Photos: A Modern Glass-and-Concrete Cliffside Home in West Vancouver
On paper, this gorgeous house seemed at odds with its natural surroundings. But in practice, the Cedric Burgers-designed home feels like it’s somehow always been part of the landscape.
The idea that a concrete, steel and glass structure can be at one with nature is a rather contradictory notion. Yet architect Cedric Burgers of has performed just such a sleight of hand with a 7,000-square-foot home terraced into a steep, rocky site in a rugged corner of West Vancouver. Burgers Architecture
“The thing that makes the house unique is that it actually steps up with the landscape,” he says. The property slopes up about 30 feet from the end of the driveway (where a discreet entrance brings you into a basement level with exposed white concrete walls) toward the back of the lot. “It’s such a counterintuitive entrance, but somehow it works so well. You don’t enter the great room, you enter through the basement, but you feel as if you’re walking into a grand entrance, like you’re being lured upstairs to some great spectacle—and you’re not disappointed when you get there.”
Retracting glass doors open up onto a 1,000-square-foot patio that overlooks the pool and plays host to an outdoor kitchen space designed for post-swim entertaining. Burgers describes the home’s entrance, which opens up into the basement, as “counterintuitive…but it works so well.” (The sleek glass-and-steel elements certainly don’t hurt the entryway’s charm.)
But the road to the home’s completion was not without a bump or two. Burgers designed it originally for clients back in 2009, who began construction and then decided not to proceed. “It sat for three years as a concrete ruin in this landscape that was engulfed in blackberry bushes,” he says. Then along came the current owners—a peripatetic couple with two sons: a nine-year-old and a 16-year-old—who understood Burgers’s imaginative concept to traverse the land with the house and how well the floor plan would suit their needs. “We love the fact that we use all of the house,” says the wife. “There is no dead space.”
A built-in ceramic fireplace makes for a cozy gathering spot during cooler months.
The practical nature of the layout is no accident. The home was one of the last projects that Burgers worked on with his late father, Robert, who, with his wife, Marieke, founded Burgers Architecture in 1981. (Burgers the younger now runs the firm.) “He always felt that design should be about comfort and lifestyle and how people live,” says Burgers. “Don’t think about how things look, think about the way they function. Think about how people want to actually live in a house rather than thinking about the object and the sculpture.”
When the sun’s out, the seamless glass doors slide to let the outdoors in. The oversized kitchen island has ample room for storage.
Wide open from front to back, the main level is one large, continuous space, with retracting glass doors that open the living area onto a 1,000-square-foot patio. “The trick is to make that feel grand and open but also comforting and cozy—that you’re not just sitting in a vast space,” says Burgers. “We try to use millwork, stairs and glass to create the impression of enclosure without actually creating one.”
That main hub revolves around an enormous kitchen with two islands—a nine-foot bar and an 18-foot cooking area that are divided by a three-foot walkway to form a 30-foot expanse. A dropped ceiling creates a sense of intimacy and provides a focal point for the long space, as well as discreetly hosting task lighting for the chefs in the kitchen.
Gathered around the smoked glass Saarinen Tulip table, the Japanese garden is visible in its full glory through the floor-to-ceiling windows. B&B Italia sofas provide a place to crash during a family Netflix binge.
Living and dining rooms flank the kitchen, the latter receiving a cool blue ombré palette with Saarinen Executive side chairs around a smoked glass Saarinen Tulip table and an impressive glassed-in wine cellar along one wall. The former is set for family time, with cozy grey B&B Italia Ray sofas and a pop of colour from two ultraviolet-shade Cassina Utrecht chairs. “There are constant rhythms and themes in the space [and] there is a spine running through it that connects the living room on one end to the stairs on the other,” says Burgers. “I’m sure you’ve heard the ‘architecture is music’ metaphor before, but it’s true.” The “melody” of the main floor, he explains, are those distinct finishes specific to each area (Marieke expertly handled the interior design on the project). “Each room has a theme,” he continues. “The dining room has the Japanese-style garden beside it, the living room has sweeping views and a ceramic fireplace, the kitchen has the stacking glass doors, and the den is cozier with plush furniture.”
The siting of the house, along with the waterfall pool, makes this modern home feel perfectly connected to the landscape. Royal Botania patio chairs offer a comfortable spot to drink in the stunning West Coast views.
A half-flight set of steel stairs tucked behind the living room fireplace leads to a rear garden—each level of the home has its own distinct garden—that serves as the kids’ play area, complete with a mini-golf course. Up another short flight of stairs inside are the bedrooms—the master suite and its surrounding terrace on the south side, and three bedrooms in the north wing. “The siting of the house has the majority of it facing south,” says Burgers. “In our climate, [it’s] the number one pragmatic and ecological choice. You need full south-facing glass to emit the most light and the most amount of passive solar heat gain.”
In fact, the siting of the house is the magic trick that ultimately makes every aspect of this property work so well. “It’s like a chess game because you have to get the moves right,” says Burgers. Once perfected, this concrete, steel and glass home became a fluent, natural part of the rugged terrain surrounding it. Checkmate.