Toronto house design makes more of a gable

A refuge with a unique and personal design that rises three storeys to a gable at the top. Those were the requests of a Toronto couple for their family home in the city’s Cedarvale neighbourhood.

The homeowners were also very open-minded, say Jennifer Kudlats and Andrew Hill, with Studio for Architecture and Collaboration. And that allowed the architects to try new things with Everden House.

“How do we make the public space — the living space — as special as what was going to be the (top floor) primary bedroom?” says Kudlats about how they approached the design.

The answer was to create a gable on the first floor that rises to 9-foot-6 at the peak in the kitchen, and with a 10-foot-6 peak in the stepped-down living room. As well, innovative features also include a corrugated steel shell and hardwood-framed windows on the first floor to soften the metal esthetic.

Natural light from gable windows on either side of the home illuminate the hardwood floors and ceiling and add warmth to the minimalist kitchen.

To soften main floor’s high ceilings, the slopes are clad in engineered hardwood create a cosy esthetic throughout the living, dining and kitchen areas.

The second floor has three bedrooms and the third floor — also featuring a gabled ceiling — is the primary bedroom retreat with an airy ensuite, a dressing room and a private deck.

Everden House, covering 2,950 square feet, took two years to design and build and was completed in 2021.

Jennifer Kudlats and Andrew Hill, with StudioAC in Toronto, answer a few questions about Everden House:

"While you get a higher ceiling in the middle, it comes down on the sides and it is quite intimate. You get this cabin-like feel," says architect Andrew Hill.

What was the inspiration for the home?

Jennifer: It was a beautiful collaboration between StudioAC and the clients. They shared some projects they loved, some with gables but in a more typical way. During the design process we were looking at producing a three-storey house, with a gable at the top.

There was a moment when we asked ourselves why does the third floor get to be the special space for the gable. That led to the impetus of pulling that form down onto the ground floor and bringing it interior. It creates a sense of compression and expansion.

Pocket doors can close off the bedroom from the dressing room and closet, while also keeping sightlines clear when pushed open.

The offset box shapes of the exterior are mindful of shipping containers. What influenced that design?

The stacking is an homage to the ideas of stacking these gabled spaces. It’s saying, “It’s OK to take what would normally be on level three and put it on level one,” and really articulating that.

That stacking esthetic is due to the shifting of the floor plate so we can get windows to bring light in, especially on level two, the middle spaces that are often landlocked.

The ensuite bathroom in the top-floor bedroom retreat looks out onto the private deck through dramatic gable windows.

What challenges did you have in designing and building it?

Andrew: It’s more just grappling with yourself and the designer and taking the leaps and going against the grain a little bit in terms of how you’re going to shape the space and project. Loosening ourselves up so we could make those sketches, and then show that to the client, and then sell them on why that was going to feel really special.

It didn’t end up being a challenge but it made you think it was going to be challenging when you start out on a project like this.

A small-scale model of Everden House holds a place of honour in the three-storey home.

By concentrating on the peaked first-floor ceiling, you said you found other details could become secondary and more cost-effective. How does that work?

Jennifer: Because the main gesture of the space was the ceiling-scape, it meant everything else could become secondary. We didn’t need to spend money fetishizing custom door-pulls or fancy millwork in the kitchen. The kitchen becomes a backdrop in a sense, minimal in its design and cost production.

Everything becomes secondary to the design of the ceiling. Sometimes there’s a risk that if everything is exciting, nothing is exciting.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her at [email protected]

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