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Tofino Beach House Procures The Sense Of Refuge


Perched on the westernmost edge of Vancouver Island, Tofino is one of Canada’s favorite recreation destinations, where extreme weather conditions draw surfers and storm watchers year-round.

Nestled in a weather-beaten forest, this 2,500-square-foot beach house creates a connection between the drama of the nearby ocean and the sense of sanctuary provided by the trees. Composed primarily of one large room, the house is light-filled on the south side facing the ocean, and insular and protected on the other side, paneled in dark, rich wood. Glass walls open the living area to panoramic views of forest and ocean, while two fireplaces on either end anchor space and provide a feeling of refuge. Cantilevering the house from its base provides space for ferns and beach salal to grow underneath the glass flooring that runs the perimeter of the main room, giving the sense of floating above the forest floor.


The warm, natural tones of the interior take inspiration from Tofino’s coastal forest, and are punctuated by pieces from the owner’s striking contemporary art collection. Artworks were incorporated into the design of the home, with the fireplace walls specially designed to fit paintings by Sam Francis and Diego Singh. A collection of furniture pieces designed by Olson specifically for the house, including a walnut sofa built into the hearth of one fireplace, complete the interior environment. Tight knot cedar ceilings in the living area and rich walnut casework in the open kitchen to the rear provide a sense of grounded warmth, which extends to the back bedroom with its dark teak paneling.


Here, a vista out over an elevated deck and long reflecting pool offer a second opportunity for views of water and woods. This house was sited so carefully that only one tree had to be removed during construction, and a green roof above the garage continues the home’s natural integration. A nearly continuous line of clerestory windows above the living area required an innovative engineering system for the cantilevered roof, which is held up in only two places by the concrete chimneys. As a result, the roof appears to be floating above the house, which itself is much like a glass boat gliding over a sea of salal.








Completed: 2016

Project Size: 2,500 SF

Project Team: Jim Olson, FAIA,

Design Principal: Olivier Landa, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C

Project Manager: Will Kemper

Project Architect: Christine Burkland

Interior Design Key Consultants: Arup

Structural and Mechanical Engineer: Lewkowich Engineering Assoc.

Civil Engineer: Brian Hood Lighting Design

Lighting Design: RDH, Envelope

Photography by Nic Lehoux with courtesy of Jim Olson – Olson Kundig


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