The Story

Lighthouse was designed for a family of five, looking to relocate from a rural setting to a modern urban dream house.  It is a 4,500 square foot urban infill house in Ottawa’s planned Lindenlea community, adjacent to the city’s “old money community of Rockcliffe Village.”  As the kidney-shaped site is wedged between the parking lot of the community centre to the southwest and a forested 40-foot escarpment to the north, it presented unique challenges and opportunities to coordinate views with desires for light.  The primary glazed façade was therefore oriented north thus ensuring privacy on the south side while allowing the space to be filled with diffused light.  This orientation also addresses concerns about overheating in the summer.  Vertical windows along the south allow streams of sunlight to reach deep within the house and obscure undesirable views of the parking lot.

The design is based on a “vertical stacking of both open and closed spaces and minimal details that establish an ascending hierarchy of social and private spaces.”  Splayed around a spiraling steel and maple staircase that rises within a vertical glass shaft are rooms that exude airiness and a sense of connectivity. “The large side entrance with a limestone floor creates a generous ‘shedding’ area” for the teenage kids which then leads into the open kitchen and dining area.  The sleek Irpinia cabinetry is “neutral in tone and is spatially defined by a large granite-topped island with a lower, table-height extension” for spreading out homework or gathering around to socialize.  The space is characterized by views of exterior foliage and Mooi pendant lights that bring down the sense of scale and soften the otherwise crisp, rectilinear volumes.

The elevated great room, with its 22-foot high ceilings, radiant-heated warm maple floors, and crisp white walls, is uncluttered and absent of visible light fixtures. This room showcases art and facilitates conversation.  Floor-to-ceiling, commercial-grade windows wrap the north corner of the room, expanding the space into the forest beyond.  The two-sided fireplace that screens the front entrance provides a “welcome beacon of warmth to new arrivals on a cold night” and fills the living room with its playful glow.  “The second storey has a sizeable landing that wraps around the staircase shaft and serves as the children’s rooms, a bathroom, and a loft office overlooking the double-height living room.  The top “tree house” level is a boutique hotel style master suite, complete with  roof-top terrace with spa and spaces for working, reading and sleeping.

Shaped by the unique site conditions and the lifestyle of a busy modern family, Lighthouse addresses the need for both privacy and connectivity.  It balances freshness with warmth, contrasts natural with urban and celebrates a rare rural oasis within Ottawa’s city centre.

CREDITS
Working drawings – Douglas Hardie Architect inc.
Construction – The Lake Partnership
Photography - Christian Lalonde
Quoted Text – Rhys Pillips, Candian Interiors, Sept/Oct 2010 edition