Malabar House

Private Residence
Location: Waterloo County, Ontario

This was the first major residential commission for David after returning to Ontario from ten years in Vancouver. He was working with RHL Architects in Kitchener at the time. The owners approached RHL with a site and intent to build a Colonial style house, but on first review of the wooded and very sloped site, David suggested they consider a Shingle style house, which would allow the design solution to break from the static symmetry associated with Colonial and allow the design to meaner with the site contours, bringing in different forms where needed, while still keeping the traditional, homey feeling of a Colonial house. The owners were skeptical at first, not knowing the style, but on reviewing precedents from the UK, eastern seaboard of the US, in particular the Hamptons in New York state, they quickly approved the change and an engaging design process was born.

A Shingle style home is relaxed and comfortable, associated with traditional family values and can be made more formal, or informal, to suit the needs of the individual project. As its name implies, one of the main exterior materials are cedar shingles, which typically adorn the roof and some or all of the walls. A careful look at the roof shows a horizontal shadow line created by doubling up every sixth row of shingles. Other materials include painted siding, brick, stone and typically ample painted wood trim at eaves, gable ends, windows and doors, and covered porches. Columns are oversized and simple, wood soffits are often natural tongue and groove wood coated with clear varnish to recall wooden boats.

Summer cottage-goers, the owners wanted a home that would be well-suited to fall, winter and spring living, and take advantage of the beautifully treed, south-facing lot located on a quiet cul-de-sac near the edge of town. A stream bisects the front yard and is heavily controlled by the local Conservation Authority. Privacy was important to this family often in the public eye, and the stream was not only a great amenity but also allowed the house to be sited well back from the road, majestic trees near the stream providing a natural buffer to the street.

The design solution lay in strengthening pros of the site and lessening the cons. The stream and downhill slope on the south side, encourage family spaces to be flipped from the typical rear yard, which faced north and uphill, to the front and south side of the plan, using operable windows to naturally ventilate but more importantly bring the sounds of the babbling stream inside the house. A side yard on the west side then, became the family’s outdoor space with cabana, vanishing edge pool, hardscape patios and spa, while the north rear yard sheltered a private Living and Dining and house part of the owners’ extensive Canadian art collection.

The Kitchen, traditionally the hub of a family home, anchored the middle of he plan, and was centrally located on the main floor. Cabinets built into the perimeter walls created a thick transition to adjacent spaces, which at openings became thresholds between two rooms that could be closed off using ingeniously concealed hardware that turned wall panels into double doors. Though centrally located, the Kitchen could be easily closed off from adjacent rooms.

Other design features in this house include a custom-designed, glazed cupola over the main staircase, secret children’s hideaways concealed in residual attic spaces, indoor lap pool and fitness room in the basement walk-out level, and radiant floor heating.

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