House on the Bluffs - Design Bureau

7-Back Facade at Dusk

8-Back Facade

9-Front Facade at Dusk

3-Living Room With Fireplace

4-Double Height Living Room

5-View From Master Bedroom

6-Back Patio at Dusk

1-View of Living Area from Front Entrance


2nd Floor Look Through Window

House on the Bluffs

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Photos by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Inc.

If you picked up our May/June Hot Home Design issue you know that we're suckers for a beautiful home on a one-of-a-kind site, so obviously we're crazy about Toronto-based Taylor Smyth Architects' House on the Bluffs. 

The foundations of the owner’s childhood home were reused to create a new residence that celebrates its spectacular location on the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs in Toronto. The dramatic views encompass lake and sky through the tall trunks of mature trees. Using the existing foundation allowed Taylor Smyth Architects to leave the trees, some of which grow very close to the house, to remain untouched.

Viewed from the street, the house is a simple stucco box distinguished by a screen of vertical channel glass that provides privacy while allowing diffuse natural light into the stair, guest bathroom, and master bathroom. At night it glows like an oversize lantern. Ontario Algonquin limestone wraps from the front wall into the recessed entrance and then reappears inside, blurring the distinction between outside and inside. The same material reappears within the two-story living room.

To capitalize on the magnificent view, the rear of the house dissolves into a two-story wall of glass, penetrated by the master bedroom that cantilevers out from over the dining room below. This volume is distinguished by a cladding of charcoal-colored fibre cement panels, both inside and out. A long linear skylight runs along its length, further splitting it off from the rest of the house and washing natural light deep into the space between the open living and dining room.

Because the residence sits on a sensitive site, the reduction in impact on the site was an important factor for Taylor Smyth Architects. Reusing the foundations and basement walls of the original home allowed all of the existing mature trees to be left untouched. A small extension of the footprint was accomplished through the use of helical piers and concrete grade beams, which eliminated traditional foundations and spared the tree roots.

A modest budget required a rigorous approach to cost saving measures: All floor, wall and roof framing was prefabricated using a panelized construction system from a local Ontario company and reassembled on-site. The advantages include a significantly stronger structure, less waste and energy use, and quicker installation (less than half the time compared to traditional methods), which resulted in approximately $10,000 of savings. The existing foundations and basement walls were reused, saving several weeks of construction time, and Algonquin stone, left over from another job site, was salvaged for the feature walls and exterior walkways.

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