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Meeting of the elements

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With its streamlined glass, concrete and wood construction, this house is a refined expression of the water, stone and trees in the natural environment

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Secluded wooded waterfront sites demand an architectural response that's in keeping with the natural surroundings – a house that respects the environment, as opposed to a design that tramples all over it.

It's a philosophy architect Soren Rasmussen took seriously when designing this waterfront house, which is on a picturesque, wooded 21-acre site. The team even went as far as preserving the beauty of the winding road through the property that runs beneath a forest canopy – temporary access for construction vehicles was built on another part of the site.

Rasmussen says the design of the house was determined both by a desire to fit in with the surroundings, and the need to provide a view from every room.

"The site slopes gently to the sea, and the house, which sits on a giant rock, is approached from above. Because the roof is so visible, we chose to fragment it, rather than create a large, monolithic form. The flat parts of the roof feature indigenous planting. These green elements are broken up by the sloping parts of the roof, which are clad in zinc that provides protection from the corrosive salt air."

Rasmussen says the use of glass, concrete and wood reflects the location.

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"The house is expressed as a refinement of the three main types of materials found on the site – water, natural stone and wood. The clean, linear forms are balanced by these natural materials, which contributes to the feeling that the building is well crafted and built by hand."

Rasmussen also points to the harmonious balance provided by the material palette.

"The extensive transparency of the facade facing the water is balanced by solid forms and materials that enhance the sense of comfort and stability," he says. "The central massing of the house, and the solid Pennsylvania bluestone base anchor the elements that extend to open up the views both horizontally and vertically – namely the glazing and the roof forms that slope up the sides."

Raw concrete features extensively on the interior, providing material durability and a strong contemporary flavour. A concrete, stone and glass stairway in the double-height entry tower also adds a distinctive sculptural element. In contrast, forest-floor harvested Douglas fir on raked ceilings and beams introduces visual warmth to the interior. European white oak veneer was used for all the cabinetry in the house, including the kitchen cabinets, providing further visual continuity.

"It's a very simple interior," the architect says. "The bluestone floors and walls provide subtle colour variations, and we used large pieces of stone to give the interior a monolithic look. The drama of this property is what is happening on the outside, not the inside – we didn't want the architecture to detract from the view."

To reinforce the indoor-outdoor connection, large bifolding doors expand the open-plan living and dining area onto an expansive terrace. Similar bluestone tiles enhance the seamless link between the two spaces.

The master bathroom also maximizes the outlook – glazed doors beside a freestanding tub and the shower open to an elevated terrace.

Because the house is isolated, self sufficiency was a key consideration. Heating and cooling is provided by a geothermal system. The house also has an on-site potable water supply system, and an on-site waste water management system. And the extensive use of LED lighting and energy-efficient systems minimizes power use.

First published date: 02 July 2012

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Credit List

Architect Soren Rasmussen Architects (Vancouver, BC)
Interior designer David Drummond Clarke Interior Design
Structural engineer Bogdonov Pao Associates
Builder Calrudd Construction
Cabinet company Seagull Enterprises
Flooring Hakwood Engineered Floors from BC Hardwood Floor Co
Paints and varnishes Benjamin Moore; Sikkens
Lighting suppliers MP Lighting; SLS Lighting; Lightform
Kitchen cabinets European white oak
Countertops Okite quartz
Sink Blanco
Faucets Dornbracht
Oven and ventilation Viking
Range Wolf
Bathtub Agape Spoon
Bath filler Hansgrohe Axor
Bathroom wall tiles Everstone