Contrast House explores the role of ‘contrast’ in the modern renewal of a 125-year old home. Employing the use of contrast in the context of an older neighbourhood and as a means to amplify natural light, the design juxtaposes opposing elements to explore the relationship between light and dark, old and new. The owners, relocating to Canada from southern climes, hoped to brighten the dark, narrow house.
Architect Firm: Dubbeldam Architecture & Design
Contact e-mail: [email protected]
Lead Architects: Heather Dubbeldam, Oliver Dang, Jacob JeBailey, Bindya Lad, Rachel Tameriao
Project location: Toronto, Canada
Gross Built Area (square meters or square foot): 1,850 sq.ft
Photography: Tom Arban, Bob Gundu
An increase of natural light was accomplished through both physical and perceptual means. Physically, the long, narrow house was opened up on all levels and given expanded openings on the south-facing facade to draw in natural light. A spatial reorganization in plan and in section introduced sight lines to the large windows at the rear of the house and updated the house for a growing family. Perceptually, contrast was used as a means to ‘brighten’ internal spaces without access to natural light. Contrasting elements are placed in proximity to visually intensify the natural light spilling down from above from the new openings.
The repositioned stair, now stacked vertically from the basement to the third floor, allows natural light to bathe the house’s once light-devoid interior spaces through open risers and direct proximity to enlarged windows. On the third floor, new oversized sliding doors leading to a roof deck permit generous amounts of natural light to enter the master bedroom and spill down the stairs, permeating throughout the remainder of the house. At each level, the stair flows into adjoining spaces punctuated by a defining black element. Be it tall black bookcases housing the owner’s colourful collectibles on the ground floor, or a chalk board wall for play on the second floor, these bold dark pieces in combination with rich walnut floors and crisp white walls and ceilings, create contrast to produce an intensified effect. This monochromatic palette is animated by the family’s collection of colourful objects – furniture, art, books, toys – as well as the original stained glass and views to the outdoors.
The contrast concept flows from inside to out – the rear of the house is a bold counterpoint to the modest, red brick Victorian dwelling to which it is attached. Clad in black vertical boards that soar upward and conceal the modest roof deck with built-in roof garden behind, the dark exterior draws light and warmth at the rear of the house.
Careful attention is given to the use of sustainable materials and the choice of systems in order to minimize environmental impact. The new open plan and stair facilitates the movement of air throughout the house, and in conjunction with new operable windows, allows for passive natural ventilation, significantly reducing the need for both air conditioning and artificial lighting. Integrated with the hidden roof deck, a green roof provides a cooling effect for the upper floors and absorbs rainwater. New insulation, low-flow plumbing fixtures and energy-efficient light fixtures further reduce the dependency on utilities.
Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
Founded in 2002, Dubbeldam Inc. Architecture + Design (DA+D) is an award-winning, full service architectural practice recognized for creating projects that demonstrate design clarity, thoughtful planning, and rigorous attention to detail. Founded by architect Heather Dubbeldam, the studio has grown to include a team of architects and designers from different backgrounds and disciplines. DA+D’s portfolio consists of a diverse range of projects including a mixed-use retail/residential/educational project in Batawa, Ontario; a daycare centre; office renovations for Slack Technologies, Azure Magazine, Travelzoo, Informa Exhibitions and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA); numerous residential projects; and hospitality design for Dark Horse Espresso Bar, Wallace Espresso, the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto and the Walper Hotel in Kitchener, Ontario. The commitment to design excellence has earned DA+D numerous design awards and wide recognition in national and international publications. Dubbeldam is the recipient of the 2016 Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture from the Canada Council, one of the oldest and most prestigious prizes in architecture created to recognize outstanding achievement in Canadian architecture.