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Into the Woods

This article was written by Victoria Hittner and was featured in our March issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Matt Shannon via www.mattshannon.ca To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.

New Build Meets Old Growth

When Bianca Bodley was asked to design the landscaping for this home nestled in the coastal rainforest of British Columbia, she was determined to honor its roots—quite literally. The old growth forest in and around Ucluelet is remarkable not only for its towering trees, but for its distinction as one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests in the world.

As owner and principal designer of Victoria, British Columbia–based Biophilia Design Collective, Bodley blends high-contrast, modern design with an almost reverential appreciation of nature. The homeowners were of a similar mind. “It was extremely important to the clients for the landscape to blend in seamlessly with their beautiful natural surroundings,” says the designer.

Originally built as a vacation home, the property quickly became the owners’ primary residence. To address a need for more workspace, two aux boxes (prefabricated spaces) were added. “Our task was to find the best way to connect the home to these structures, as well as consider flow to a new fireplace area,” explains Bodley.

The designer repopulated land disturbed by the new build with familiar species of ferns and woody vascular shrubs like salal (Gaultheria shallon), ideal for providing groundcover. Pacific dogwood and western hemlock trees mimic the old-growth canopy just footsteps away.

Whenever possible, Bodley utilized materials that would weather gracefully alongside the forest. The property borders public paths, making privacy fencing a necessity. Bodley and her team utilized COR-TEN steel panels, which will age to a warm, cedar-like color. They arranged the panels with gaps “to allow for peekaboos of the forest.”

The metal is echoed along the edging of the sunken patio and the Paloform fireplace itself. Separated by two steps and closer to the plant life, the patio offers a cozy sense of seclusion in plain sight. Complementary to the cedar siding and black trim of the house, the bold finishes make the forest foliage pop further.

“I like playing with levels—especially in delineating seating areas from pathways,” says Bodley. “Just a few steps up or down allow you to be in a place that is not on the transit path but in its own zone, which . . . feels more peaceful and [like] a destination.”

Even the plentiful local rain receives a nod in Bodley’s design. Water dances down a copper rain chain and into a manmade stream, constructed from local black rock. From there, the water is directed to existing wetlands on the edge of the property.

“My task was to create the desired outdoor spaces and then heal the disturbed land around the home post–home build,” explains Bodley. “For me, healing the land is my greatest honor and calling and Ucluelet is one of my favorite places on earth.”

Honoring Old Growth
“When working in densely forested area,” explains landscape designer Bianca Bodley, “our main goal is to respect the surrounding grades and water patterns, and also to add back healthy organic material and native plants that will seamlessly mingle with the natural surroundings over time.”

Bodley and her team drew directly from the vernacular of the old-growth, British Columbia rainforest by incorporating sword fern (Polystichum munitum), deer fern (Blechnum spicant), salal (Gaultheria shallon), evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), and June plum (Oemleria cerasiformis). “All of the plants selected were literally a repeat of what is found in the local forest and were sourced from a local grower in Ucluelet,” notes the designer. “I love all this flora and have spent so much time . . . hiking through it and indulging in all its scents and textures.”

Learn more about native plant species and their historic significance for the Ucluelet First Nations people on the Wild Pacific Trail and its many interpretive walks.