Cascade House

Cascade House, in Toronto’s tony Forest Hill district, was commissioned by a family relocating from Arizona who wanted their new, northern dwelling to capture a semblance of the Southwest’s abundant natural light. The two-and-a-half-storey house is configured in an L-shape around an outdoor swimming pool. The orientation aligns precisely with the points of the compass to best exploit the low winter sun through large expanses of south-facing glazing.

There are two particularly striking features. One is the street facade’s 13-foot-tall screen of 475 vertically stacked sheets of heavy, jagged-cut translucent glass. The screen transmits daylight into the living room, while adding a waterfall-like veil of privacy from the street (hence the residence’s name). The other memorable feature is the freestanding monolithic slate wall that acts as a central spine. Framing the staircase, it rises from the lower level to the top floor, creating a vertical visual connection throughout the house. Random apertures provide niches for children’s play and displaying art; rough and polished slate tiles alternate in a complicated pattern. An energy-economizing addition as well, the slate wall acts as a thermal mass, absorbing solar heat during the day and slowly releasing it at night.

The living room, dining room and a powder room can be closed off from the kitchen and family room at the rear of the house, allowing parents to entertain while their children play. The children’s rooms and the home office, on the second floor, are topped by a master suite in a rooftop pavilion.

Design team: Paul Raff, architect and principal; Rick Galezowski, Samantha Scroggie and Adam Thom, architects; Scott Barker and Robel Rojas, intern architects; and Gillian Lazikk, interior designer