Stories A Retreat Where Living Life Upside Down is Easy

For years, Gary embarked on Friday for the one-hour cruise to Gambier Island and a weekend of camping in an environment free of cars, crowds, and stress. A Vancouver resident who works long days evaluating businesses embroiled in conflict, the island has been his long-time weekend refuge.

When a small number of building sites became available on the island, Gary saw it as a rare opportunity to enjoy the solitude of the island in the comfort of a modern home with a free-flowing open interior, uninterrupted walls of glass that captured views of the water and dappled sunlight through the dense foliage. “I was inspired by the houses in Dwell, but concerned about the logistics of building on an island with no bridge or ferry connection to the mainland and no resident builders,” recalls Gary. “Then I discovered the Dwell Homes Collection. My partner and I explored how the Turkel Design collaboration with Lindal simplified the design process, the process of producing and delivering a precise package of extraordinary materials to a remote site, and the fact that the local Lindal dealer, My House Design/Build Team in Vancouver, was experienced in building on island sites. We felt comfortable proceeding.”

Gary had a number of other practical priorities, including minimizing disturbance to the rocky shoreline site, presenting itself inconspicuously to other island residents, and being energy efficient and self-sufficient during prolonged power outages caused by winter storms.

The house certainly presents itself humbly to passing joggers and cyclists and is woven into the hillside and hidden by the trees it delicately avoids. “Joel Turkel so carefully sited the house, utilizing computer-aided mapping. And changes made on-site, suggested by our incredible construction foreman along with my partner Johnny’s selection of exterior colors made ours so much more subtle than any of the other homes on the island,” marvels Gary. “The house is really upside down and backwards. Since access to the site is primarily by water, the ‘front’ entry is on the waterside of the lowest level. You work your way up three levels to the primary living spaces on the top level where the filtered sun moves from east to west through the day, continually changing the warm ambiance of the interior.”

Make no mistake, however: while the house is inconspicuously sited, this Lindal is stunning in every way. “I was pleasantly surprised at every turn”, muses Gary. “ The interior volumes are wonderful relief from the tightly packed exterior foliage. The Lindal materials add such warmth without being cabin-like and the quality is remarkable. Windows strategically placed to capture small but important exterior features. Light passing over the wonderfully textured tilework and fireplace mass… smart and modern but rugged and edgy, like the jagged stone hillside site. River stones spread above the flat roof surface—my foreman’s brainstorm—so in keeping with the aura of the site.  And the filtered sunlight from dawn to dusk adds a natural rhythmic serenity. It’s just wonderful!” The home is sited with minimal disturbance to the hillside. Only 6 trees were removed in order to build the home.

Building a house on an island is a challenge, but the way the Lindal materials were packaged and delivered made the process surprisingly efficient. Some crew members and subs arrived each Monday and stayed on the island for the full workweek. “But in an environment as wonderful as this, it’s hard to leave,” says Gary. “I am going to try and work from the house a few days a week so I can spend more time here. My one concern is that even though we built this house to entertain weekend guests, they may never leave!”


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