Shift House, Toronto

Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, Toronto

Photography by Shai Gil / Riley Snelling Photography 

Shift House is so-named for its Deconstructivist, Peter Eisenmann-like sliding of rectilinear geometries within a grid to create an exterior envelope with a stepped façade. This play on solids and voids created opportunities for corner windows, generous roof overhangs, green roofs and two balconies on the second floor that provide access to outdoor space. Indeed, connecting to the outdoors was a driving inspiration in the design of this dwelling for a family of runners and transparency is a dominant theme. The porosity of the front façade is a friendly gesture to the street. The glazed rear elevation connects the family to the surrounding environment, blurring the boundary between interior and exterior space. A double-height atrium in the dining room provides an expansive view of the mature trees populating the neighbourhood. This spaciousness, coupled with an open plan where rooms flow gently into one another, met the family’s request for a home meant for entertaining. Occupying the central core of the house is a sculptural staircase defined by a solid balustrade of white oak and Baltic birch. Its scissor configuration in the double-height space forms a compelling three-dimensional geometric composition, animated by family members zigzagging up and down the stairs. The rift-cut blond wood and the varying blue contrasting walls are a nod to the clients’ love of Scandinavian design. The textural and tonal contrast of charcoal grey and Western red cedar cladding on the exterior carries through to the interior with white-oak floors and millwork; charcoal grey, black slate and walnut accents; and the grey-blue wall and furniture pieces.