Up on the escarpment, SMPL Design and DB Custom Homes have created a family abode brings together clean design and comforting spaces
Joel Tanner, CEO and creative director of SMPL Design Studio, cites two main challenges when designing modern, minimalist homes. First, you have to get your client to trust you. There’s a tendency, Tanner says, for people to overdo it, selecting colour and material palettes that are devoid of colour and texture, which with rare exception results in a home lacking warmth and comfort. The second challenge is, minimalist design leaves you nowhere to hide. “The biggest thing in modern architecture – and even moreso in modern construction – is the simpler the design, the harder the execution.”
Atop the Hamilton Escarpment, SMPL Design and builder DB Custom Homes have overcome both, creating a pared-back family home whose expressiveness is derived from its balance of simple geometries. “We wanted the form to speak for itself,” says Tanner. “We feel that the way to do that was in the simplification of the material palette.” And so, poured and polished concrete, hardwood, glass and steel stitch the home’s constituent forms together and wind through the interior and exterior, delineating uses throughout while contributing the necessary balance that makes the home both welcoming and refreshingly spare.
The interplay of spartan minimalism and warmth is most evident on the main floor. Here, a wide east-facing dormer overlooks the living area, dining room and kitchen, tying each together into a coherent space. Each, though, retains its own character. A pair of steps and a drop ceiling delineate the kitchen, while a linear fireplace helpfully imposes itself, transforming the dining space into an intimate vignette. Each is part of a voluminous whole, but smart interventions maintain a sense of scale.
Each feels intimately connected to the outdoors, too. With multiple outdoor “zones” – for lounging, for dining, for cooking, for enjoying the pool – the landscape design balances the competing needs for privacy and sociability. It’s as easy to imagine entertaining a couple dozen people as it is quietly wiling away a day reading. And here, SMPL’s transposition of interior and exterior design becomes readily apparent. “We wanted the colour, tone, materiality and textures of the exterior to drive the interior,” says Tanner. “Whether you’re standing outside or sitting in the dining room, you can take in both the internal and external architecture.”
Of course, the problem with minimalist design – at least where showing off is concerned – is it’s often about what’s not there. SMPL eschewed common elements like window trim to further simplify the design, and of course ornamentation is practically non-existent. Instead, junctures, corners and seams are flawlessly constructed. The clean break line between the foundation and the home is another dominant feature that, like the rest, recedes into the background. But then, that’s kind of point: the form speaks for itself.