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Cabin Fever: How Little Giant transformed a vintage trailer into a Pacific hideaway

The Calgary-based architecture and interiors studio worked together with entrepreneur Lyndon Cormack to create a serene space in the heart of the forest.

With its abundance of nature, lush forests and vicinity to the Pacific Ocean, the Deep Cove area of North Vancouver in Canada is an incredible area of unspoilt wilderness. It’s no surprise then that it is here that entrepreneur Lyndon Cormack, co-founder and managing director of Herschel Supply, a design-driven manufacturer known for having redesigned classics like backpacks, bags, travel goods and accessories, chose to set up home with his partner and two teenage daughters. Proud owners of a residence perched on a sprawling, ocean-front plot, Cormack has now taken his rustic retreat to the next level thanks to the transformation of a vintage 1953 Spartan Spartanette trailer, which has been painstakingly restored and converted into a new guest house just a stone’s throw away from the home.

Hidden in a verdant forest amidst the surrounding towering cedars and lush greenery, and boasting a striking panorama of the Pacific, the trailer was imagined as a place to both host guests and serve as a home office in the middle of nature, ensconced amid towering cedar and Douglas fir trees. Inspired by the surrounding natural landscape, and resulting in a sanctuary that feels both secluded and inviting just a mere half-hour drive from the heart of Vancouver, Cormack enlisted Little Giant, a Calgary-based architecture and interiors studio led by architect and principal Mark Burkart, to oversee the renovation, with the trailer now boasting a number of environmentally-friendly design aspects including locally-sourced materials, energy-efficient lighting and natural ventilation.

The design brief called for creating a dual-purpose space: an office that maximises the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape and a guest house that offers comfort and a distinctive experience.

Mark Burkart, principal, Little Giant

“The design brief called for creating a dual-purpose space: an office that maximises the beautiful views of the surrounding landscape and a guest house that offers comfort and a distinctive experience, all while integrating seamlessly with the natural environment,” Burkart tells Effect. “The trailer was originally in good condition but lacked the modern amenities and design coherence desired for its new function, so the owner decided to renovate to blend the vintage charm with contemporary comforts and aesthetics.”

Home to a sitting area, small kitchen, bathroom and separate bedroom, the trailer takes cues from the main house, which is a unique and arty expression of 1970s Pacific Northwest style. Coming clad in dark marble slabs and open to the tree canopy above, all while retaining its original wall and ceiling panels, it also features plenty of cedar shingle cladding, while a sloped roof comes broad and overhanging, protecting it from the rain, which is a common occurrence in the area. As to be expected given its surroundings, natural materials take pride of place throughout the project, including raw cedar which provides texture and warmth, plus granite and fir which are emblematic of British Columbia’s classic icons. “Most of the materials are natural,” says Burkart. “Raw cedar predominates and provides connection to ‘place’, while weathering steel provides a sense of patina and reflects the colour of the spruce needles on the forest floor.”

The colour scheme is a continuation of the natural theme, with the addition of dusty pale pinks of the cabinets and marble counters providing a counterpoint to the dominance of wood. “These are all set against the riveted aluminium skin of the trailer which reminds me of the zinc-grey waters of Indian Arm on a cloudy day,” adds Burkart.

Built as an “office away from the office”, Cormack was adamant that the new space would foster creativity, contemplation and focused work. As such, one of its key design highlights is its 13ft-long custom oak desk and library which opens into the small sitting area for two in front of a fireplace. “It is strategically placed as an extension of floor to ceiling windows, and the downward-sloped roof draws the eye out towards the sea,” explains Burkart, who also furnished the space with new marble pieces, 1970s original Maralunga chairs and contemporary art by Ian Wallace, while filling shelves with collectibles from the owner’s world travels. “I’ve never had a ‘proper’ home office so when setting out to build one from scratch I was able to incorporate all of my favourite things,” confesses Cormack. “Designing my home office was a journey of blending contemporary design and personal artefacts in a workspace that’s both inspiring and tranquil.”

Lighting is, of course, key in creating such a serene environment, with Burkart carefully considering its positioning both through natural light in the studio where the team used broad expanses of glass, as well as in the trailer where they instilled a more ‘moody lounge’ approach to the lighting. “In keeping with the focus on local materials and suppliers, we used Bocci lighting throughout the studio and trailer,” he adds. “The organic qualities of the hand-blown glass pair nicely with the natural materials.”

I’ve never had a ‘proper’ home office, so when setting out to build one from scratch I was able to incorporate all of my favourite things.

Lyndon Cormack, founder of Herschel Supply

What’s more, just as spectacular outside as it is in, the project also comprises a natural cedar front deck for relaxation featuring a sitting area plus Corten steel fireplace, while the shower is also placed on the deck immediately adjacent to the bedroom. “We removed the shower from the trailer and placed it under the trees,” explains the architect. “It is clad in cedar and blends into the forest and the material language of the studio, but from within the shower is clad in marble slabs which reflect the image of the trees above.”

VIntage design pieces such as the Arne Jacobsen Swan Chair, above, can be glimpsed throughout the retreat.

Preserving the trailer’s original features while upgrading it to modern standards was a challenge – “managing the spatial constraints to maximise functionality without compromising the design aesthetic also required careful planning,” adds Burkart – yet it’s safe to say the renovation was a true success. “This guest house is more than just a place to stay; it’s an experience designed to create lasting memories for our visitors,” enthuses Cormack. “It’s a place to think, sit beside the fire and dream big dreams.”

Read more:  Interior Designers I Interiors | Vintage | Design | Mid-Century | Canada