Material issue

A domestic machine. That’s how Rosemary Carbonara, principal of Toronto-based ro Design, describes her Kelowna Cliffhouse, designed for friends who were relocating from T.O. to B.C. “It works easily, is easily maintained, and everything in it has a place,” she explains.

The three-level Cliffhouse is the home of a busy professional couple, and also their work space. It’s also the residence of six other family members: four dogs and two cats.

The 3,500-square-foot house is accessed at the lowest level. A guest room and bathroom are positioned here, along with an office, a mud room and the mechanical room. “We didn’t want the bathroom door to be the first thing you see when you enter the house,” says Carbonara, “but construction issues wouldn’t let us move that bathroom to another location. By cladding the door in the same reclaimed barn board as the surrounding feature wall, we were able to make the door all but disappear.”

The main activities of the home are centred around the second floor, where the kitchen, living room, powder room, laundry and second guest room are located. The uppermost level boasts the master bedroom and ensuite. (The master bedroom and public spaces command the best views.) A glass and metal — staircase links all three levels.

Repetition of finishes also links the spaces. Caesarstone Quartz countertops crown the cantilevered cabinets in the kitchen and baths. Reconstructed teak veneer walls are found throughout the building. In the master bedroom, random sandstone floor tiles reference the sandstone used in the fireplace surround (the balance of the master suite floor is covered with engineered wood). Even the faucets throughout the bathrooms and kitchen are all from the same series, Natphil’s Pan collection.

Rugged elements, such as the reclaimed barn wood used on the feature walls, reference the orchards and farms found throughout the Okanagan region, while the pebble-covered accent wall in the master ensuite provides a nod to the nearby lakefront. The rough finish of those components also serves to highlight the modern finishes found throughout the home. The decision to spec a simple, wooden, picnic-style table for the dining area is a playful acknowledgement of the popularity of outdoor activities in this part of the province, and perhaps a hope that some of the locally available produce, wine and cheese will find its way to the table.

It’s the variety of wood and stone that sets the tone of the house. Though the aesthetic is decidedly modern, the palette brings the outdoors in, easing the visual transition between the interior and the mountain terrain outside, very visible through ample glazing. “Contextually, it really fits in with the location, the topography,” says Carbonara. “When you’re there, you know where you are.” The materials also bring a sense of warmth and coziness to large, open spaces that could feel cold and somewhat severe with other finishes.

Custom solutions also abound in this residence. In some cases, they hide clutter, as with the sliding panel incorporated into the living room’s built-in bookcase, which can be positioned to tuck the 62-inch TV neatly out of sight. In other instances, as with the bathroom and kitchen counters and headboard in the master bedroom, the custom-designed millwork is cantilevered off the wall so that it appears to float above the floors — a characteristic that eases cleaning (so long, pet hair and dust bunnies!). Other features serve to create a division between the home’s sometimes competing demands.

“I’ve never been a fan of mixing work with sleep,” Carbonara says. “To me, a bedroom should be a sanctuary not an office.” The solution? Teak doors located in one of the guest rooms hide both the closet and a small desk area.

“When you walk into any room in the house, you see the important things,” says Carbonara, citing the master bedroom as an example. “In that room you see the bed but not the closets behind the ‘tree’- wallpaper-covered wall,” she explains. In a similar way, a playful element such as the opening in the fireplace wall is used to emphasize the importance of views throughout the house while also providing a visual barrier between the living room and kitchen.

Carbonara readily admits the Cliffhouse is completely different from anything ro Design has done before. “I had a hand in developing the architect’s concept,” she says, explaining how unfamiliar challenges also presented themselves.

“I wasn’t familiar with the local [Kelowna] climate, so I had a bit of a challenge when it came to selecting the most appropriate cladding materials,” she continues. “Not everything would be able to stand up to the sun that hits the south side. Fortunately, the front of the house is on the north-facing elevation, the side that receives the least amount of sun.” Consultations with the rest of the team resulted in the decision to use stucco for the main building finish, with the addition of dark Fibre C cladding next to the main entry. Metal reveals in the stucco portion create some visual geometry while ipe wood was utilized for the vertical window mullions and slatted planters to add an element of warmth. CI