Inside a Luxe, Hygge-Inspired Alpine Getaway
A classic Danish concept informs the design of a Kicking Horse ski cabin from McKinley Burkhart.
Shielded by snowy trees amidst rocky outcrops, this cabin in Golden, B.C., feels middle-of-nowhere—except it’s right on the slopes of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, with prime ski-in/ski-out access. A family retreat, it’s a luxe yet down-to-earth alpine hideaway built with hygge in mind.
The enigmatic-sounding Danish word translates roughly to comfort, or coziness. Hygge is a wood-burning fire, a cashmere blanket, a glass of mulled wine or gløgg—just what you’d want at a winter cabin. So the homeowners tapped Calgary-based architecture firm McKinley Burkart to design their second home with a Canadian take on the homey Danish concept.
Co-founder and architect Mark Burkart worked in tandem with interior designer Landon Anholt to create haute hygge in the mountains. “Before we picked up a pencil, we spent countless hours on the site immersing our senses: looking, smelling, touching all of the natural materials,” says Anholt. “Mossy rocks, oversized rough timber and textured bark have a major role in the architecture and are key players in the interior design.”
It’s about channelling genius loci, or the spirit of a place, says Burkart. And here, in a wilderness setting of what’s essentially a recreational base, the aesthetic unearthed is modern-elemental. Three natural elements make up the design: stone, wood and glass. Fieldstones from Montana are laid in a rough, rectangular coursing. “Some of the pieces, like the continuous stone lintel over the garage, are Egyptian in their proportions,” says Burkart. Alongside these epic boulders are enormous wood beams, torched and wire-brushed to highlight their grain and texture.
“Between the huge, lichen-covered stones and massive timbers,” says architect Mark Burkhart, “the overall impression is one of the house having tumbled out of the mountain itself.”
These statement-making exterior materials of stone and wood abut expanses of windows, and, together with the glass, also form the interior. There’s no drywall—anywhere. The heavy timber structure and stone slabs that anchor the 4,500-square-foot structure are also the foundation for the interior design. “One of our ideologies was to use the structure as the decorative element throughout the space,” says Anholt, “rather than build a cheap structure that forces the interior to invest in decorative cladding to mimic something it’s not.”
Natural elements outside the doors—the forest and weathered stone surrounding the home—are echoed throughout the three-level, five-bedroom home, sometimes quite literally. A birch-log screen between the master bedroom and bath evokes the forest outside. Tongue-and-groove fir panelling, whitewashed and rough-sawn, is accented with white oak and textured flagstone floors. The raw-zinc countertop in the kitchen looks weathered, while petrified wood stumps are used as side tables. And the great-room fireplace is “battered”—a naturalistic, tapered composition of some of the largest stones in the house—“like a mountain folly laid by giants,” says Burkart.
But it’s the three-storey staircase within a stone tower that may be the most dramatic example of blurring the line between inside and out. The treads transform from stone slabs to solid timber set between cascading black-steel stringers, inching away from the walls as the stairs rise to float free. Suspended over the entire height of the staircase is a custom-made chandelier of exposed bulbs in steel cages, “like mining lights in a shaft,” says Burkart.
At times, the home feels like a wild outpost, yet not at the expense of hygge. Warmth takes precedence over Scandinavian starkness: fur throws, cable-knit pillows, oversized plush sofas and tufted ottomans in nature-inspired hues and rich textures. “Formality and order is set aside for practicality and comfort,” says Anholt. This house is one in which the young family with three boys can play with hockey sticks, run with the dog, hang out in sweats. Anholt describes the aesthetic as strong, big, organic, honest and unpretentious. “The exposed timbers are rough to touch, the stone floor is bumpy, the zinc countertop is unfinished,” he says. “This wasn’t the environment for polished countertops and highly lacquered timbers; rather, we wanted quite the opposite: materials that would patina and embody stories.”
Anholt and the homeowners all agree on a favourite space inside the home: the 25-foot-high great room, where scale and coziness are in harmony. “It’s the ultimate place to hang out and have a glass of wine,” says Anholt. As hygge as it gets. And it turns out that this Nordic term may have etymological ties to the English word “hug”—adding yet another warm layer to this alpine retreat.
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