The listing: 2475 Cotton Bay Rd., Gambier Island, B.C.
Asking price: $1,399,000
Taxes: $4,280 (2018)
Lot size: 190 feet by 951 feet
Agents: Holly Wood (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada)
The back story
Sophia Shane dreamed of owning a summer vacation home overlooking the ocean after years of living in the city. The Vancouver resident doesn’t own a boat, so her summer home hunt was limited to car- and ferry-accessible sites in the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
A few years ago, an agent introduced her to this five-acre plot on the southwest side of Gambier Island. It is accessible by boat or water taxi via Gibsons, B.C., to the west or Horseshoe Bay, B.C., and West Vancouver, B.C., to the east. It is also a short drive from New Brighton’s ferry terminal, which is a 10-minute crossing to Langdale, B.C.
“It felt perfect because it had incredible views, it was close to the water with a low bank and was surrounded by forest,” Ms. Shane said.
“And it was so easy to get to, which was a major point for me.”
In 2015, Ms. Shane became the first to reside in the gated community, where just five lots were sold as raw land with water wells drilled and shared access to a teak dock.
Her parcel spans 190-feet along the shore and extends 951 feet inland and uphill.
“One of the lower terraces is an open space with lawn chairs, then there is a creek bed that leads to a lower terrace with a slate patio, fire pit and big granite blocks that steps down to the beach. It’s just heaven,” Ms. Shane said.
“I just love seeing all the activity, like little tugboats from time to time – and I’ve seen whales! It’s unbelievable.”
The house today
Ms. Shane’s vision for an oceanfront property was brought to life by GM Projects Ltd. and architect Marko Simcic, who often designs innovative properties in remote island locales.
“What it all boiled down to was I wanted art, or a sculpture, in the middle of the forest,” Ms. Shane said. “I wanted an indoor and outdoor experience.”
Mr. Simcic studied the site topography and the sun’s movement, among other things, to devise a unique home to fit Ms. Shane’s lifestyle and provide privacy for overnight guests, as well as embrace nature and provide protection from the elements.
“What struck me most was the desire for a strong connection to the landscape and outdoors,” Mr. Simcic. said “So that was the major thing to think about. What were the ways in which these indoor and outdoor spaces can … work well together?”
The idea of a single cabin with outdoor spaces around it was quickly eliminated in favour of a 1,266-square-foot plan with seven freestanding rooms spread across two levels and linked by patios and paths covered by trellises or glass roofs.
“Splitting the rooms apart, you get sun in unexpected places because each room has windows on all sides,” Mr. Simcic said.
“The bedroom, for example, is a building, so you felt like you were always in a really tiny cabin.”
The east wing – or the upper level – accommodates a guest bathroom between two bedrooms with their own patios.
The west wing – or main level – is situated further down the hill and closer to the ocean. Every space - the joint entertaining and cooking quarters, a master bedroom and a bathroom - has an unobstructed view of the water. There’s also an outdoor kitchen with a barbecue and a covered dining area with bench seating.
The line between indoor and outdoor was blurred by the mirroring of spaces. “There was almost a parallel; for every indoor space, you had a similar use outdoors,” Mr. Simcic said. For instance, sleeping quarters could be determined by the weather. “There’s a suspended bed, like a swing, you could sleep on.”
Movable walls and doors also aid in the transform of outdoor zones into partially enclosed ones.
“[My bathroom] is super cool and gorgeous, but I love using my outdoor shower,” Ms. Shane said.
“It’s set up really nicely with a big bench along one wall, a showerhead and drain in the floor. It’s so cool and fun, you can look up and see the blue skies and clouds.”
Though each building takes on a unique form and function, they are tied together visually in several respects.
“There’s a desire to have the cabin feel like one cabin and like many cabins simultaneously,” Mr. Simcic said.
“By having a shared roof line, even though it’s broken up, there’s a sense of something that unifies the separate buildings.”
Similarly, each building is dressed in a different shade of green paint.
“The green represents leaves on a tree on a sunny day, so there are subtle differences in the green with some in the shadow and some bright,” Ms. Shane said.
“It’s so beautiful seeing this collection of buildings in slightly different shades of green that just work so well surrounded by the forest. It’s just stunning.”
Equally striking are the pristine waters and smaller landmarks framed like artwork to be admired through windows of varying shapes and placement.
“In the guest bedroom, there is a smaller window near the bed, so when you’re laying in the bed, you see a big, old mossy tree, and another is of a big old boulder; it was so cool,” Ms. Shane said.
The interiors are deliberately finished in a minimalist style, with heated concrete floors and whitewashed wood siding and exposed, vaulted beam ceilings.
“It has a cabin feel, but it’s a modern world inside,” agent Holly Wood said.
One of Ms. Shane’s favourite spots is the principal room with a skylight and large windows overlooking the ocean.
“I love my living room and kitchen; it’s to die for. It’s got the best appliances – two full size wall ovens, an amazingly huge granite counter-topped island and a huge open fireplace,” Ms. Shane said.
“But there’s another room I really love … it’s a rather small room with a day bed and wood stove, and I love to go there and read.”
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