camping out in its penthouse in the 1970s to the generations of tourists who continue to flock here, they all come seeking the same thing: peace and quiet thanks to the hotel’s idyllic seaside setting and proximity to Stanley Park.  So when interior designers Cynthia Penner and Jay Brooks of Box Interior Design were asked to create a zen retreat at the Bayshore’s private residences, they knew that while the condo’s view was already primed for the task, the challenge lay with transforming its dated interiors into a serene sanctuary.

Credit: Larry Goldstein

Penner and Brooks, who also happen to be married, cut their design teeth mostly in commercial work in Toronto at Ceccone Simone Interior Design and Yabu Pushelberg respectively. Years later, when the pair eventually returned to the west coast they continued the theme of working with the best: Penner worked with Alda Pereira while Brooks joined the team at Robert Ledingham, where he handled most of the firm’s commercial design. When the timing was right, however, they took a leap of faith and opened Box Interior Design together. “That was 2002 and we’re still married!” laughs Penner. “We’ve been blessed to be able to continue so much hospitality work, but our clients have always quietly said in the background, ‘would you help me with my home too?'”

Beside the newly built staircase that leads to an outdoor deck, a Bocci light suspends dramatically over the Georgetti desk flanked by B&B Italia chairs. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
From their design of the Sanctuary Hotel in Miami and the Adera Hotel in Whistler to Market by Jean Georges and Glowbal Telus Garden, the couple is adamant that commercial design and residential design share the same DNA. “It’s about creating spaces that resonate emotionally with people—intimacy of touch points; how does a space flow around you and allow grace of living?” says Penner. “Whether home or hotel, It’s the same motivation—It’s getting to the heart of somebody and capturing their imagination to let them live aspirationally.”
The client wasn’t a fan of more “expressive” polished stone like Calacatta marble so the designers opted to clad the fireplace with a matte marble in a muted leather finish that provided a more organic texture. “We loved how it felt watery and cloudy all at the same time for a dreamy quality,” says Penner. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
Two Poliform sofas by Poliform and two Maxalto rockers create an intimate seating arrangement around a Minotti coffee table. Custom chandelier by Karice Lighting. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)

This homeowner, a highly spiritual person, sought a quiet, restorative environment for his personal wellbeing. But not only was he looking for a serene space that allowed him to retreat from the hectic pace of work that saw him travelling six months a year, but also a place that could function as showpiece too. The client envisioned a palette with a masculine aesthetic, a spiritual connection and muted restraint, but one that could also serve as glamorous and luxurious backdrop when entertaining or hosting visiting family.

A new wine room was carved into the middle of the floorplan to help break up the monolithic space. “The room felt very cold and intimidating,” explains Penner, “so by adding a new room in the centre, it not only created a more intimate feel, but It’s a great foil that helps define the dining space, entry space, living room and relaxation area now.” (Credit: Larry Goldstein)

“It’s not about our vision; It’s about interpreting a dream for somebody else,” says Penner. “I think by sitting back into those things and really listening to people’s words and assessing the language is what It’s all about.” Penner and Brooks sent their client two mood boards to peruse: a moody, smoky masculine path and one with a bit more colour and less restraint. “We tell people that It’s not about specific colours or furniture; It’s more about a feeling when they look at the pictures,” says Penner. The client immediately gravitated to the first board.

Subtle, subdued tones set the stage for the 4000-square-foot space that manages to now feel both warm and intimate yet glorious and grand at the same time. An ultimate haven in a hotel.

The Dante Come As You Are bar cart from Inform serves as artwork in powder-coated steel and tempered glass against the hot-rolled steel wine room wall. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
To create textural intervention, the wine room was clad in a customized hot-rolled steel, a process that creates an “oil on water effect, a water-colour effect that’s soft and gentle to the touch.” A wax finish arrests the oxidization process and perfectly preserves the effect. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
The dining room’s circular table by Emmemboli Italy lends itself well to convivial conversation while the Kekke quilted leather dining chairs by Piet Boon add texture and warmth. A chandelier by Flos adds restrained drama. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
A custom curved sofa through WD Western offers quiet contemplation while black accent pieces—a grey-and-black Maxalto chair, a glossy black stool and black B&B Italia coffee table—anchor the space without feeling too heavy. (Credit: Larry Goldstein)
The powder room’s custom mirror by Box Interior Design and the Nahbi Collection sink by Kreoo add the perfect balance of form and function.

Originally published April 2021