Squamish: Design-build team creates tranquil mountain retreat

“Our goal was to create a simple, relaxing design with soft lines and an organic undertone.”

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Call it a design intervention. Or a rescue. But when designer Jessica Lowes stepped in to help a homeowner in the early stages of a mobile home project in Squamish, she brought with her a healthy dose of relief.

The client had been working directly with builder Alair Homes, trying to design the 750-square-foot home on his own on a lot he owned jointly with family members, and found it to be a more stressful job than he thought.

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A local supplier had referred the owner to Lowes, owner and director of Whistler’s Peak Design House.

“She made all the design decisions on her own,” Lowes recalls. “She is a teacher and a lot of her energy goes into teaching young children. And then you get home and have to decide: what kind of heat pump do you want? What type of sockets? It was too much”.

Lowes began by 3D modeling the space and then worked with the client to create an aesthetic that looked “simple, fresh and with a feminine touch.”

exterior of the house
Due to the irregular shape of the lot and its topography, this Squamish mobile home is located to the side and front of the main residence on the property. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa
exterior of the house
Decks and windows are oriented to capture western views, while frosted glass railings help maintain street-side privacy. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa

“Although we did not have a defined [design] concept per se, our goal was to create a simple, relaxing design with soft lines and an organic undertone,” says Lowes. The ideal would be a space where the owner could “leave her day at the door behind and feel at peace when entering the space,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Alair coordinated with architect Erron Holden of FLUX Residential + Commercial Design on the structure and exterior of the home.

“Unlike most carriage houses that are typically built for rent, the client actually lives in the home, so we were able to design it exactly to their desires,” says builder Jason Zavitz, owner of Alair Houses Squamish and Whistler.

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Due to the irregular shape of the lot and the topography, the structure is located to the side and in front of the main residence, on a hillside. The owner intended to ensure the space had plenty of light, with windows placed to frame the mountain views like works of art, while maintaining privacy on the street side.

“The orientation of the house was designed entirely to maximize views to the west,” says Zavitz. “[It] It also has a beautiful little outside terrace that is very private, with frosted glass, and from where you can see this beautiful view.” A large window on the same side serves as a focal point from the kitchen and study.

Another priority for the space was to create plenty of hidden storage, says Lowes. “We tried to fit as much storage as possible into the kitchen without making it feel visually cluttered,” she says. The island is narrow, 28 inches wide, but adds much-needed counter space. By design, it is also long enough to lift three stools to seat the owner and her two grandchildren, who live in the property’s main house.

kitchen
A clean-lined kitchen features shaker-style cabinets and invisible top pulls to minimize visual clutter, while Moroccan-inspired tiles, Tencer Mestizaje Zellige, add a subtle shine to the backsplash. Although narrow, the island offers additional counter space, with panels matching the cabinets. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa
A bright red door
A bright red door adds a touch of the homeowner’s favorite color, while a vintage Turkish rug adds a sense of liveability. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa

The home’s dining room is small but very functional, with a custom dining table that extends when needed for entertaining. A small sofa and plush ottomans offer soft seating in a small space. Layered earth tones, natural textures and off-whites add visual interest while keeping the palette calm, from a hanging pampas grass sculpture to a modern rattan armchair and a cloud-shaped pendant lamp.

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A closet next to the study was originally planned to have doors, but now houses a wallpapered office nook with a desk. “When we were walking through the space, once it was framed, we realized that the view from the window was too fantastic to put doors in front of it. “That’s how the little office in the closet was conceived,” says Lowes.

living room
A living room off the kitchen offers stunning mountain views framed by a boldly black-framed window. Layered textiles and poufs, along with artwork by Squamish artist Eileen Kiyonaga, create a bohemian feel. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa
An office corner covered in botanical-print wallpaper.
An office corner covered in botanical-print wallpaper. Photo by KRISTEN MCGAUGHEY Kristen McGa

The bathroom was an exercise in “high-low” finishing, with selective splashes to elevate the space. “Chex” patterned porcelain tiles from Tile Inspired of Ontario run underfoot and up the shower wall, while a sturdy Fiora shower base provides a curbless effect, without the prohibitive cost. A glass panel replaced with a full shower door saved enough to install a high-end temperature control system.

As the interior design took shape, so did the structure. To maximize energy efficiency, Zavitz and his team sealed the building envelope, using energy-efficient windows and other construction techniques.

“Especially for such a small space, we achieved excellent airtightness,” says Zavitz. Using low-VOC paint and mineral wool insulation instead of spray foam further reduced the project’s carbon emissions and off-gassing potential.

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A great conclusion to this project? Work with a designer, Zavitz says. “Some people think, oh, I have a sense of design. I can do it, no problem, but when it comes to all the fine details, making sure each piece and each choice relates to the next. . . That’s where they have problems,” he says.

“A designer, at the end of the day, will probably save you more money, just because of all that decision-making.”

Construction: Alair Homes Squamish

Design: Jessica Lowes, Peak Design House

Architecture: Erron Holden, FLUX Residential + Commercial Design

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