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Coastal home balances modern and vernacular style

A house designed to commune with its surroundings

Two gabled barns with red siding and stone base. Doublespace Photography

Perched along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Nova Scotia, Canada, this modern abode from Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects is eager to reference the area’s architectural lineage. The house sits near Shobac farm, which the firm has developed into a sprawling oasis of architectural explorations that sit alongside animals roaming the land.

The Smith House is really a cluster of three pavilions that together resembles a tiny village. The architects wanted to build the family vacation home in the style of classic Nova Scotian architecture—simple form, gabled roof—but add some modernity with the materials. The result shows how well that contrast can work.

An open living and dining space with a large stone fireplace, and exposed black trusses under a wooden ceiling. Doublespace Photography

Exteriors are clad in steel with a striking coppery orange patina. The two longer rectangular volumes—a “day” pavilion with continuous, open space for living, dining, and kitchen use, and a “night” pavilion with a bedroom—sit on a granite plinth, which creates a direct connection to the older architecture found on the property.

The two main interior spaces tease out its modern-meets-vernacular style with expansive windows that peer out onto the ocean, concrete floors, exposed black beams, and walls featuring the same local granite. A smaller third pavilion contains an intimate, cabin-like retreat, with exposed wood framing and a stove.

“At a time when so much of our world is in flux, this is a project that is about timeless archetypes, rather than novelty or fashion,” MacKay-Lyons explains. “It is less about itself than it is about the landscape cultivated around it.”

A large rectangular stone fireplace with one recessed area for a fire and another for firewood storage. Doublespace Photography
A bedroom with white walls, light wood floors, corner window, and a bed with navy bedding. Doublespace Photography
A bright corridor under skylights, with white cabinets and a view into a bedroom. Doublespace Photography
A cabin with exposed wood walls and a stove with two armchairs. Doublespace Photography
A faraway view of a cluster of silvery and red barn-shaped buildings in a field with a forest and body of water in the distance. Doublespace Photography