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An island hideaway lost in the woods.

HUGGING A GENTLE knoll on 10 acres of waterfront property on Hornby Island, three ferry trips away from Vancouver, British Columbia, this pavilion of wood and glass virtually embraces the forest around it. Rather than attempting to upstage its stunning setting, the retreat showcases it and even takes design cues from the natural elements at hand.

The building, designed by Henning Nielsen of Vancouver, was sited so sensitively that not a tree had to be cut. Mature madrones and Douglas firs loom above the flat roof (built to accommodate an insulating layer of sod), filtering summer sun and shielding the structure from buffeting winter gales. Two madrones thrust through the deck, creating a dappled tapestry of sun and shade.

The house is basically composed of joined rectangles, positioned to take advantage of ocean views through generous windows. A clerestory spine of peaked skylights angles across the house from one entry to another, interrupting the rigid geometry and paying homage to an ancient trail that crossed the property. The spine is supported by rough-hewn posts--cut from telephone poles--that mimic the surrounding trees.

Only an elegant peninsula and a 6-inch step separate the kitchen from the dining and living areas, which in turn are set apart only by a pair of the log poles. The open plan creates an illusion of spaciousness in the 1,050-square-foot dwelling and dispels isolation for anyone on kitchen duty. Sliding wood doors can open a combination bedroom-study to the kitchen, or close it off for peaceful seclusion.

At one end of the living room, a rugged sandstone fireplace is set into a wall of glass. Come evening, sunset and fire almost mingle--an illusion heightened by a technique devised by the architect, builder, and miller that involved slicing off the poles, "cheeks" to make square posts, then reapplying them so as to grip the glass, eliminating the need for obtrusive window frames.

The house features a variety of British Columbia woods. Birch plywood panels used for interior doors were selected for their striking grain. Alder (long considered a throwaway wood in the Northwest) accents the kitchen's sleek black laminate cabinets. Beams are of Douglas fir, hand-felled and milled on the island. Outdoors, raw cedar siding will slowly weather to silver-gray, to contrast with the honey gold of the treated fir trim.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Godley, Elizabeth
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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