A Dreamy Pacific Northwest Beach Rental
An architect-designed getaway
When the words “outdoor shower” and “surfboard storage” appeared in this vacation rental’s description, we knew we’d found a gem. From the moment we set foot into what could only be described as a surfers’ paradise, it was clear we’d found the right spot to shoot our Summer Lookbook.
The rental is a mere three minute walk from the nearby beach — making romantic walks at sunset or lugging a surfboard to catch a wave equally convenient. Recessed amongst lush trees, the cabin looks like it was always meant to be there, despite its ultimately modern appearance.
Susan Scott — one half of award-winning Vancouver-based Scott & Scott Architects — said this is no coincidence.
Since establishing Scott & Scott with her husband David, the pair have integrated a strong consideration for the local environment into their designs.
“Our intention was for this house to settle into the landscape naturally,” she says. “We wanted to embrace the forest and nature and try to blend into it instead of standing out from it.”
The exterior of the 2,700 sq. ft. property is made from locally-sourced cedar shakes. According to Susan, this is to lend a more rustic, varied appearance to the cabin than shingles.
Inside, wall finishings and floors made from British Columbian Douglas fir plywood provide a warm, welcoming space for guests.
Susan, David, and their two daughters live in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Their family home also operates as Scott and Scott’s head office.
A lifelong Pacific Northwesterner, Susan describes properties in the area as “distinct from anywhere else.”
She observes, “Mainly in the way that wood is used in the designs and I think we try our best to incorporate it thoughtfully and in unexpected ways.”
Using real materials
Susan describes that a typical out-of-the-box spec house would emulate those natural materials, but avoid the real thing out of fear that they will warp or change in time.
“Our approach is to allow those materials to age and experience the weather, and appreciate that transformation over time. Often, materials go through an ‘undesirable’ teenage experience — but the beauty often comes out after that. I think it’s that transition time that a lot of people are uncomfortable with,” she says.
A prime example being marble, which Susan says she’s been advised to stay away from due to its fickle, porous nature and tendency to stain and weather.
“Who wants to be perfect forever, anyway?” she jokes. “We love seeing that aging process because it creates a story in the material from a party where wine spilled — it’s life in the material.”
A key design feature — and Susan’s personal favorite — is the home’s covered outdoor area.
“That space was critical,” she says. “In Tofino, it rains so much so we wanted to create a space where you could flow indoors and outdoors. It’s where you can just experience the weather and watch the rain, but be cozy.”
Susan experienced the home’s indoor-outdoor space as intended when construction completed in December 2016,
“Coming into that space, the kids were just all roasting marshmallows … That was exactly what we had envisioned for that space. It was so funny to stay in a house that we had designed and see all the things that we had thought of, actually being used in the way we wanted them to be.”
Creating the dream vacation
The home was also Scott and Scott’s first stab at designing a rental property, which proved to be an exciting challenge.
“It really changed how we approached the design of the place,” says Susan.
The home values its outdoor and communal spaces above all for large groups to experience together. Surfing enthusiasts, for instance, can come in from the beach and easily store their board, wash off the salt spray in one of two outdoor showers, and then warm up by the fire — without having to step foot inside the house. For those who hate sweeping up half the beach on your floors — which is to say, everyone — this is a welcome design choice.
All in the details
Other thoughtful design features throughout the home make the property even more functional.
For instance, a breezeway — located on the other side of a concrete fireplace — creates an acoustic buffer between the home’s living and sleeping spaces. Outside, a hot tub is a delightful surprise to stumble upon at the end of a meandering rainforest walkway.
Susan feels the demand for architecturally designed vacation rentals is a sign of travellers wanting a more unique, authentic experience
“More people are willing to invest in design and want something a little bit different,” she says. “With the popularity of AirBnB, photos really matter. Having a well-designed home gives you an immediate leg up.”
“I loved seeing the way you guys took the photos,” says Susan. “It was like seeing someone else’s vision coming to life without any preconceived views. It’s interesting how changing out furniture can really change a space.”