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Where the Past Meets the Present

A Canadian retreat blends the beauty of yesterday and today.

Written by Stacy Durr Albert
Photography by Heidi Long


When you think of wood homes, you probably don’t envision 18th-century villas or castle-like exteriors. Yet if you take a quick look at this custom wood retreat in Fernie, British Columbia, that’s exactly what you’ll find — the homeowners wanted to create a distinctive look that recalled the beautiful yet unassuming charm of yesteryear.

“The outside is like an old, yet beautiful castle with an understated style and scale that fits easily into the surrounding environment,” says homeowner Alan Martin. “The look is meant to be a sort of 18th-century villa with old stone work and rustic decor, yet with a real premium on comfort.”While the timber home has many classic details, it also boasts a decidedly modern flair inside with a minimalist decorating approach, contemporary artwork and updated hues.

“The mixture of modern interiors and a more traditional wood structure fits well with the architecture of the area, which was once an old mining town,” explains Stephanie Johnson, marketing manager of PFB Custom Homes Group. “The frame itself adds warmth and a direct connection to the structures that were prominent during mining days.”

When Alan and his wife started planning their dream retreat, creating a sense of serenity was a priority. “We wanted our mountain getaway to truly feel like something remote and, in the words of my 10-year-old, ‘chill.’ A timber frame home was just the right answer,” he shares.

With 3,300 square feet of living space spread out over three levels, the inviting getaway is a perfect fit for the family. “We wanted something extremely cozy, beautiful, yet understated,” says Alan. “We built it for us and not for the two percent of the time that we have friends, guests and families here.” To get the project rolling, the couple turned to Chuck Smith and Laura Fenniak of Smith & Co. in Calgary, a talented architect and interior design team dedicated to designing homes that fit the lifestyle of their clients. “After spending an initial two hours with Chuck, he presented us a few months later with his vision and, suffice it to say, he nailed it,” shares Alan. “And Laura Fenniak deserves all the credit for the interior design.”

Of course the home’s defining feature is the gorgeous oak frame that simultaneously imparts a sense of old-world charm and modern beauty. The structural frame was created by Riverbend Timber Framing, part of the PFB Custom Homes Group, and built by Darren Davis of AHC Group of Burnaby. “We love the oak because it’s very ‘eastern Canadian’ in its feel even though the home is set in the heart of the western Rockies,” says Alan.  Another major influence in the home’s overall style is its outdoor setting. Though the property affords spectacular views of Mount Fernie and The Three Sisters, Chuck encouraged the couple to leave plenty of trees on their lot. “The idea was to create the world’s most beautiful tree house,” recalls Alan. “It snows and rains a lot, and it’s dark at night, so even though we have amazing 360-degree views of several mountain peaks, the trees and natural surroundings on the lot really complete the feel of the property.”

Mixed materials also define the majestic home, creating a perfect harmony of wood, stone and drywall. The balance of texture pays homage to the styles of yesterday and today, blending past and present seamlessly together. Stone columns and the sturdy frame recall the grandeur of old lodges or villas, while contemporary furnishings and fabrics introduce a modern edge. Whether they are relaxing by their outdoor fire pit, skiing local trails, or completing a jigsaw puzzle in their living room, the Martin family couldn’t be happier with their home.

“We’ve always loved the mountains, and Fernie might be the most authentic little mountain town on the planet,” says Alan. “This house truly is our little slice of heaven.”


Home Details

Square footage: 3,300 

Architect; interior designer: Smith & Co.

Builder: AHC Group

Timber Provider: Riverbend Timber Framing

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