House 95 in Toronto: the weightlessness sense of an extruded rectangle
Izen Architecture Inc. / Brenda Izen, Roxane Bejjany, Abida Banu
With an extremely narrow, 7.5m-wide lot, municipal setback requirements, and a large wish list, there isn’t a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to the massing of a building – it’s going to be a version of an extruded rectangle. A key part of our approach to the design of this house was to subvert this massing, and infuse the house, and all of its details, with a sense of weightlessness.
The exterior immediately exudes this sense of weightlessness. Dividing the façade in half, we wrapped the lower portion in Neolith porcelain panels that sit perfectly flush with each other for a harmonious look. From the street, at grade, the main entrance and the garage are seamlessly integrated into the surrounding wall of porcelain slabs to virtually disappear into the front elevation.
The upper floors cantilever over the porcelain front and are clad in creamy Indiana limestone. The contrast in the materials make the upper volumes appear to defy gravity. The details are all extremely intricate and thoughtful, resulting in a minimal, undeniably modern note that continues inside.
To further accentuate the illusion of effortlessness, we used frameless windows that minimize the casings around the glass, resulting in a near-perfect sense that the interiors flow unimpeded to outside.
The effect is particularly sublime in dining room banquette area, where the frameless window wraps a corner with a glass-to-glass connection. Another set of frameless windows, past the kitchen, look out to the backyard’s tree canopy. The result is living spaces that feel more like a rural retreat than an urban Toronto abode.
This sensibility is heightened by the use of white oak engineered hardwood flooring on the ceiling, as well as polished (and heated) concrete floors that amplify natural light. To infuse the home with warmth, we focused on this restrained palette of four main materials throughout: the white oak on the ceilings, millwork and stairs, concrete, Invisible Grey marble for the recessed baseboards and kitchen backsplash and blackened steel for dramatic detailing.
Beyond the frameless windows, we used similarly innovative details that reinforce the airy aesthetic. The stairs, for example, are supported by heavy steel framing hidden in the wall, but appear to be origami-thin, folding planes of white oak that float from floor to floor. Instead of cluttering the look with heavy hardware, like the ubiquitous steel buttons common in many contemporary homes, the glass rails sit in sleek, black steel channels on the ground and are capped with similar, black steel channels that act as handrails.
Izen Architecture Inc.
Brenda Izen, Roxane Bejjany, Abida Banu
Interior Design: Ali Budd Interiors, Landscape Architecture: Wendy Berger & Associates, Structural Engineer: Tahami Engineering
Exterior Cladding: Neolith, sourced from Marble Trend - Wood ceiling and floor: Moncer - Windows: PanoramAH!, sourced from Atlas Meridian Glass - Marble: Invisible Grey, sourced from Stone Tile - Stairs: MRail
Izen Architecture is an architecture and design studio established in 2015 in Toronto. We are passionate about modern, residential design. We firmly believe that well-designed spaces enrich people’s lives. Our projects are distinctive for their finely-honed detailing and we continuously obsess over the quality and materiality of each detail and its relationship to the whole. Each project is approached as a blank slate, completely customized to respond to how a client lives. The common thread is a meticulous attention to detail, resulting in an effortless luxury and sense of ease within each home. Our considerable experience with building construction and fabrication offers a unique approach–we combine conceptual ambition with the realities of construction to instill each project with design innovation, a focus on detail, a seamless process, and material creativity.