“Thank you for allowing us to share your cottage with our readers. I’ve rarely seen so much creativity in such a compact package.”

– Robert Wilson, Editor Better Homes & Gardens

608 Is All It Takes: A Custom Vacation Cottage

In the waterway separating Vancouver Island from Canada’s mainland lie hundreds of landforms known as the Gulf islands. Many of the larger islands, now just a ferry or floatplane ride from Vancouver, have become weekend retreats for urban professionals. The 608 square foot cottage sits high on a dramatic waterfront bluff never before used as a home site. Using design inspiration from Turkey and materials from the woods of British Columbia, the goal was a cozy weekend retreat with worldwide appeal. When the owners were not in town, the cottage was to attract international visitors as paying guests. A way of living that encloses people into small spaces with distinct privacy zones is typical of the Turkish lifestyle, and strict geometries have always played a role in Moorish designs. A modular building system that would suit the island setting, yet evoke an entirely different feeling on the inside, was chosen. The cottage plan is compact and symmetrical, yet is mysterious and allows a graceful sense of living. Translucent Turkish screens calledmashrabiya create a series of semiprivate spaces that are visually cut off from each other, yet allow light to filter through the main room. Learn more about mashrabiya >> Building materials and finishes were selected for low maintenance — a must for this island site. An oil-base stain prevents the board-and-batten cedar siding from turning a weathered gray, and the metal roof is soundproofed and insulated with R-29 insulation. The cabin is raised 5 feet above ground level, allowing cooling air to circulate on warm days and water to flow underneath on its way to the ocean throughout the long wet winter. Windows along one wall of the living room allow views of the water through the porch windows. A fireplace soars 18 feet to the ceiling, with an angled chimney enhancing the sense of spaciousness.

Client Comments

“Thank-you for allowing us to share your cottage with our readers. I’ve rarely seen so much creativity in such a compact package.” Robert Wilson Better Homes and Gardens, Special Interest Publications   “You’ve created a wonderful space, sensitively sited on a terrific property.  Having just visited the tiled mosques and madrassehs in Uzbekistan, I was quite taken with the tile and cane work.  If we ever decide to build a vacation retreat we’ll call you.  Thanks.” Mike and Kate Washington State   “A little note to let you know just how satisfied we were with your cottage. It was wonderful, much better that we had imagined. Too many times a getaway spot is bragged up, and you are disappointed upon arrival. Not so in this case. We have friends who travel several times a year looking for the perfect getaway, we now own the bragging rights. Can’t wait to return, we are hoping to set aside a weekend in January. Thanks again.” Laurie and Shannon New York   “I just wanted to drop you a quick line and say thank you once again for use of the cottage.  This weekend we celebrated Anne’s 50th B-Day and she couldn’t have been happier. I expect we’ll see you again in the spring.” Ian Toronto, Ontario   “Just wanted to send a quick note to say that Ilse & I really enjoyed our stay this past weekend at your Salt Spring getaway!   You have a lovely cottage and a beautiful location. Thanks again. I will be sure to recommend it to anyone looking for the perfect retreat.” Bruce Dusseldorf, Germany   “My mother and I had a great time and were so impressed by the innovative, delightful architecture of the cottage.” Ferny and Myriam Luxembourg, Europe

Related Articles

Better Homes and Gardens “608 Is All It Takes” Feature: Fine Home Plans Spring 2000 Real Estate News “Big Design, Small Space” 1997


Architect: Heather Johnston Architect Location: Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada Program: 608 square foot vacation cottage Carpenter: Derek Snowden, Strait Construction Ltd.