Skip to main content

Home & Design Favourite room: An outdoor space designed for Vancouver’s ‘semi-rainforest environment’

Clinton Cuddington in the outdoor space behind his Vancouver home.

Ema Peter

Just 15 feet separate the back end of Clinton Cuddington’s home and the laneway studio at the end of his property. The distance was intentional – and mandated by Vancouver building and zoning codes – creating the effect of a protected outdoor sanctum, as you might find in an Italian courtyard house. “You go through the door and there’s this inner world,” he says.

Cuddington is an architect, and he and his partner, : Piers Cunnington – both of Measured Architecture – designed Rough House. The home’s double entendre name refers to the quality of materials used and the playful roughhousing of its creators and collaborators. In creating the space, they used the Japanese principle of shakkei, or borrowed scenery: the tradition of providing visual access to spatial expanses and distant landscapes. For Cuddington, this technique is preferable to incorporating a diminished version of nature, such as a manicured lawn.

Rough House forgoes the usual backyard for a yellow cedar deck, left to grey naturally, and a verdant green wall of semi-arid grasses and indigenous ferns – chosen to do well in Vancouver’s “semi-rainforest environment,” says Cuddington – growing on and atop the laneway studio. “Really, what people want is to gaze onto a garden,” he says, and that gaze is constantly rewarded with greenery that changes, providing visual interest through the seasons.

Story continues below advertisement

When the warmer months arrive, the outdoor space becomes more than just a view. The five-panel sliding door pushes into a side wall cavity, opening interior to exterior, “so it not only reads as one space,” says Cuddington, “but it also operates as one microclimate. We get hummingbirds in the house.” Come May, whimsical flying creatures aside, those windows stay open about 50 per cent of the time, he says.

Furnishings, likewise, move inside and out. Eames wire chairs are robust enough to do double duty. “We have a fleet of those vintage chairs that we drag out,” Cuddington says. “But also, the way in which we built the deck eliminates the need for a lot of furniture.” Twenty inches below the main floor of the house and two feet off the ground, the deck provides plenty of edges that serve as impromptu seating. A built-in fire pit is located strategically to allow views onto the flame from inside. Cuddington prefers this to an indoor gas fireplace, which doesn’t feel or smell like a wood-burning fire. “That’s our hearth,” he says.

Measured Architecture has developed a reputation for smart laneway housing solutions, exemplified through Rough House. The studio at the rear of the property means the main house can have a smaller footprint while the former can change functions over time. Today’s home studio is tomorrow’s ensuite/on-site apartment for a boomerang kid (Cuddington and his wife have two children, 16 and 18). “It may or may not be a place where we nudge someone out of the nest, but they stay at the trunk of the tree,” he says. Later still, it could be repurposed for an elderly parent. “We think very myopically as a species and try and solve our momentary problems, but we don’t think about how to be graceful over time,” he says.

Rough House is meant to last, from the charred carbonized cypress lumber that makes up the exterior façade to the way the space functions. “This house, I think, can hopefully make it a hundred years,” Cuddington says . But for now, at this particular moment, he’s enjoying the sounds emanating from the below-deck nautical speakers, which point up and away from the neighbours, “so we can listen to David Bowie late into the night,” he says.

Get the look

Gufram Pratone Design garden sculpture and lounger, US$16,170 at Connox (connox.com).

Herman Miller Eames wire chair outdoor, $938 at Gabriel Ross (grshop.com).

Tureen steel charcoal fire pit, $789.99 at Wayfair (wayfair.ca).

Story continues below advertisement

Wally eco chite, $25.66 at WallyGro (ca.wallygro.com).

Varvunraita green cushion cover, $65 at Marimekko Vancouver (marimekkovancouver.com).

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the Globe Style e-newsletter, your weekly digital guide to the players and trends influencing fashion, design and entertaining, plus shopping tips and inspiration for living well. And follow Globe Style on Instagram @globestyle.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter