A bold renovation transforms a dowdy Whistler cabin into a modern marvel designed with entertaining in mind.
The renovation of this 1980s ski-in/ski-out Whistler chalet actually started fairly small—designer Robert Bailey was asked to modernize the kitchen. But soon enough, the homeowners started to dream big, and before too long the roof was off and everything had been stripped to the studs. “The original home was very partitioned and very dowdy,” says Bailey. “There was a lot of clumsy detailing and all this orange fir everywhere—that terribly coloured wood that’s pretty popular up in Whistler.” What a difference a reno makes. Bailey had previously worked on several other homes for the young family, so he’d already established some trust. The most significant part of this reno would be to deliver a proper great room, where a small crowd could socialize. (The home has four guest rooms, plus a master bedroom and a kids’ room stacked with bunk beds.) “They have tons of people there all the time,” notes Bailey. “So bringing everyone together in one space was really the main idea.” That idea required some work. The living area has now essentially doubled in width, with the main wall (which originally contained a single small window) pushed 10 feet back. In its place is a striking 22-foot-high bank of windows (thanks to the aid of architectural designer Jamie Dobson), revealing a line of nearby evergreen trees that is now the real showstopper. A black-and-white palette indoors allows nature to be the star, though even the great outdoors can use a little help, of course: spotlights were affixed to the house to illuminate the trees at night, which keeps the glass from becoming a black scrim after the sun goes down. “You feel like you’re floating among those trees,” says Bailey, “because the main floor is actually ten feet off the ground.” (It doesn’t hurt that they raised the roof, too, by a couple of feet.) Wresting your gaze from the windows, there’s plenty to admire indoors. Assembled on a floor of distressed French oak (its knotty surface practically immune to scrapes) are a custom sofa in Knoll Luxe textiles, a coffee table built out of reclaimed beams from the Drake Hotel in Toronto and, atop the cabinet, a pair of glass-and-marble “Snoopy” lamps from Flos. It all makes for a fairly royal conversation zone, complete with a ceiling-high tower of stacked wood ready for the fireplace; the hearth was originally built of river rocks, but those were swapped out in favour of a softer Fond du Lac stone. “One of the hardest things about being an interior designer,” says Robert Bailey, “is not over-coordinating, not making things too contrived.” Case in point: a cowhide ottoman adds a playful element and doubles as storage for all the kids’ toys. A pared-down palette is always Bailey’s first choice, so the oak flooring travels straight into the open kitchen. And, in the kitchen, a richly veined backsplash of Calacatta marble extends generously around the windows. Meanwhile, quartz countertops wrap around the millwork and drop straight to the floor. On the same floor, a master bedroom feels smart and clean. A pair of black Anglepoise lamps frames a custom-built four-poster bed with sharp, mod angles, and the ensuite maintains that chic finesse with a cube bathtub and counters of white marble. All those clean lines are softened, though, with the addition of a delicate glass pendant in crystal (with bubbles) by the Jamie Harris Studio in New York. Bailey designed the custom bed and side tables for the master bedroom, the latter topped with classic Anglepoise lamps. The space is not all high-design imperatives, of course. “One of the hardest things about being an interior designer,” says Bailey, “is not over-coordinating, not making things too contrived.” So the homeowners’ personalities come through in moments of real playfulness. Case in point: a cowhide ottoman in the living room that doubles as storage for all the kids’ toys. Downstairs, toys for grownups include a golf simulator and a luxe Ping-Pong table (modified from an equally luxe pool table). Back in the great room, it’s certainly clear that the elegant resolution in this design work isn’t meant to interrupt a good time. The bar, for example, is equipped with an under-counter ice machine, a pair of refrigerated drawers and a wine cooler, all nestled within an envelope of white oak in a grey wash (to match the kitchen’s millwork). After dining beneath a chandelier built of cast-resin antlers, a houseful of guests can while away the evening with a film on the widescreen television—which otherwise disappears into its surround of blackened steel. Or they’ll simply cozy up beneath Hermès blankets with a glass of something warm, and watch the snow fall around this grown-up tree fort. The renovation was originally meant to just tackle the kitchen, but once the plans started, the homeowners went all in, removing partitions to create one large space, and losing the orange fir that once dominated.