A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life

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By Kelly Dawson / Published by Dwell
By building a modern property next to their traditional cabin, a couple starts fresh on familiar land.

More than 20 years have passed since a couple first brought their two children to a quiet cabin on British Columbia’s Hornby Island. It was the setting of the family’s summer vacations, a rustic place to return to after a day of outdoor adventures. Like most of their neighbors, their cabin was built with a self-sufficient mentality that depends on the island’s simple resources for construction materials—it’s common knowledge that anything shipped to the area is often too much of a hassle. But after the couple retired from careers on a school board in Vancouver Island, and their sons moved out, the pair considered their homespun site of warm memories as an opportune challenge for something new. They wanted to use their lived-in cabin as a guesthouse and build a modern place of their own without disturbing the land. Architect D’Arcy Jones and his eponymous firm designed a two-bedroom space that’s separated from the original by a private courtyard. Jones and his team applied stucco to the new cabin to echo the appearance of the original cabin. "It is not as popular now, but it has a timeless appeal," Jones says. 

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 1 of 9 - "They wanted the new cabin to make a ‘L’ shape with the older cabin, but I convinced them to mimic the old cabin on the opposite side," architect D’Arcy Jones says. "So the new site has two buildings across from each other, like an equal sign." Birch trees grow between the cabins in a shared courtyard.

"They wanted the new cabin to make a ‘L’ shape with the older cabin, but I convinced them to mimic the old cabin on the opposite side," architect D’Arcy Jones says. "So the new site has two buildings across from each other, like an equal sign." Birch trees grow between the cabins in a shared courtyard.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 2 of 9 - "The goal I had was for a new building to be sympathetic to a quirky, soulful little cabin that was not modern in many ways," Jones says. He mirrored the original home by incorporating the same cement stucco, painted pure white, with Douglas fir soffits. Two Douglas fir trees had to be cut down during construction, and they were repurposed throughout the home—including for this bench.

"The goal I had was for a new building to be sympathetic to a quirky, soulful little cabin that was not modern in many ways," Jones says. He mirrored the original home by incorporating the same cement stucco, painted pure white, with Douglas fir soffits. Two Douglas fir trees had to be cut down during construction, and they were repurposed throughout the home—including for this bench.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 3 of 9 - Polished concrete with radiant heating comprise the cabin’s interior floors, and its ceilings are made of Douglas fir. Jones designed the custom windows, which were fabricated by contractor Ian Maclean.

Polished concrete with radiant heating comprise the cabin’s interior floors, and its ceilings are made of Douglas fir. Jones designed the custom windows, which were fabricated by contractor Ian Maclean.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 4 of 9 - "One large room is overrated, and a bedroom opening off a great room doesn’t work well if someone sleeps in or goes to bed early," Jones says. "So there are halls, which I think need to make a comeback." Quartz countertops and Douglas fir cabinets surround the kitchen sink and faucet by BLANCO Canada.

"One large room is overrated, and a bedroom opening off a great room doesn’t work well if someone sleeps in or goes to bed early," Jones says. "So there are halls, which I think need to make a comeback." Quartz countertops and Douglas fir cabinets surround the kitchen sink and faucet by BLANCO Canada.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 5 of 9 - "You go down a hall and turn left to go to bed, to block noise from the living room," Jones says. "And each space in the house looks out onto something different, in all directions." The bed is custom-made by Jones, which is covered with linens from Bespoke Design in Victoria, B.C. A black Tolomeo mini table lamp sits on the nightstand.

"You go down a hall and turn left to go to bed, to block noise from the living room," Jones says. "And each space in the house looks out onto something different, in all directions." The bed is custom-made by Jones, which is covered with linens from Bespoke Design in Victoria, B.C. A black Tolomeo mini table lamp sits on the nightstand.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 6 of 9 - A Toto toilet and bathroom sink, with a faucet by GROHE, are illuminated by a Leucos light fixture. Birgit Piskor designed the sculpture in the garden beside the shower.

A Toto toilet and bathroom sink, with a faucet by GROHE, are illuminated by a Leucos light fixture. Birgit Piskor designed the sculpture in the garden beside the shower.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 7 of 9 - "[The house] avoids the mass or heaviness of too much timber construction, so with a few hidden steel beams, it seems to float and hover over the site in a delicate way," Jones says. Salal, a native plant to the Pacific Northwest, and fern act as the site’s groundcover.

"[The house] avoids the mass or heaviness of too much timber construction, so with a few hidden steel beams, it seems to float and hover over the site in a delicate way," Jones says. Salal, a native plant to the Pacific Northwest, and fern act as the site’s groundcover.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 8 of 9 - "Their lives revolve around ocean activities, reading, music, and good food and wine," Jones says of the owners. "The new house I designed is just for them," such as with this sheltered outdoor areas where gear can be stored; the ceilings above are also Douglas fir.

"Their lives revolve around ocean activities, reading, music, and good food and wine," Jones says of the owners. "The new house I designed is just for them," such as with this sheltered outdoor areas where gear can be stored; the ceilings above are also Douglas fir.

A Couple’s Cherished Vacation Home is Given a Second Life - Photo 9 of 9 - "The new house is not shy to look across at the old house, where you can see old rough stucco on one building, and then the same stucco on our new building," Jones says.

"The new house is not shy to look across at the old house, where you can see old rough stucco on one building, and then the same stucco on our new building," Jones says.