The Home Tour: Refined Island Cottage
Inside designer Carrie McCarthy’s Pender Island home, where simple luxury rules.
For interior designer and stylist Carrie McCarthy, the true definition of luxury isn’t wealth or excess, but something quite different. She describes her tiny cottage on South Pender in B.C.’s Gulf Islands as simple luxury—and that includes the bird’s nest her six-year-old son found there that is now part of the decor. “People think luxury is all about money,” says McCarthy. “But luxury in our house is the tactile, the comfort, the feeling of richness even though it’s really simple.”
Set atop the crest of a hill that overlooks a valley and forest ridge, the 890-square-foot cottage is almost gingerbread-like, with its cedar shakes, white-trimmed mullioned windows and frosted-white interior—as if out of some Scandinavian fairy tale. Everything inside is whitewashed: walls, stairs, the plank floor in the loft.
This is her family’s sanctuary, a home away from condo life in Vancouver. McCarthy and husband Cameron Thorn (a developer and the lead contractor on their cottage), their son Leighton and dog Billie all count the days until they take the ferry back to Pender. “It’s not a recreational home as much as a second home,” says McCarthy. The family loves the quieter, outdoorsy vibe alongside the island’s hip restaurants and essential shops.
After visiting friends on the island, the family bought one and a half acres (later doubled to three) of untouched land in 2006. Architect Howard Airey, who also has a home on Pender, drew up the first iteration of their cottage on a napkin, which McCarthy later gave her husband as a birthday gift. From napkin to reality, the cottage has been all about being unfussy, yet luxurious and more simple than modern—or what McCarthy calls “refined treasure.”