At first glance, tucked among mature columnar poplars and spruce trees in Lakeview, the contemporary home that Shaun Ford & Co. and DeJong Design Associates created together appears almost understated — a monochromatic palette of ribbed metal and brick working in harmony with its surroundings. But as you move closer, expressive design and intricate details emerge that make it clear this team went for the exact opposite effect.
When the homeowners approached interior designer Shaun Ford about collaborating on a custom house that would back onto North Glenmore Park, he didn’t hesitate. Having worked with the couple on their previous home, Ford was excited to create a new sanctuary for their growing family. While Ford took on the interior finishes, furniture and decor, designers Marvin DeJong and Mark Haine of DeJong Design Associates carried out the exterior transformation. Together, and in close collaboration with the clients, Ford, DeJong and Haine conceived a design where the interior and exterior work in tandem and natural materials stand out. After two years of careful planning and another two years for construction — executed by Waterford Homes — the house was completed in the summer of 2021.
Upon entering the home, the most striking element is the interesting and intelligent use of space. “Everything in the house flows,” says Ford, who strongly considered how the residents would move between and within all its areas. “It’s a combination of open and communal spaces, and those that are tucked away and hidden.”
One such space is located right in the home’s central hub — the open and inclusive main floor consisting of the kitchen, dining and living areas. Here, hidden in plain sight, is a door integrated into the kitchen millwork that leads to a library. Although it’s adjacent to the busy kitchen, this room, composed entirely of four contrasting types of oak, provides remarkable seclusion. Expansive windows within the library invite the outside in, bestowing a view into the backyard, which is filled with greenery and features a covered seating area that shares a brick double-sided fireplace with the home’s indoor living room.
Upstairs, the primary bedroom and ensuite are laid out so that while there’s a sightline from one end of the room to the other, each area feels private — from the spa-like shower located within the water closet to the sleeping space cantilevered over the outdoor patio. From the window there are views into both the kitchen below and backyard beyond. Visual continuity and connectedness continue in the upstairs hallway, where the layout allows the residents to see the front and back of the house simultaneously. “We wanted vistas throughout the house,” says DeJong. “This sense of discovery allows you to always be engaged.”
That engagement also comes through in the unparalleled attention to detail that Ford focused on, as opposed to making large or loud statements. “We wanted subtlety,” Ford says. Custom details include the staircase’s ostrich leather trim and stitched handrail, geometric hardwood flooring and the chamfered edge of the desk in the library.
In the kitchen, which showcases one-of-a-kind Italian marble, the island is made to look like a furniture piece and the cabinetry features distinguished hardware and dovetail joinery. Among the most dominant features of the house is the use of beautiful, raw materials: “Almost everything is natural and organic,” says Ford.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the home’s organic features is the breathable clay wall system that runs vertically from the basement to the top floor, and is used in the kitchen and ensuite, too. An inherently porous material, the clay absorbs odours and humidity, acting as a natural filter. Hand-glazed clay wall tile in natural hues is consistent in the washrooms, along with various species of warm woods and earth tones used throughout the home.
The combination of thoughtful planning, intricate details and distinctive materiality by the design team make this a truly cohesive space that has become the homeowners’ sanctuary. “I still can’t believe we live here,” one of the homeowners says. “The space is a refuge from our busy and stressful work lives; it allows us to decompress.”
One of the most distinct features in this home is the mixing of multiple wood species and grains — a design element that, when done thoughtfully, creates “a warm, moody and natural aesthetic,” says designer Shaun Ford. But wood isn’t the only way to achieve this look: Here are Ford’s top tips for adding natural elements to your home.
Go All Out With Wood
“The outdoors is a huge part of what we’re all about as Canadians, so a space that’s completely made of wood can create an aesthetic that’s very unique to our environment,” says Ford. “Going all tonal is one approach; another is going high contrast with various woods that play off of each other.”
Layer in Textures
On a smaller scale, Ford suggests mixing in natural elements through furniture and decor pieces, such as wood side tables or armchairs, or integrating items that aren’t super polished, like those with cast iron detailing rather than a polished chrome.
“Plants and greenery add a living element and a sense of home,” says Ford. And the objects that the plants go in are also important, he adds. “We often incorporate beautiful handmade clay pots from Belgium’s Atelier Vierkant into our projects.”
[Correction: An earlier version of this story credits DeJong Design Associates for the architecture of the home; this firm designed the exterior. The story has been updated.]