A sun- drenched cot­tage on B.C.’s South Pen­der Is­land



Scandi-white cot­tage on South Pen­der Is­land, B.C., and you might as­sume she’s a staunch min­i­mal­ist – but you’d be wrong. “I love abun­dance and clas­sic red and green for Christ­mas in the city,” says the de­signer and stylist, who lives in Van­cou­ver with her hus­band, real es­tate de­vel­oper Cameron Thorn, and their nineyear-old son, Leighton. “But the is­land is so light and serene. It makes sense that the cot­tage decor re­flects that.”

Car­rie’s less-is-more ap­proach ex­tends be­yond the decor to the very cot­tage it­self. In 2006, when she and Cameron bought the two-and-a-half-acre lot – dream­ily set on the edge of a moun­tain road over­look­ing a val­ley – they planned on build­ing a 2,400square-foot sec­ond home. “I thought it would be a good idea

to start small,” she says. “So we built this open-plan 850-square­foot guest cot­tage to start with, and we’re still here.”

The fam­ily fer­ries to the idyl­lic re­treat year-round, but dur­ing the hol­i­days, the get­away be­comes more than a respite from the city. “South Pen­der Is­land is a mag­i­cal place to spend Christ­mas,” says Car­rie. “It’s so quiet, rest­ful and un­be­liev­ably peace­ful, of­fer­ing the kind of seren­ity only na­ture can.”

It was fit­ting, then, that na­ture was the start­ing point for deck­ing out the space for Christ­mas. “I love a real tree and we al­ways for­age one from our prop­erty,” says Car­rie, re­fer­ring to the charm­ing scrawny firs that dot her land. And her hunter-gath­erer ap­proach to dec­o­rat­ing ex­tends in­side. “Each year, I walk around the cot­tage, see what’s in stor­age and try to use things we al­ready have, like an old tray or pot­tery, in dif­fer­ent ways.” She lay­ers in thrift store

finds and or­na­ments that range from vin­tage to home­made, in­clud­ing trea­sured ones cre­ated by her fa­ther-in-law.

All of th­ese de­tails set the stage for the fam­ily’s an­nual Christ­mas Eve tra­di­tions: “We have hot choco­late and mulled wine and un­wrap one present be­fore bed. In the morn­ing, we open stock­ings, go for a hike, re­turn for break­fast, then un­wrap gifts.” A log fire is lit, CBC ra­dio plays and the Mo­nop­oly board is set up and ready for a day of fam­ily time be­fore friends ar­rive for din­ner. “This kind of sim­plic­ity is the ul­ti­mate lux­ury,” says Car­rie, “es­pe­cially at Christ­mas.”

Just don’t call her adept mix of min­i­mal­ism and mer­ry­mak­ing a les­son in de­sign. “There are lots of rules in de­sign, and I say, ‘break them!’ I still love the chintz, dark wood and rich colours of our Van­cou­ver home, but Christ­mas needs to be au­then­tic, and that’s just what our serene lit­tle cot­tage is.”

STOCK­ING, West Elm.

In the airy dou­ble-height liv­ing area, de­fined by a strik­ing stream­lined wood-burn­ing fire­place, a black chan­de­lier makes a bold state­ment. Of the Christ­mas tree chopped from the sur­round­ing for­est, Car­rie says, “I don’t know what kind it is, but its sparse­ness works here.” RUG, IKEA; BAS­KET (un­der cof­fee ta­ble), Bacci’s.


AP­PLI­ANCES, Trail Ap­pli­ances; POT­TERY, DISHES, Janaki Larsen.

ABOVE Fam­ily ties de­fine this earthy vi­gnette: Fin­ished with a new mar­ble top, the metal cof­fee ta­ble frame hails from Car­rie’s grand­par­ents’ farm, while her fa­ther-in-law made the wooden tray. FLOOR LAMP, LightForm; TOSS CUSH­ION, Pro­vide.

BELOW Car­rie cre­ated a stu­dio feel in the small kitchen with white cab­i­netry, float­ing shelves and in­dus­trial stain­less steel. Dur­ing the hol­i­days, she loves to cook hearty dishes like casseroles.

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