A family’s Whistler retreat is built around a gabled great room that simply soars.
A good challenge can spur great design. And a narrow, steep property in Whistler’s Creekside neighbourhood—with little leeway to build between the street side, which boasts mountain views, and the bottom of the property, which borders a greenbelt—did just that. It took some architectural ingenuity, but the tricky site is now the perfect perch for an unexpected cabin that celebrates both outlooks—even passersby on the street get a glimpse through one end of the expansive, exposed structure and out the other into the tree canopy beyond. “Cabin” may be too humble a description for this modern interpretation of a ski chalet. The 2,700-square-foot residence is the work of Brad Lamoureux, the award-winning West Vancouver architect with plenty of experience designing homes for challenging sites. This “postage-stamp-size” property, as he puts it, was no exception. With the awkward topography and Whistler’s tight zoning regulations, there wasn’t much space to go big and bold—and yet he did. Steel rods overhead are a modern reinterpretation of a timber frame structure. Wood window frames are so delicate they mimic metal in thinness, architect Brad Lamoureux says. “We wanted it to feel like tracery you’d find in a gothic cathedral.” Homeowners Steven and Karen Bruk wanted a second home in Creekside, where Karen grew up (her family’s cabin is just down the street), and they liked Lamoureux’s West Coast-contemporary designs. As a vacation retreat, the home needed the requisite bedrooms, bathrooms and utility space to accommodate the couple and their three school-age children. But it was also an opportunity to create something, says Steven, “where people would walk by and think ‘I want to get inside that house.’ ” The stairs feature glass-and-steel rails that reiterate the steel trusses of the great room. DINING ROOM: (below) A painting by David T. Alexander creates a natural tie to the forests of Whistler Mountain. “I saw the potential here to create one important space and make it as dramatic as possible,” explains Lamoureux. “One magnificent space that the whole building hangs its hat on.” That space is a gorgeous gabled great room. Here, the kitchen, dining and living rooms, anchored by a huge stone fireplace, are part of one voluminous post-and-beam space—22 feet high at the apex and 47 feet long. That expanse is emphasized through a reinterpretation of timber trusses using steel rods to minimize the exposed structure. “The trusses are meant to be a little bit of a surprise,” says Lamoureux. “The idea was to take away the heaviness of a normal wood truss and replace it with these more delicate steel members so that you have this greater sense of space.” A zipper of skylights lines the roof ridge; the effect is cathedral-like. The lightness is maintained through the home thanks to a contemporary palette of materials that re-examines traditional chalet aesthetics. No Whistler clichés of river rock and logs here. Instead, strong horizontal lines of bluestone and local Douglas fir create a warm modernism: not easy when working with so much wood—especially the orange tinge of fir. Finding a stain to achieve the rich, chocolate-brown tone at the centre of the colour scheme was key to the interior design, a team effort that included Lesli Balagno of Heffel Balagno Design Consultants. She brought in modern-rustic elements like a mohair sofa, and cobalt-blue mosaic tiles and a slate floor in the master ensuite. For the master bedroom, she brought a chalet-chic cowhide headboard and a sumptuous Catherine Regehr fur throw. This contemporary chalet is more than a getaway; it’s a family home. The great room is where the family most often gather—compartmentalized living just isn’t part of the vacation plan. “We wanted that open concept,” says Steven, “this one room where you could be in that space as one person or among 35 people and it doesn’t feel any different.” The home’s success as an intimate space and also a party space means that the family now entertains more often here than in the city. You just might find 15 kids running around in the vast space under those trusses, happily oblivious to the beauty above. The bedroom is set in a second open gabled space off the great room. A millwork wall separates the bedroom from the ensuite (and serves as the vanity wall) without reaching the ceiling, leaving the dramatic truss structure exposed.