Masculine Calgary Home Made with Natural Materials
A Calgary designer uses smart planning and select materials to create an authentically designed home that still complements its venerable neighbourhood.
Any home should be designed to feel like part of the landscape—and that challenge is all the more amplified when you’re building in an established neighbourhood like Calgary’s Mount Royal. When the neighbours have shared the same street for decades, they make certain unspoken aesthetic agreements. It’s guaranteed they’ll have an opinion as to whether you’re enhancing or degrading the block. So when intern architect Ryan Scarff designed this new home on a narrow inner-city lot, he knew curb appeal was key. He would use natural materials to complement the neighbourhood’s predominantly traditional look, but wouldn’t try to mimic the vintage homes by creating a faux Tudor; instead he’d select materials that would age gracefully, just as the homes around it have. The choice of Tyndall stone for the exterior was a natural fit for both the neighbourhood and the homeowner. (He’s a geologist from Manitoba, where the stone originates.) Vertical copper accents complement the copper roofs of neighbouring properties, too. And though Scarff could have treated the strips to quickly develop a black patina, the homeowners opted to let the process happen in its own good time.
From inside the home, the view is nothing but green despite its urban location—raised planters and a front courtyard essentially block out the roadway, so that the home appears to be perched right in parkland. Only a few materials run throughout the space: American walnut on the floors, that Tyndall stone carrying through to the entranceway, and tropical bubinga in a long swath of millwork starting in the entrance, which provides discreet storage behind touch-latch doors. The mechanics of the space—the heating, ventilation and cooling systems—are stored in behind, allowing Scarff to forgo overhead ductwork and leave the soaring 11-foot ceilings unobstructed.
That open design is key—it’s how Scarff captured as much sunlight as possible. In the mornings, it floods the entrance and more formal sitting area; by midday it warms the kitchen, reflecting off an outdoor water feature and creating a wavy, watery pattern on the walls. The powder room becomes its own little lightbox in the early evening: as western light filters through a frosted glass window, a wall of decanters lights up. Evening sees the outdoor patio warmed by the setting sun, and in the summer months 24 feet of accordion doors opens the dining room to the outside—where the couple can host parties around a wood-burning fireplace and a gas barbecue that slides out on rails from its niche in the wall. The kitchen is made for entertaining, too; a separate pantry—including its own prep area, dishwasher and refrigerator—is perfect for tucking away the mess once the party is under way. The cabinetry is also bubinga wood, tying the room to the millwork that lines the entranceway and creating the sense that the rooms of the main floor pinwheel around one cohesive centre. It’s that cohesiveness that makes this space function so well, one space easily flowing into the next—and it was Scarff’s planning process that got it there. ”We didn’t begin with any preconceived ideas of what the home would look like. We looked for what the site offered and the character of the indoor and outdoor spaces the clients were hoping for,” he explains. “We undertook sun studies to establish where these spaces would be best located on the site. Only when we knew the floor plan did we talk about what it would look like, inside and out.” The success of that process is clear: while this house now sits happily amid its Mount Royal neighbours, it’s the intelligently planned spaces that have its homeowners resting happily within it.