This Award-Winning Cabin Is a Relaxing Antidote to City Living

This Award-Winning Cabin Is a Relaxing Antidote to City Living

By Lucy Wang
Sited in a remote Canadian forest, a luxurious cabin rental embraces indoor/outdoor living.

When a Shanghai–based, Canadian–Brit family approached Robert E. Miller of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to design their dream cabin in the woods of Ontario, the principal architect went the extra mile.

Designed as a carefully crafted response to its surrounding nature, the 3,300-square-foot Bear Stand Residence nestled in the remote woods along the shores of Lake Contau beautifully fulfills the clients’ desire for indoor/outdoor living.

The property in Gooderham is set at the end of the original lake access road, and enjoys 1,300 feet of uninterrupted lakeside shoreline. 

In the initial site visit, Miller and his clients, Sharon Leece and Joe Magrath, spent several days camping in tents on the property. 

This invaluable experience helped him and his team understand the clients’ needs, and allowed them to figure out how to best integrate the holiday retreat into the wooded landscape.

The house was strategically placed between the lake and an adjacent granite rock-face to capture key landscape views.

"We had a dream of creating an authentic cabin aesthetic in a modern yet comfortable context," explains Sharon, who adds that she and her husband jumped at the chance to buy the 99-acre woodland, waterfront site. 

The great room is anchored by a 25-foot-high granite, wood-burning fireplace with a reclaimed timber mantle located beneath Alumicor skylights.

Not only was the site located in the heart of nature in the Halliburton Highlands where Joe had spent many summers growing up, but the pristine environment was also a refreshing change from China’s bustling mega-cities.

A glazed staircase placed on the south side of the building next to the hillside leads to the bedrooms on the upper level.

The two-story contemporary home stretches east to west to parallel the lake and steep granite outcropping on either side.

The rich material palette of stone, timber, glass, and board-formed concrete blend the home into the surroundings.

To create a home that would withstand extreme weather conditions and blend into the forest, the architects worked closely with the clients, as well as a contractor, to choose resilient exterior finishes, including board-formed concrete, stained western red cedar, double-glazed windows, black fiber-cement panels, and a raft of Douglas fir glulam beams that supports a standing-seam metal roof.

The double-height space includes a built-in reading nook, a coffee cubby, a minibar, and cupboards stacked high with board games.

Since the Bear Stand Residence is offered as a vacation rental when the couple and their daughter are in Shanghai, it was important that the design accommodate the needs of rental guests as well.

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The den, located above the living room, connects to an at-grade fire pit terrace to the south, as well as an elevated deck with views of the lake to the north.

In addition to the master suite, the residence offers three guest suites and a bunk room with four beds, as well as a den to comfortably accommodate a minimum of 12 guests. 

A double-height living room with a locally sourced granite fireplace on the ground floor is the heart of the home, and connects to the kitchen and dining area. Sweeping forest views can be enjoyed throughout.

Oversized sliding doors open to the bunk room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the serene lake.

"In many ways the design aims to evoke the same feelings of warmth, gathering, and shelter that we experienced during that first visit," says Miller. "In an otherwise wild landscape, the building acts as a refuge, with a particular focus on inside-outside connectivity to allow the woods to figuratively reach inside, much like a tree house."

The wooden ofuro tub offers a luxurious soak with views of nature. The upstairs soaking tubs, private sauna, and screened porch also provide intimate spaces that embrace the outdoors.

The Bear Stand Residence received a 2018 Housing Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The Bear Stand Residence offers comfort year-round, even when temperatures plummet to -40 degrees Fahrenheit during winter, or climb to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. In case of an electrical power fail, the house is equipped with a backup generator and large propane tank.

Positioned for stellar outdoor views, the screened porch features concrete floors, a cedar ceiling, natural fir posts, and midcentury chairs.

Vintage Etched wire-brushed walnut flooring with built-in heating is used throughout the home.

The master suite opens to a bathroom with soaking tubs that overlook south-facing views.

A look at the Bear Residence site plan. The holiday retreat connects to an expansive private trail network created by the clients.

Here is the ground-level floor plan, which comprises the main living spaces.

A look at the upper floor plan.

Want to experience this exquisite retreat for yourself? Make a booking for the Bear Stand Residence here

 Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Builder/ General Contractor: Brinkman & Sons

Structural Engineer: Blackwell

Cabinetry Design/ Installation: Mill Line Woodworking Ltd.

Electrical: Mad Cat Electric Co.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson uploaded Bear Stand Residence through Add a Home. Add your own project for the chance to be featured.


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