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Off-grid residence designed for book lovers on the Gulf Islands

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Blue Sky Architecture is responsible for the design of this contemporary off-grid residence located on Sidney Island, British Columbia, Canada. Sidney Island can be found at the southern end of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. The design was inspired by the sweep of the shoreline and orientation to the sun. This 2,000 square foot dwelling and its garden form an oval in plan.

The sunny courtyard is shaped and contained by the main house to the north and gate house/utility buildings to the south. These elements are connected by garden walls and trellis structures. The remainder of the site is left as a natural forest, and the abundant sun is harnessed through the solar panels.

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The owners are Prairie bookstore operators who fell in love with Sidney Island, and now spend their summers in this remove ‘library in the woods.’ Books are a passion and not just a vocation for the couple, as they are avid readers and active book collectors. Their literary sensibilities have inspired and tempered the blend of formal and bookish references for their home’s design.

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The site is seafront on a small island off British Columbia’s coast, with no ferry access or local services. The house is off-grid and situated on a point of shoreline facing northeast. In plan, the house and walled garden complex is an oval intersected with an axis directed towards a small point on the shoreline.

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Upper roof curves orient to the sun, and lower flat roofs allowing for optimal placement of solar panels and maximize natural ventilation and light penetration into the heart of the house. Walls are largely transparent, facing central garden spaces. Sunshine penetrates deep into interior spaces, while on the other side, the expanse of the ocean is visible from all rooms.

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The construction palette of this home is natural, durable, and local. Because of the remote island location, all materials had to be hand-loaded on and off a small barge, making transportability important.

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This dwelling combines the introverted nature of book lovers, with its sheltered courtyard and extroverted face of window wall to the sea — combining many ways of living in modest domestic spaces.

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What We Love: This off-grid residence offers a unique design concept and inspiring details throughout. A beautiful landscape and seaside views provide a tranquil environment for these lucky homeowners. A long hallway loaded with books is fabulous for those who love to read… and it looks like there are plenty of places to curl up with a good book! Overall, we think this home would offer a sanctuary for those seeking a relaxing getaway. 

Tell Us: What details in the design of this home most appeal to you and why in the Comments below, we love reading your feedback!

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The Douglas fir used for the garden fencing and cloister (a covered walk, typically with a wall on one side and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other) was milled from trees recycled from clearing the building site.

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Photos: Courtesy of Blue Sky Architecture

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Michael D Keenoy
4 months ago

Just wonderful! Frank Lloyd Wright would like to visit this home. The orientation is very interesting with the “backyard” flipped into a private front courtyard. The fact this home is off the grid makes it even more special. Thank you for bringing this home into mine.

Mari
3 months ago

I am in love! All my favorite elements, books, ocean views and trees.