CA Houses: Fair Isle

Provincially-owned, environmentally protected lands form the boundaries of the site of this house, which sits on a 100-acre strip that includes 400 feet of beachfront extending back 11,000 feet from the Strait. Long and short views of wooded landscape, lichen mounds, open fields and sand dune formations characterize the experience of inhabiting the house, which is situated on a high point of the property in a natural clearing. Approval of the building site was given after provincial environmentalists agreed that the architects should locate the site at a distance from the lichen mounds and set it back from primary and secondary dunes, in order to preserve the dune ecosystem.

Designed as two volumes, the house is approached via a 3/4-mile winding private dirt road having minimal visual and physical interference with nature, and giving onto a raised wooden deck bearing a covered pergola roof. A glazed entry and circulation space link the two volumes, which consist of the cedar-clad bedroom wing to the north and the transparent, column-free main living space, raised on pilotis to take advantage of views south to the ocean and west to the dune formation of a 3-mile peninsula which borders a lake.

Cross-ventilation is afforded the main living space, a C-shaped structural frame with large glass panels and doors on three sides that access the perimeter deck. A deep overhang to the south provides shading for the full-height glazed panels, while the fireplace also has glass on three sides with a C-shaped lacquered steel frame. A suspended steel stair connects the bedroom wing and the main living space, climbing to a rooftop library and large open deck. A large chimney in the vertical stairwell exhausts warm air from the main living/dining space through natural ventilation. A metal-clad roof overhang provides shade to the deck and extends as siding down the north wall of the house. Tamarack wood is used on the upper decks and as flooring for the library and the top of the stair landing.

A natural palette of materials, fabrics and furnishings reflect the subtle array of colour found in the surrounding land and seascape, and includes cedar siding, tamarack, teak, aluminium, cement stucco, stainless steel, porcelain tiles, and glass. Millwork, and most of the furniture, is custom-designed by Sterling Finlayson Architects.

Client: name withheld by request

Architect team: Mary Jane Finlayson, Peter Kurkjian, Kathy Velikov

Structural: Blackwell Engineering

Mechanical: McCallum Consulting

Millwork: Mackenzie’s Woodwork

Photography: Sterling Finlayson Architects; Cheverie Construction

Area: 3,650 sq. ft.

Budget: $220/sq. ft.

Completion: June 2002