Spring Creek development south of Whistler Village, B.C.
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, five minutes away
San-Francisco—based Christos Marcopoulos of Nminusone, who studied under Pritzker Prize—winner Rem Koolhaas
Concrete, glass, steel, granite, slate and cedar
PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT
Morisset and Marcopoulos created a home that staggers down the hill into which it's built. The home's interior flow is designed so that walking through it feels like skiing down a mountain.
THE DISHWATER SKY DRIZZLES RAIN down the windows outside, but here in Marc Morisset's Whistler, B.C., living room, we are bathed in warm light. Two walls of floor-to-ceiling glass join at right angles to run uninterrupted for nearly 80 feet. Mountains and sky pour through the walls. Morisset, a 32-year-old former professional snowboarder, is dressed in jeans and a dark hooded sweatshirt. He rests his thin frame against the glass wall that slips seamlessly into the floor and looks out over his Audi Quattro parked below. We're suspended 40 feet above a serpentine road, standing on a polished concrete floor that hangs from hidden steel beams drilled into the side of the mountain.
On mornings when he gears up for a day on the hill, the airy perch gives him a good idea of what the snow conditions will be like. On days like today, when Morisset may settle in with a book, the room feels more like a mountaintop bistro, with peaks shrouded in snow for a background. Either way, Morisset describes the mood in this room as "relaxed anxiousness.
"By that I mean you can sit here and chill out and feel like you're doing something because you're still engaged with the landscape around you, he says, scratching the scruff on his cheeks. Damp stands of cedar and fir sway just outside the room. "You should see it when it snows. It's like being inside one of those balls you shake up.
[NEXT]Morisset created a small blizzard of his own a few years ago in this traditional Khyber Ridge neighborhood, five minutes south of Whistler, when he hired Nminusone, a budding San Francisco—based design firm, to design and build a 3,200-square-foot contemporary structure of concrete, steel and glass. "We had a lot of tough meetings with the Intrawest people to get approval for what we wanted to do, said Christos Marcopoulos, a principal owner of Nminusone who studied under Pritzker Prize—winning architect Rem Koolhaas for five years in Rotterdam. "I think they were afraid we were going to build a pink house or something.
Morisset wanted a home that fit his passion for floating through the mountains on a board, and Marcopoulos delivered. "Everything in the house has angles that make you feel as though you're on an incline, Marcopoulos says. "As you move through it, you inhabit different mountainous conditions—crevasses, rock faces, hanging out in space—like a snowboarder or skier engages the hill.
[NEXT]Sliding along the smooth radiant-heat concrete floor and looking out the wall of glass at granite rocks covered in snow, I see what he means. I start my "run on the summit of the third floor in the snowy reaches of the master bedroom, a polygon of blue glass, white walls and white-epoxy floors finished in the smooth texture of a packed groomer. A steam shower surrounded by a column of opaque fritted glass glows green in the sunlight, and a tub is hollowed into the floor just inches from the windows. "No one can see in, says Dominique Bayego, Morisset's 28-year-old fiancée, a South African of Spanish descent with delicate features. At night she pulls curtains along a track hidden in the ceiling just to be sure.
A guest bedroom and a den decorated with a legless Ikea couch sit toward the front of the house and overlook a 1,100-square-foot roooftop deck accessible from most rooms on the third floor. "In the summer you can open up the doors and go right out, Morisset says. Below that roof sits an additional guest room, a 550-square-foot suite with one wall made entirely of glass.
[NEXT]We glide down the concrete steps, also covered in white epoxy, to reach the kitchen on the second floor, where walnut cabinetry breaks up the home's stark whiteness. Here the walls lean away from the center of the room to lend a dynamic feel of outward motion. A tilted wall of fritted glass hides the steps that ascend from the bottom floors, where Marcopoulos placed a mudroom for ditching Gore-Tex after a day on the hill. Skylights above the stairwell allow light to pour in and turn the wall an icy green.
A clean-lined square couch designed by Inform, a Vancouver furniture company, sits off the kitchen facing a simple gas fireplace, where flames flicker from a bed of river pebbles. A picture window behind the sink frames a rock wall just outside. "At night the rock lights up and looks like a painting, Morisset says. "The window just slips away. We wanted to bring the outside in.
[NEXT]By the time we hit the cantilevered living room off the kitchen, I feel ready to launch into flight. Sixty-foot steel beams, each three feet tall, anchor into a granite wall behind the house. Those beams suspend the enormous weight of the living room's concrete floor, about 420 square feet. "Most of these mountain resort homes feel fake with all that cosmetic wood, says Morisset. "And they're too dark, with windows too small and rooms that feel like dungeons. I wanted something light and airy.
Outside, Morisset notes how the roof, parts of which blooms with knickanick in summer and which holds snow for insulation in winter, bends with each contour of the steep ground beneath it so that the whole structure flows down the side of the mountain into which it is built. Inside, the four-bedroom, four-bathroom house maintains the roof's sleek lines with recessed lighting and floor-to-ceiling magnetic doors.
The posh home is a far cry from the shoebox loft that Morisset, a Quebecois, lived in when he moved to Whistler at the age of 17. The loft was perched above The Snowboard Shop, where he worked retail. Morisset turned pro in 1993, and he worked his way up to No. 17 on the World Cup circuit. But by 2000 he was dedicating most of his time to running a skate and snowboard distribution company called Four Star Distribution. He also bought The Circle, a skate and board shop based in Whistler, where he wanted to build a home.
"There weren't many lots available, he says. "But then we found this one. The rugged eighth of an acre he found proved to be a huge asset. "If you start with a unique piece of land, you'll get a unique house, says Dominique as she wipes down the windows. "We could be down there on the street or up here with this. She points out the windows to a dreary afternoon. "You feel good in this house.