INTO THE WOODS

A North Van­cou­ver fam­ily’s ad­ven­tures in West Coast mod­ernism.

Vancouver Magazine - - Play - Julia Dil­worth by Carlo Ricci pho­to­graphs by

When film set­dec­o­ra­tor Hamish Purdy bought his “tree fort in the woods,” he was 29 and in a bit over his head—“It was prob­a­bly more than I could af­ford,” he says—but it just felt like home right away.

“It’s kind of ridicu­lous now that I’m married and we have three kids,” says Purdy of the splitlevel West Coast mod­ern home that sits perched above Mis­sion Creek in North Van­cou­ver. “I don’t think it was ever re­ally de­signed for that.” Built in 1972 by ar­chi­tects Barry Gri­b­lin and Robert Has­sell, the home­seemed made for atime be­fore peo­ple had a lot of stuff. With the cou­ple’s 15-year-old son and twin 10-year-olds, it’s been a chal­lenge find­ing space for the ski clothes, hel­mets, old art and other knick­knacks that ac­cu­mu­late around fam­ily life.

“Through the years I’ve sort of cursed Barry and the whole West Coast mod­ern move­ment be­cause of its short­com­ings,” laughs Purdy over the lack of closet space and the drafty lou­vred glass and sin­gle-paned win­dows. But in the plus col­umn: an open plan tai­lored to the view. “The whole south side of the house is al­most all glass, so it feels like I’m sit­ting in the for­est,” he says. Cheaply built but beau­ti­fully de­signed, with its smell of rough cedar in­side and out, and the con­stant rush of the creek just out­side the home, the house scores a few more points for the West Coast mod­ernists.

De­spite his ex­po­sure to a lot of set props and decor at work (his past films in­clude The Revenant, the lat­est Preda­tor and now an “un­ti­tled Robert Ze­meckis project”), Purdy has de­signed his home to be sur­pris­ingly spare. “The ex­pres­sion I like to say is, ‘The cob­bler’s chil­dren have no shoes,’” jokes Purdy. In­side you’ll find a few keep­sakes, a wall of the kids’ art, but not a lot of at­ten­tion paid to fur­nish­ings. “I try to re­duce the amount of stuff in my life, be­cause I’m adec­o­ra­tor,” he says. “Iron­i­cally, the house never looked bet­ter than when it was com­pletely empty. Noth­ing looks bet­ter than look­ing out a plain win­dow to the for­est.”

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