In regions like Muskoka or the Haliburton Highlands, the often-spectacular views naturally seem to lend themselves to grand, showy architecture. But the gently rolling hills and open vistas of Caledon call, perhaps, for a more subdued response. And that’s just what this calm and beautiful weekend home, by +VG Architects principal Peter Berton, offers.
The homeowner started life on a dairy farm in Brampton, and the property is part of a larger plot of farmland that’s been in the extended family since the 1960s. Though she moved to the city years ago to become a successful lawyer, she always planned to build a country house someday, she says.
After the land was passed on to her brother, he severed a 20-acre plot for her, turning the property into a family compound of sorts, with paths through the woods for the clan to visit each other when they were there. With a view to creating a country place that would be equally comfortable for entertaining and for accommodating her daughter and young grandchildren – but also provide a haven for herself when needed, with or without guests – she called in Berton, a longtime family friend, to help realize these varied objectives.
“The object was to create a building that fit into the more subtle scenery of this region,” recalls Berton. “She had some specific ideas, such as to create a separate area for her daughter and grandchildren to stay in. She wanted a place that would be great for entertaining and accommodate guests easily, but not feel cavernous. And she wanted a contemporary design, but with warmth.”
The first order of business was to find the perfect site. Berton and the homeowner spent several pleasant days walking the breadth of the property, to find the perfect balance of vista and topography. “The best way to organize a space for two families is to put it on two levels,” says Berton, “and to find a hillside it can nestle into, which helps to make the house feel more intimate.” The spot they ultimately chose fit these two requirements perfectly: a gentle rise behind the house, and a long, rolling view of farms, fields and woods stretching far to the south.
On the exterior, simple materials and soft, muted colours – grey ribbed metal roof, taupe-stained horizontal cedar siding, natural maple, oak and fir, stone walkways and patios, an abundance of glass – make the house feel like an organic part of its surroundings. A sheltered, pergola-esque entry leads from the drive, flanked by neatly stacked firewood storage on one side and a privacy screen outside the master suite on the other. (The compartmental design of the firewood storage is worth noting in passing: it naturally encourages you to use up the wood in sequence, rather than leaving the bottom logs to rot over time as you refill the stack.)
A mahogany entry door opens into a short vestibule with a generous-sized mudroom on the right, one of the owner’s special requests. “In the country, that’s very important for low maintenance,” she says, since you can shed snowshoes, dripping coats or muddy boots on the stone floor, with no fear of tracking dirt into the house.
Step forward and the view fills your eyes: floor-to-ceiling glass windows that run the full length of the house, from the master suite on the left (where the glass walls continue, affording the owner her own private view of the rolling landscape), to a big stone fireplace and another set of glass doors leading out to a screen porch on the right.
Between these two, living, dining, and kitchen areas form one open space, under a slanting fir-rafter-lined ceiling that rises to meet a row of clerestory windows on the inner side. On the view side, a long deck runs the length of the house and curls around by the master bedroom; in summer, those glass doors open fully, bringing cool breezes into the interior. The inner side is also fully glazed, making the house fully transparent: here, a tidy rock garden nestles into the rise of the hill.
“Having lived in many houses where the kitchen was set off far away from everybody, I wanted it to be open concept, with a big central island that everyone can sit around,” says the homeowner. The kitchen was designed for visual simplicity, with rift-sawn oak cabinetry and plain lines. Details like the vent hood stack were hidden inside the wall, and the backsplash is glass tile. “The whole idea is to minimize the ‘decorative’ look,” Berton explains; “everything is kept very calm.”
Where the open-concept area meets the inner garden side is a lower, flat-ceilinged area, defining the stairway to the lower level. The glass railings that line it were the subject of some discussion. “Tempered glass of course is quite a bit pricier than a standard railing and pickets,” Berton allows, “but it makes a huge difference to the transparent feeling of the whole house.”
The stairs to the lower level are shallower and wider than standard, to make them easier for toddler grandchildren – and one day, older folks – to navigate with ease. Guest bedrooms take up one side of this level, but the main section is dominated by a sprawling sectional in front of another stone fireplace and wall-mounted TV. And just as upstairs, the entire view is framed in a swath of glass doors that open directly onto a stone patio. “It was really important to me that the lower level not feel like a basement,” says the homeowner. “In fact, the lower level is bigger than the main floor, so the deck overhang is actually only a couple of feet wider, so it’s full of light.”
Making this area conjoined but separate was another part of the mandate, Berton explains. At the foot of the stairs, a single large wood panel on rails slides into place, barn-door-style, to close off the entire floor — and the exuberant noise of young children — without completely sequestering the two living areas.
“It has a wonderful connection to the Caledon landscape,” the homeowner says. “I open the door when I arrive at the house and immediately feel great. From my room, you can look out and see the full 20 acres… and beyond. It’s practical as well as beautiful; it’s not enormous, but it’s the perfect size for us.”
Source : http://nationalpost.com/life/homes/caledon-cool-beckons-for-a-country-bolthole