Cozy Pender Island Cabin
A home on Pender Island makes a big impression in just a few hundred square feet.
As a child, designer Everest Lapp would make her father pull over when they drove along South Pender Island’s Oxbow Ridge, a narrow turn on the Gulf island where you had to blast a warning honk as you rounded the corner. “I remember the light hitting my eyes in such a profound and particular way there,” Lapp recalls. “I told myself, this is where I’m going to live. Right here.”
There are only 10 properties on Oxbow Ridge and, at the time Lapp was graduating from architecture school at UBC, not one had sold in the preceding decade. Either by sheer luck or destiny, though, she wandered past a real estate sign one day, just 15 minutes after it had been posted. The owner, impressed by her story, sold the land to Lapp for less than it was worth.
Today, with husband Daniel, she is raising the sixth generation of an island family in this 680-square-foot, one-bedroom home she designed. Their five-year-old daughter sleeps in the tiny loft at the top of a wooden ladder; their one-year-old son goes to bed in a nook beside the bathroom. “I wanted a small, low-maintenance, passive-solar home that would help me be close to my family and be creative,” says Lapp.
Approaching the house, you note the green roof, covered in wild strawberries, ferns and licorice, which gives the place an immediate sense of history, of Hobbit-like comfort. Extending that effect, the front façade mimics the farmhouse built by Lapp’s great-great-grandfather (it still stands in its original location just a stone’s throw away, and is now the oldest home on the island), with a gable pitched roof and a shingled exterior.
Inside there are several modern touches. Beneath timbers arched in a “friendly gothic” style overhead, Lapp’s family lounges on baby blue Eames chairs and pebble cushions, or cooks breakfast in a decidedly slick Ikea kitchen.
If the exterior calls to mind a simple, dark farmhouse, the interior exploits some roll-your-eyes-beautiful views of forest and ocean. At the house’s far end, a 20-foot-tall expanse of windows rises up, with vertical timbers angled a subtle eight degrees to emphasize the structure’s tented embrace. By the dining area, an 11-foot wall of glass slides back to capture summer breezes. Lapp even arranged for the opening to be angled exactly on the east-west axis at the equinox.
Naturally, an island home has a heavy focus on the surrounding landscape: as this one’s sited on a rocky ridge, arbutus trees are especially happy here, and Lapp can walk down a short trail to her grandfather’s favourite beach. This cabin-like home is organic enough, warm enough, humble enough to make it feel as much a part of the island as Lapp herself.