What Remains to be Seen

This house for two professionals in the Old Mill neighbourhood of Toronto is a nuanced response to a design brief specifying a one-bedroom home that prioritizes the display of the clients’ extensive contemporary art collection. Occupying a gently sloping site featuring heritage black oak trees, the house is fully engaged with nature through a finessed architectural and landscape strategy. Clad in pale concrete masonry accented by aluminum frames and louvres, it forms a neutral backdrop against which the seasonal dynamic registers.

Dramatic interior spatial qualities are most apparent in the vast double-height gallery atrium, naturally lit from a series of three skylights forming the striking sawtooth roof profile above. This cleft, running parallel to the stairwell, connects the first and second floors, creating an intriguing sectional dynamic further enhanced by the indirect light filtering in from the skylights. The interior core of the home and the artworks on display are softly illuminated, minimizing the risk of UV damage.

Despite being below grade, the basement feels more like a garden suite, a consequence of the sunken courtyard terrace which admits an abundance of natural daylight into the space. Extensive fine millwork houses hundreds of books comprising an impressive library – which, when occasion strikes, serves as a guest suite via a cleverly integrated Murphy bed.

On the top floor, the same exquisitely detailed millwork is evident throughout the master suite and in the two offices. Facilitating further engagement with the outdoors is the street-facing smoking porch adjacent to the main office. An enhanced opportunity to commune with nature presents itself once again through the large, open void cut into the canopy overhead, inviting contemplation of the sky and stars above.

While the house functions as a container for art, it also offers a rich and engaging experience of discovery, delight and imagination, through both the artifacts it showcases and the multitude of emotional responses it provokes. The subtlety of the architectural gestures – sculpting space with light, utilizing a palette of natural materials, integrating building and landscape – speak of doing just enough to achieve a neverending sense of possibility that constantly reveals, uncovers and unfolds.

Location: Toronto, ON
Size: 3,950 sf

photo: Ben Rahn / A-Frame Studio