Designer Mitchell Freedland brings a contemporary spin to a classic Whistler home.
It seemed like it would be just a quick touch-up job. When the owners of this Whistler getaway purchased the house in April 2013, they were charmed by the oversized timbers and exposed wood, but they also felt it was a bit dated and lacking in any particular style. A little paint and wallpaper, they thought, and they’d have the home they wanted. “The notion was to do minor work, and before you knew it, it was pretty much gutted,” says Mitchell Freedland of Vancouver’s Mitchell Freedland Design, who the couple brought in to help with the overhaul. “They realized it needed to be something that was more suited to their needs.” The kitchen was the starting point: poorly laid out and awkwardly positioned within the home, it didn’t act as the social heart they were looking for. “They wanted it to be the star,” says Freedland. “In reworking it, it became obvious that they couldn’t get the kitchen where they wanted it without some changes.” The nearby living area was also in need of an update: the couple wanted a more dramatic fireplace and the surrounding windows weren’t deep enough: if you were sitting down in that room, you were looking at a wall, despite the fantastic view just outside. And so each space was given a serious rethink, save for one thing. “Knowing that the clients fell in love with the place because of the exposed beams, those were sacred and weren’t going anywhere,” says the designer. The colour of the wood needed an update, however, and Freedland’s team had the intense orange beams retoned to a cooler taupey cognac. Many of the beams and tree trunk posts were reshaped by hand in order to contemporize the overall look of the home and, in the case of the kitchen, to suit the new design. For the living room, one of the homeowners had fallen for a contemporary multicoloured carpet from the Rug Company that would set the stage for both the colour palette and the overall design of the home. “It was a great starting point,” says Freedland. “Although there’s a cozy, almost traditional feel, that carpet and other touches throughout have a contemporary vibe.” The kitchen was designed to embrace the family’s Swedish background, with its blue and white palette, classic design of beadboard on the island, and cup handles on the cabinets. The farmhouse feel marries well with those exposed beams and the kitchen’s original flagstone floor. In the nearby living room, the windows were replaced and cut down to near floor level, allowing guests to enjoy that vista outside. The fireplace’s new Cheakamus basalt ledgestone facade more than lives up to the couple’s request to make it spectacular. The home’s staircase, meanwhile, had been a dark and claustrophobic enclosed space. Freedland had the stairs removed and installed floating wood steps instead, with a custom bar-code design on the handrail. “We’d originally designed a regimented series of pickets,” he explains, “but then we started to play with it and came up with the bar-code rhythm.” Upstairs, the kids’ bedrooms are in the playful, rich colours requested by each child, while the parents’ master is a soothing soft blue. An oddity of the original design took a bit of a trick to create more floor space: an air-conditioning duct ran along the floor at the back of the room, so Freedland had the bed built over the duct, which creates a step on either side for the nightstands. The back wall of the master is covered in up-lit flame-stitched panels, disguising the step underneath. The renovation manages to preserve the classic cabin vernacular of a Whistler home while updating the look to feature the more contemporary accents and colour palette. It wasn’t a paint-and-wallpaper job, but the couple is happy they went all the way to get what they wanted. “Once the clients were on board that the fix wasn’t going to be as quick or easy as they’d originally thought, they were committed to ‘Let’s do this properly,’” says Freedland. “That’s great to have on your side.”