The husband-and-wife design team Alexandra and Eliot Angle live and run their business, Aqua Vitae, out of the fifth floor of a 1924 apartment building in Los Angeles. But to get home—psychologically, at least—they have to travel some 3,000 miles. For the Angles, home isn't Tokyo, or London, or New York, or any of the other cities where they've set up residence. It's the simple, Cape Cod–style retreat they started building two years ago in Nova Scotia, on a high promontory of Cape Breton Island. Perched on a yellow-green hillside overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the dark, piney mountains of Highlands National Park, the Angles' house is more than a country place—it's a nature observatory.

Take a tour of the Nova Scotia retreat

"This bit of land is the high point on the whole coastline, so you see not only up and down the shore, but west, to the sunset," Eliot says. "It's rugged and remote and gorgeous." Hawks and eagles circle above the meadows, children can cut across the grassy hillside down to the water's edge; and at dusk, adults gather on the wooden wraparound deck to sip wine and spot whales. 

The Angles erected walls of windows downstairs, unobscured by shades or curtains, to let in as much of the landscape and the light as possible. But if you were to look into those windows, not out of them, you would see a domestic interior that mirrors the colors and textures of the house's surroundings.

Surprisingly, when the Angles set out to find a vacation place, they weren't looking for anything permanent. With their frenetic schedule, the couple was accustomed to hopping planes on a moment's notice, spending entire days on the phone or at the computer, and always regarding their housing situation as temporary—wherever they happened to be. In Nova Scotia, they intended to purchase a "little farmhouse" and enjoy it for a year or two before moving on. "We thought: It really doesn't matter if we never go," Alexandra says. But Cape Breton changed them. "We immediately felt committed to this place; it was just emotional," she explains. So, instead of a disposable fixer-upper, the Angles invested in 52 acres and began to build the dream home they hadn't known they craved. "We were so taken with the view," Eliot says.

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