Take Note: Reigo & Bauer

Merike and Stephen Bauer launched their practice in 2005, designing modern spec houses in established neighbourhoods. Today, most of their attention is focused on new construction, high-end interiors and furniture, but the idea of modern spaces that acknowledge the history and context in which they are placed continues to flavour their work.

“Interior daylighting as a subject of study is also key to our work,” says Stephen. “The ability to be inside throughout the day and never turn on a light is a challenge, but it’s possible by shaping interior surfaces to reflect light.”

The classic way to brighten the interior of an older house is to add well-positioned skylights, of course. But the studio’s designs often accomplish this in more creative ways as well; curving a staircase wall to catch and transfer sunlight, or mirroring an arched alcove so that it looks like the entrance to another equally bright room beyond.

Renovations to older houses often require balancing respect for a home’s original intent with updating to fit the needs of modern life. Small gestures, such as carefully restoring an original brick wall, or adding a streamlined take on traditional woodwork, provide a link with the past that softens a thoroughly reworked interior.

“A reinterpretation of traditional elements has become a consistent thread in our work,” says Stephen, “allowing modern architecture to relate to the past, while still being of this time.”

Wickson House

A bold addition to a downtown Toronto house brings in light in striking ways, such as tilting an upper-storey side window 10 degrees, allowing it to function like a skylight. The ridges and valleys of the addition’s sides were inspired by neighbouring rooflines, an effect enhanced by metal cladding that suggests fish scale slate roof tiles.

Galley House

The challenge in this whole-house renovation was to make it bright and contemporary throughout, without losing the “ghost” of its original, classic 20th-century layout. Gestures such as drywall details that correspond to baseboards and door casings, and a curving central staircase (which catches the light in interesting ways), reference history without being compelled by it.

Photography by: Tom Arban / Doublespace Photography