Perched above the Don River Watershed in North York, the idyllic setting of this property enticed the owners to purchase the house while traveling abroad—site unseen; they fell in love with the wooded ravine that enveloped the rear yard, and its rugged terrain. Upon possession, however, it became apparent that the 1960’s bungalow needed extensive work to make it as welcoming from the inside as was the view out, and to function as a comfortable, light-filled home for the owners and extended family and friends.
Project Name: Ravine House
Studio Name: Post Architecture Inc
Project size: 2582 ft2
Completion date: 2017
Building levels: 1
Location: Toronto, Canada
Photography: Arnaud Marthouret
The main floor area at 2500 SF was generous enough for a 3-bedroom house, and given the delicate ecosystem of the wooded land all around, the approach was to work with the existing footprint and bring the forest indoors.
The design tools employed by Post Architecture, in this case, were unique as they not only included typical architectural abilities to demolish partitions and increase window openings but also to borrow from the realm of interior design and consider the furnishings of these spaces. Sofas, rugs, and chairs were selected for each space, which allowed texture and colour to harmonize the more abstract notions of proportions and light. If the seasons were to be observed year-round, one needed a comfortable chair on which to sit.
It was essential to the Owners that the generous main floor area feel comfortable enough for two people, as well as for a larger group when entertaining; it needed to maintain a distinct sense of smaller, intimate spaces while being part of an open concept plan. Partitions were demolished throughout the interior as they resulted in a series of small, dark spaces.
The kitchen, in particular, needed to be opened up to the rest of the house enough to feel connected, but not so much that it decreased functionality and exposed the foibles of the cook; it was opposite the front doors and informed one’s first impression of the space.
The partitions surrounding it were strategically removed except for a 10′ long section that doubled as a butler’s pantry on one side, and coat storage on the other. The wide opening into the Kitchen also created a view through the pucecoloured island and beyond to a new, 16′ long sliding door facing the ravine. Every year, in early spring, the lime-green colour of the island matches that of the fresh leaves on the trees and then sits in contrast to the colours of fall and winter until the next wave of new growth blooms.
Organizationally, the more public (i.e., entertaining) spaces are to the east of the entry, and the private (bedroom) spaces to the west. The owners didn’t want the kitchen or TV room to be the default gathering space because of its proximity to the entry. Still, they wanted to draw guests through to the ‘conversation pit’ which was a feature of the original bungalow. To this end, the TV room was furnished with only two, albeit extremely comfortable, armchairs, and an occasional chair.
The living room on the other hand, offered comfortable seating for eight people, while the adjacent fireplace area was more appropriate for intimate conversations of two to four. These two spaces are bridged by a double-sided upholstered bench, allowing guests to sit either back-toback or to turn the two conversation areas into one ample space. Again, colour helped guide the circulation to the living room, as there were no windows existing or allowed, on this side of the house.
A custom art mural, 40′ long, by young artist Grier Drummond, animates the Living room and spans from front to rear wall. It connects these spaces by blurring the edges of one area from the other, while the seating arrangement and stepped floor levels suggest otherwise. The art mural also connects the sunken areas with the Breakfast area on the main level, where the owners like to have their morning coffee and read the paper. This space has become one of the most coveted spots in the house.
The master suite, and two kids’ bedrooms plus bath, are on the western (private) half of the house. The master bedroom can be separated from the ensuite bathroom by two sets of pocket doors, or remain open to it, reinforcing the playful interconnectedness used throughout the home. The palette remains neutral, with white porcelain floors and walls, save for the concrete tiles of the demising wall. A charcoal coloured Corian trough sink sits atop a series of IKEA drawers, and a freestanding tub opposite it, open to the shower, creating an open, minimal composition to relax in the house.