Gambier Island, BC

Site size: 317,535 square feet

Project size: 1,700 square feet

A young Vancouver couple desired a weekend retreat for themselves and their two children on the rugged coast of British Columbia.

The site was critical in shaping the house's design and construction. Situated within a protected forest and next to its own waterfront, its remoteness promised tranquility but demanded environmental sensitivity in its construction strategy.

Solution: The principal in charge of the project, Steve McFarlane, based in North Vancouver, sought a modern take on the classic 'cabin in the woods' by balancing picturesque roughness with a modern aesthetic.

Thanks to an almost entirely glass envelope that clads the house's two perpendicularly stacked rectangular volumes, the ochre hue of the Douglas fir interiors is easily visible from the water. The two volumes contain kitchen and living spaces below and three bedrooms above, all of which are linked by a central stair. The floor-to-ceiling glazing and extensive patios permit the family's constant and effortless connection to the surrounding fir forest and majestic Howe Sound.

Construction methods:
Minimal concrete footings and slender steel columns below the house reduce the presence of the foundation and its impact upon the landscape. Resting upon these columns is a hybrid steel and composite wood structural system. Most of the system is concealed, either within wall sections or behind exterior metal cladding, though steel columns occasionally punctuate interior spaces. The house's heat and electrical power is entirely independent from the mainland. This is accomplished though a propane furnace that charges a generator and large battery system. The system, which already includes a small solar panel, is designed to accommodate additional wind and solar power sources in the future.

To preserve that landscape, most of the house was prefabricated on the mainland and assembled on site.

15b Chesterfield Place
North Vancouver, BC
V7M 3K3, Canada
T 604 986 9924
F 604 986 9932


Office of mcfarlane biggar
14b Chesterfield Place
North Vancouver, BC
V7M 3K3
Phone: (604) 986-9924
Fax: (604) 986-9932

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principal-in-Charge: Steve McFarlane

Project Team:
Steve McFarlane, Michelle Biggar, Josie Grant, Michael Green, Tomas Machnikoski, Daniel Marcotte, Lydia Robinson.

Architect of record:
Steve McFarlane

Equilibrium Consulting Inc.

General contractor:
Westcoast Turnkey + Somerset Homes

Jean Philippe Delage,
office of mcfarlane biggar architects + designers (omb)

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autocad Lt, Sketchup



Structural system
Wood frame with minimal concrete foundation, steel posts, I-beams.

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
Protech Welding Ltd.

Exterior cladding
Metal Panels:
Clear anodized aluminum by (Miracle Glass Works)

Metal/Store front glazing :
Miracle Glass Works

3/4" Pressure treated 1x2 and 1x4 rainscreen with ribbed EPDM strip overlay.

Clear cedar 1x4 custom milled on site per. Architects specifications.
Supplied by Dicks Lumber and milled/installed by: West Coast Turn Key

Moisture barrier:
Typical 30min building paper (triple lapped) with some EPDM areas

Other cladding unique to this project:
Super panel concrete board by German Construction Systems

Built-up roofing:
Membrane roof

Clear anodized aluminum by Miracle Glass Works

Wood Soffits: Vertical Grain Clear Western Red Cedar with 1/8in. shadow lines
Supplied by BC Hardwood and installed by West Coast Turn Key

Exterior Wood Decking:
Camuru exotic hardwood decking supplied by Kayu Canada, installed by West Coast Turn Key. (all with hidden fasteners/ edge drilled angled trim head screws, specified screws supplied by Kayu Canada)

Rain Water Leaders:
Custom stainless steel 3in. piping with custom stainless steel brackets and through hall marine fittings for house penetrations. Custom metal work done by Burrard Mechanical and installed by West Coast Turn Key.

Icynene spray foam supplied and installed by Four seasons Insulation

Metal frame:
Clear anodized thermally broken storefront aluminum frames by Miracle Glass Works

No vertical mullions except at jambs. Glass temp 10mm temp / 10mm temp (solid glass no airspace) clear silicone joints. By Miracle Glass Works.

In swing clear anodized commercial frame, complete with tempered glass sealed unit. Glass tempered by Miracle Glass Works.

Wood doors:
Interior 2in solid fir pivot doors supplied by Jim's Doors and installed by West Coast Turn Key

Sliding doors:
Interior 1-1/2in. solid fir pocket doors with full plywood frames and Soft open/close hardware supplied by Jim's Doors. Installed by West Coast Turn Key

Exterior Sliding Doors:
Commercial mall sliders OXX complete with tempered sealed unit. Glass tempered by Miracle Glass Works.

Supplied by Latch's specialty hardware


Security devices:
Motion sensor alarm from Home Depot

Other special hardware:
Push latch door hardware on mechanical and storage areas.

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Ikea Cabinets installed by West Coast Turn Key
Other by Fine Craft Cabinetry

Paints and stains:
Interior walls ' Behr Ultra Pure White
Exterior cedar - Sikkens SRD Natural light
All work done by: The Shore Decor

Wall coverings:
Wood Ceiling:
Fir ceilings (Vertical Grain T&G Fir 4in wide with 1/8in. shadow line) installed in all upper floor ceilings and lower floor dropped living room/kitchen ceiling area. Supplied by BC Hardwood and Installed by West Coast Turn Key. (all other ceiling drywall with eggshell white paint)

Solid surfacing:
Drywall with 1/2in. anodized aluminum shadow lines installed at all floor and ceiling. Separating the drywall from fir flooring, fir ceiling, slate flooring and all built in cabinets and mill-work.

Floor and wall tile:
Pizzara Grey Cleft slate supplied by Stone Tile and installed by T&R Tile.
installed in main entry and all mid floor level, stairs and up partition wall (supporting glass separation) between stair and entry (all grout lines inline) plus all bathrooms and up shower and tub walls in on-suite.

Wood flooring:
6in wide select & better Vertical Grain old growth Douglas Fir engineered flooring with micro beveled edges. Finished with clear mono coat pure oil.
Supplied by: BC Hardwood and Installed by: Capilano Hardwood Floors
(in all areas other then mentioned tile floor areas)

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Nicola Grey stone from Marble Art

Interior ambient lighting:
Lighting supplied by Lightolier and installed by NV Electrical Contracting

Lighting supplied by Lightolier and installed by NV Electrical Contracting

Task lighting:
Lighting supplied by Lightolier and installed by NV Electrical Contracting

Lighting supplied by Lightolier, Vistapro and Cascade lighting. Installed by NV Electrical Contracting

Dimming System or other lighting controls:
All supplied by Lightolier and installed by NV Electrical Contracting

Franke Kitchen Sink
Paini Cox Kitchen Faucet
Toto Eco UltraMax one piece toilets
Duravit Architec corner washbasin
Ikea Hollviken sink
Paini Cox bathroom faucets
Bette Form bath tub

Energy management or building automation system:
Generator, Invertor system and battery pack with solar upgrade capability