Contrast House

Located on a corner lot in a dense Toronto neighbourhood, the redesign of this narrow 125-year-old residence employs the use of contrast as a means to amplify natural light in the interior, juxtaposing opposing elements to explore the relationship between light and dark, old and new. The increase of natural light within the interior is achieved through both spatial and perceptual means. Spatially, the long and narrow house- only 11 feet wide on its rear façade - was reconfigured to open it up and allow for direct sight lines to enlarged window openings. Perceptually, contrasting elements were used as a means to “brighten” internal spaces that lacked direct access to natural light. At each level, the stair is defined by a black element — be it floating bookcases housing the owner’s collectibles, or a chalk board wall for play — creating contrast and visually intensifying the natural light spilling down from above.

A monochromatic palette — walnut floors, white and dark gray walls — highlights the house’s architectural forms and lines, animated by the family’s collection of colourful furniture, art, books, and toys. The design concept and tonalities flow from inside to out. Clad in black-stained cedar vertical boards soaring upward to conceal the modest roof deck behind, the exterior is a bold counterpoint to the red brick Victorian dwelling to which it is attached. Many passive sustainable systems are employed to minimize the house’s environmental impact. The reconfigured layout, open riser stair in a light well and new operable windows maximize natural ventilation and daylighting from above, largely reducing the need for both air conditioning and artificial lighting. Integrated with the roof deck, a green roof absorbs rainwater and provides a cooling effect for the upper floors, further reducing the dependency on utilities.

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