This minimalist yet warm home by Atelier Kastelic Buffey brings a touch of the contemporary to a picturesque neighbourhood in the shadow of Toronto’s Casa Loma.
When Atelier Kastelic Buffey was approached to design a home for a family of five, the firm was asked to achieve that elusive balance: a clean, contemporary house but one that eschews the glassy frigidity of the archetypal Modernist cube. “The white cube school of thought has a place in contemporary architecture,” says principal Kelly Buffey, “but it should be re-thought in a new way that incorporates current lifestyles and living patterns.”
Now complete, the house – two solid blocks, one cantilevered sculpturally over the other – is an elegant monolith with a modern sensibility that nonetheless manages to blend into a street lined with Edwardian, Tudor and Georgian Revival-era homes. The choice of cladding was key in achieving this. AKB selected a limestone that matches the stone of the surrounding structures, even while the house’s form does not. It clads the entire surface, including the underside of the soffits, intensifying the impression that the house was carved out of a single block of stone.
Designed in collaboration with Ashley Botten Design, the 490-square-metre interior is as fuss-free as the exterior. Its surprisingly open plan was achieved through the use of a concealed steel structure. “Despite the size of this open area, it doesn’t feel vacuous because the proportions are well balanced, and defined by changes in floor level and differences in the millwork,” Buffey explains. The sides of the house are essentially window-free; instead, the front and back of the home feature ample glazing, looking onto the street and a lushly cultivated backyard, respectively.
The double-height entrance foyer, topped by a skylight, is bordered on one side by a wood-clad floating staircase. The adjacent dining room occupies part of an L-shaped area that sweeps around the sunken living room to include the kitchen and breakfast nook, which look directly through ceiling-height windows into the backyard. This glazing extends the entire width of the house via sliding doors that allow the living area to be opened to the back terrace to form a continuous space.
Defined as much by what’s hidden as by what’s revealed, the interior is remarkably clutter-free – especially impressive for a family of five. This is thanks to abundant storage: the television in the living room is concealed behind a sliding panel, and camouflaged doors off the kitchen lead to a large mudroom and a walk-in pantry. Upstairs, this visual tranquility is extended into the master bedroom by a television set that tucks away when not in use, and wraparound privacy curtains that can disappear into a dedicated wall space.
Both inside the house and out, materials were chosen for durability, and limited to just a few choices to create consistency throughout. “The proportion and composition of the materials also affects one’s experience of the space,” Buffey says, “and if harmonious, they will evoke a feeling of calm.”