Chic and Casual Vacation Home
A family vacation home on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast puts the luxe into laid-back.
Think Boy Scout camp, and you’re likely to imagine rough-hewn cabins, weathered docks, khaki uniforms and neckerchiefs—not an Alda Pereira-designed home. And yet that’s how the past Western Living Interior Designer of the Year describes the seaside house on Echo Island off B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. “It reminds me of a Boy Scout island,” she says. A little bit Moonrise Kingdom, the nostalgic Wes Anderson film about a Scout’s summer island adventure, it’s a highly stylized encampment in a rather enchanted setting.
“We do feel like we’re at camp,” says the homeowner, “but more of a camp for adults.” Here, a rare set of original 1940s George Nakashima chairs sits under a custom Bocci chandelier, yet the vibe remains relaxed with tracked-in sand and wet bathing suits. As a vacation home for a young family with two boys, ages five and 11, the aesthetic is laid-back luxe. “Casual was the operative word,” says Pereira. The attire is cut-off shorts and flip-flops, and the decor is “super relaxed,” taking a cue from the boys’ room—a trifecta of bunk beds that sleeps up to 10 and is slumber-party central come summer.
Multigenerational gatherings on this part of B.C.’s coastline are part of the family’s oeuvre. The homeowner’s parents have had a place overlooking this three-acre island in Secret Cove on the Sunshine Coast for 25 years, and when she heard about a spot about to go on the market, a deal was made within a day. Previously owned by another family for 40 years, the Echo Island retreat consisted of a 1920s loggers’ cabin that had been expanded over the years—and, while the men in the family loved the fish-camp aura of pine walls and shag carpet, Pereira was enlisted to up the style factor.
They tore the old abode down and worked closely with the Islands Trust to build a glass jewel on the shore. Pereira sees the minimal and modern house simply as a container from which the family enjoys seaside living. “When you experience the house, you’re very much in awe of the natural environment and very respectful of it,” says Pereira. “It’s more about the outside than the inside.”
To balance all the glass, Pereira added textural layers—a wood ceiling, Mongolian sheepskin pillows, sable-like rug, layered fabrics and a white-oak floor that has the raw look of driftwood. “It’s already distressed looking,” says the homeowner of its wire-brush and oil finish. “It repels anything that falls on the floor—juice from the kids or red wine from us.” Usage just adds patina, much like Nakashima’s grass-seated chairs.
Those prized chairs are like a microcosm of the effect Pereira was after. Despite the chairs’ provenance, the family doesn’t treat them in a precious way. “They’re just a very organic-looking chair in the context of a very modern framework, and they add the patina that we were looking for.” It’s the kind of juxtaposition Pereira is known for. “The thing I love about Alda,” explains the homeowner, “is how she mixes high and low and old and new together.” A set of vintage miniature boat motors, for example, is a nod to the family’s passion for boating and is displayed alongside found objects like a whale vertebra from Nunavut. There’s a mix of austere and playful throughout the home: a high-end Flexform sectional paired with inexpensive West Elm stools, or the investment-piece Knotty Bubbles chandelier contrasted with driftwood off the beach.
It’s a refined rustic design, melding indoors and out in a subtle and sophisticated way. Its comfort is steeped in coastal chic, whether it’s that whale bone or the buoy-like Bocci chandelier with its sea glass-hued orbs. It’s as if old-time Japanese fishing floats are suspended from the skylight above the dining table, shimmering day and night, and serve as actual beacons to incoming vessels in the cove. The dining table is another ode to the natural surroundings, with its live-edge walnut top and eagle talon-like cast-bronze base.
And while it’s all about the seaside, “it’s not an overt nautical theme,” explains Pereira. There are no anchors or red, white and blue palette. “I wanted everything kind of bleached out, like driftwood on the beach and sand and sea-glass colours, because those are so calming and natural,” says the homeowner. Inside or out, she says, it’s like she’s on the beach. Bifold doors open up the entire ground floor, and at high tide the waves seem to lap right at her feet. Meanwhile, her boys are swimming off the deck, running barefoot, chasing the dog, playing hide-and-seek and yelling across the water to hear echoes bounce back off the neighbouring island’s bluffs. Back in the day, the din of log booms echoed from this same point and thus earned the name for Echo Island.
Today, the echoes are of laughter, chatter, barking…it’s all about senses let loose in a camp-like setting, that enchantment of a summer spent outdoors and a home that encourages it all. WL