A West Vancouver family brings a 40-year-old log cabin into the future
The romantic and rounded form of the traditional log cabin, once a staple in Whistler’s architectural landscape, has seen its heyday come and go.
With its passing, a little slice of Whistler’s neighbourhood charm has gone too as the resort firmly ushers in an era of contemporary, sophisticated and sleek West Coast design.
Keeping a little piece of Whistler’s old-school appeal however, is exactly what drew the West-Vancouver based Yamaoka family (affectionately known as “The Yam Fam”) to their log home in the mountains. And, it’s why they were determined to retain the original form and character of the home, which was built in 1979, when they took up a recent renovation.
“Whistler is losing a lot of that character,” says Elsa Yamaoka a little wistfully, the new contemporary builds on her street highlighting that point. “It’s nice to keep some of the character that made Whistler what it was.”
For the Yam Fam, Whistler is a home away from home, with three kids coming of age through the Whistler Mountain Ski Club over the last decade. They bought their log home in 2008 and fell in love with it—the coziness, the sound of Fitzsimmons Creek in their backyard, the mountain playground calling from their windows.
Two years ago, an arguably fortuitous leak in the house took them on a journey to renovate and bring the 40-year-old log home into the future, all while keeping true to its past.
“We were adding West Coast modern elements and preserving the structure,” explains designer Lynn Gentile who led with renovation with her team at the locally based Cabin Fever Interiors.
The essential form and character was to remain. But the small “postage stamp” kitchen was due for an overhaul and expansion, particularly because the family loves to cook together; the kitchen is the heart of their house.
Gentile calls it a “gourmet chef-style kitchen” complete with a monogramed Fulgor Milano stove with “The Yam Fam” etched into a plaque on the front.
In a dramatic change, a portion of the exterior logs was cut out to allow for a floor-to-ceiling window in the newly designed kitchen.
“It made the renovation just so stunning,” says Yamaoka, of the light flooding into the new kitchen.
This connection to the outdoors was a key part of the renovation; it’s no surprise that there is no TV in this mountain retreat.
“When you go to the mountains, it’s better to look out the windows,” says Yamaoka
And so, the renovation included a new covered front deck, keeping true to the original lines of the cabin. This indoor/outdoor room has a custom fire pit and seating area, connecting the family to fresh air and trees and space.
“It has created a beautiful outdoor living space for us that we use all year round,” she adds. “It’s like glamping!”
Another key part of the renovation was updating the main bathroom with a show-stopping Italian Agape sink. The rounded sink looks like an old oil drum, once again incorporating new and contemporary with the old.
“We turned that into a feature bathroom for them,” adds Gentile, who used Vancouver-based Cantu Bathroom and Hardware for all the fixtures to bring in that modern look.
The family then called on North Shore visual artist and custom furniture designer Brent Comber to repurpose those exterior logs that were removed for the kitchen window.
Under Comber’s expert hands, the logs transformed into a beautiful coffee table. It’s called “Log Jam.”
There was enough wood leftover for Comber to make a second table that was donated to Habitat for Humanity.
“Log Jam” sets the scene for the cozy loft space, perfect for lounging in with “West Coast modern pieces and natural grey wool,” explains Gentile. Take the grey floor cushions as an example. Called Camp Cotts, these pillows are designed by the team at Cabin Fever and are available at Camp Lifestyle & Coffee in Function Junction.
This use of local artisans is distinctly felt throughout the home with chandeliers from Whistler designers and the dining table and benches designed by Kate Duncan.
The end result is a family home of balance and functionality, a perfect mountain retreat. Gentile adds: “We had lots of fun introducing the old and the new.”