Private Residence

Erin Township, Ontario
Ian MacDonald Architect Inc.

The 10-acre site of this country retreat for two Toronto-based urban professionals in the Township of Erin is only 45 minutes from downtown Toronto and endures the encroachment of suburban development. Despite this immediate context, the primary design challenge presented by this project was to establish a strong connection to the land in creating its own insular world; in essence a true retreat.

The modest program of approximately 2,000 square feet includes typical living spaces, two bedrooms, a den and a screened porch. Design began with a careful reading of the site for potential locations. Selecting the obvious vantage point up on the hill was dismissed because of its vulnerability to “view pollution” from unpredictable future sprawl. Instead, the decision was made to embed the house in the tree row adjacent to the road. The length of the driveway is thus minimized, and is the least invasive from an environmental perspective. A generous roof overhang on the glazed east elevation offers shade and further extends the connection to the site from the intermediary zone of the screened porch. Most importantly, the siting strategy ensures a real sense of retreat and allows views from the house to focus on the undulating landscape of gentle hills and a wetland pond, all without being jeopardized by any potential adjacent development.

The responsive siting of the house is complemented by the use of natural and expressive materials in both structure and finish. Traditional wood frame construction employs Douglas fir in both the columns and roof joists, as well as in the flooring material. Mahogany-framed windows echo the mahogany millwork throughout the house, contrasted with dark slate countertops in the kitchen. The fireplace is constructed of concrete, polished plaster and firebrick.

Andresen: The architectural qualities of this project owe much to the siting strategy; one that is both pragmatic and poetic in terms of the larger landscape conditions. The interior spaces benefit not only from the contained views to the pond and hillside but also from the section that gently differentiates areas in terms of light and space.

Macdonald: This modest house invites its thoughtful consideration of locale to inflect and inform the disposition of its domestic programme, allowing a varied and delicate regard between the life of the house and its surrounding landscape.

Teeple: In this house, simplicity of means results in a comfortable yet rich living space. Here, emphasis is on how south light falls into the house, how views are framed and how public rooms connect with the site, rather than on elaborate detailing. This gives the house a rural sensibility appropriate to its location.

Client: Withheld

Architect Team: Ian MacDonald, Tim Wickens, Olga Pushkar, Michael Attard

Structural: Yolles Partnership Inc.

Mechanical: Toews System Design

Millwork: Gibson Greenwood

Contractor: Marcus Design Build

Area: 2,000 sq.ft.

Budget: Not available