An Angular Black Cabin Rises From the Woods Near Vancouver

Inspired by Japanese ryokans and American coastal communities of the ’70s, an architect’s tranquil retreat embraces the wild.
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Tucked away on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, the dramatic black Halfmoon Bay Cabin peeks out between the trees, receding into the landscape. "A stunning 40-minute ferry ride from West Vancouver, the home is close to the city, but feels like a world away," says architect and designer Patrick Warren.

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Patrick, a senior associate and business partner at Canadian firm Frits de Vries Architects + Associates, built the 1,450-square-foot getaway with his husband, Kevin Kaufman, a marine biologist.

"Our intention was to create a world that we could retreat to, with rules that are different from everyday life," says Patrick. "The architecture and the landscape were to be combined in a way that lets a visitor feel natural, unpretentious, unburdened, free."

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After searching for an idyllic, remote plot for quite some time, the couple finally stumbled upon the one-acre property. "The site felt like a national park, and we knew it was the right site immediately," says Warren. "We even camped on the land to get to know it better."

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Those excursions ended up inspiring the overall plan. "We didn’t want to lose that sense of discovery that you get from camping. If the house was too stiff, we would have lost something of the wildness," adds Patrick. 

A covered entry cedes to soaring living spaces facilitated by a steep, sloping roof that allows for floor-to-ceiling windows at the rear that connect with the outdoors. As Patrick states, "The geometry of the home accomplishes two things: to preserve the delight of exploring the site for the first time, and second, to maximize solar heat gain in the cool coastal climate by turning the home to the south."

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The couple were inspired by American coastal architecture of the 1970s, such as that found on Fire Island in New York and Sea Ranch in Northern California, which "evokes a spirit of naturalness, social freedom, and community," shares Patrick. "We wanted this to be a house for gathering with friends and casting off our social pressures and expectations." 

A previous trip to Japan also informed the build. "The ryokans of Kyushu showed us a naturalness of subtlety and grace that is more contemplative, quiet, and slow," he continues.

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To this end, the couple opted for simple, tactile materials. "The material palette was chosen for its ability to connect our bodies to the space and bring us back to our rootedness in nature," says Patrick.

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Black cedar wraps the residence, with second-growth cedar cladding the walls and stair treads. Douglas fir was used for the window frames and beams. Due to their prominence in the area, both materials were sourced from local mills. And while the dark exterior helps the home blend into its forest setting, the radiant interiors enhance the abundant light, a contrast taken from nature. "The conceptual color palette came from the beach cove: sun-and-sea-bleached driftwood, light gray granite, and stark shadows amongst the trees," says Patrick.

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In addition to designing the structure in a way that would preserve almost all of the existing trees on the site, the couple are also working to restore the natural habitat, and have planted over 1,000 native ferns, grasses, ground covers, and trees. In addition to creating a gathering space for friends, "we sought to create a home that would provide us a place to escape to be alone in tranquility and see ourselves as a part of nature," says Patrick.

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Related Reading: 15 Black Cabins That Make the Case for Dark Exteriors 

Project Credits:

Architecture: Frits de Vries Architect Ltd. / @fdvarch

Construction: Vernon Construction

Structural Engineering: Ennova Structural Engineer

Landscape Design, Lighting Design & Interior Design: Patrick Warren

Cabinetry Installation: Camridge Cabinet

Custom Lime Plaster: Darrell Morrison

Photography: Ema Peter / @emaphotographi

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