Light Fan­tas­tic

A small house makes a beau­ti­ful im­pres­sion through care­ful win­dow place­ment and sub­tle touches of tex­ture

Ottawa Magazine - - SMART DESIGN -

How did you bring light into the space?

The chal­lenge was to cre­ate a lot of light in this small space. There’s a south-fac­ing rear yard that’s not open to the street, so that’s where the larger win­dows are con­cen­trated. But I also thought about how to let light in on all sides while also pro­tect­ing the home­owner’s pri­vacy. When you walk through the house, you’ll see a lot of clerestory win­dows that cap­ture light. There are also ver­ti­cal win­dows that frame spe­cific trees, like the neigh­bour’s ash. I spent a lot of time plan­ning how to place the win­dows to take in light and views.

How does the colour pal­ette of the in­te­rior al­low light to shine, so to speak?

The colours are sim­ple and non-con­trast­ing, sub­tle and sub­lime. This pal­ette al­lows the light to trans­fer through the spa­ces in the house. To break up the pale­ness, I brought in tex­ture through the floor and ceil­ing.

“This pal­ette al­lows the light to trans­fer through the spa­ces in the house”

How does adding tex­ture make the house warmer?

By play­ing with tex­ture, you can still keep things min­i­mal but also soft. For ex­am­ple, if you look up­wards, you’ll no­tice the wood ceil­ing. It warms up the room but in a very soft and min­i­mal way.

Where else did you use wood to em­pha­size tex­ture?

The choice of woods is re­ally key, both in­side the house and on the ex­te­rior. In­side, the floors are hand-scraped white oak — it has a strong grain, but we added a whitish wash on top. Out­side, we added tex­ture through two woods. There’s Bel­gian re­claimed barn­board, which is a much less rus­tic barn­board than the Cana­dian barn­board you see more com­monly. Be­cause Bel­gian barn­board is not as old, it is smoother. We put a white wash on top of it to bring out the sil­very tones.

How do you pic­ture the light in this house?

Since the build is new, I have only re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced the light in two sea­sons so far. I think of my houses as evolv­ing with the day and sea­son. They are a liv­ing en­tity in­side na­ture — they change with na­ture. Here, the light changes colour with the time of day, with the sea­sons, and with the colour of the veg­e­ta­tion it’s fil­ter­ing through.

Did you make al­lowances for the place­ment of some shades to block light?

Sun­shades are pretty over­rated. I pre­fer trees! With that in mind, I try to main­tain pri­vacy through how I place the win­dows. That said, some­times you need to cover some win­dows. When you pull down the shades in the liv­ing room and kitchen, the ef­fect is al­most like a Ja­panese lan­tern. The shad­ows of the trees and leaves on the shades are just amaz­ing.

You’ve even fo­cused on light in the gar­den.

We in­stalled very un­der­stated light­ing on the birch tree in the back­yard. And the en­trance to the house is lit at night — but with sub­tle, dif­fused light­ing.

Tell me about all the decks on this house.

The back deck is some­thing we wanted to re­tain from the old house. It looks out onto the gar­den, which is al­most a view­ing gar­den. There’s also a Juliet bal­cony off the mas­ter bed­room, which looks out over the birch tree in the back­yard. By choos­ing this type of bal­cony, we didn’t have to ap­ply for vari­ances — and it pre­serves the neigh­bours’ pri­vacy. At the front of the house, the bal­cony over the car­port has views to the river. Here, some of the pan­els are opaque for pri­vacy, while the sec­tions with di­rect views to the river have clear pan­els.

What was your big­gest chal­lenge?

It was the soil! This area sits on the banks of the old riverbed, so it was a big process to dig out all the soil, which was un­sta­ble, and re­place it with ac­cept­able fill.

Ar­chi­tect Rick Shean de­scribes this house as be­ing de­signed to vary with na­ture. “Here, the light changes colour with the time of day, with the sea­sons, and with the colour of the veg­e­ta­tion it’s fil­ter­ing through”

Ar­chi­tect Rick Shean Shean Ar­chi­tects

Be­low To pro­tect the owner’s pri­vacy while max­i­miz­ing light, Shean care­fully placed a num­ber of clerestory win­dows through­out house — they have the added ad­van­tage of fram­ing the sur­round­ing tree canopy

Left When the blinds in the liv­ing room and kitchen are pulled down, the shad­ows of the trees and leaves cre­ate an ever-chang­ing art wall

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