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Garden Circle House Lets Nature Take the Lead

Dubbeldam Architecture + Design fully commits to connectivity with this incredible home in Toronto’s Bennington Heights

By Tory Healy
Photography by Scott Norsworthy

In the latest Best New Homes issue of Designlines, we shared a residential space that has recently inspired us – a stairwell with sapele curves and views for days. It was just a taste of Heather Dubbeldam‘s latest biophilic design, and because Garden Circle House has so much flavour, we thought we’d show you how the whole home comes together around this show-stopping feature, and connects to its surrounding environment.

Biophilic design, in architecture, incorporates natural materials (including light and vegetation), views and other experiences of the natural world into the modern built environment. This means not only being incredibly sensitive to a site, but, inside, simulating the environment in ways that promote well-being. So how did Heather Dubbeldam and her team do this?


The two-storey house is in Toronto’s Bennington Heights neighbourhood, not far from the lush grounds of Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the Beltline Trail. Clearly it was important to Dubbeldam’s clients – a family of four – to maximize views of the greenery and inject their new home with the calm the area affords. Another ask: sustainability. And so it begins outdoors, with some serious curb appeal, where robust native plantings in the front yard and overhangs soften the locally-sourced brick, stone and wood cladding. The low-slung house (built by Mazenga) responds to the site and its context by mimicking the scale, proportions and local building traditions of the neighbouring homes.

At the back, a tiered ipe deck and lap pool are surrounded by old growth trees; large windows and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open the house up to the outdoors, bringing in natural light and visual cues from the environment.

Inside, the airy house’s nature-inspired palette reveals itself, connecting indoors to out with a careful selection of materials. Open plan, partitions and millwork on the ground floor provide spatial definition.

A cut-out in the kitchen wall allows views from inside the kitchen out towards the living room and the backyard while the breakfast bar separates zones of functionality.

Here’s another look at how the kitchen and family room meet inside Garden Circle House, not far from the large sliding doors that lead outside.

A two-sided fireplace, with its subtly veined grey limestone and stained oak slats surround, divides the informal family room and kitchen area with the more formal dining space at the front of the house.

A double-height lightwell in the foyer illuminates the path to the heart of the home. Beams of light produced by architectural cut-outs and lighting dance on the walls.

Finally, the curved staircase in the centre of the home that we’re so obsessed with. Centrally located and spanning three storeys, it’s capped with an operable skylight, bringing light and ventilation deep into the house’s core. Made of sapele (by Berman Stairs) and curved in response to the horseshoe-shaped corridor up top, the staircase champions another design twist – a rounded pane of glass on the first landing enabling views to a hidden ground-floor study – which makes it an exceptional feature, not just a portal from one floor to another.

And here we are at the very top of the stairs, where the private quarters reign. Here, further nods to the natural world abound, including more stunning millwork, biomorphic light fixtures and room-spanning wallpaper featuring flora, fauna and atmospheric motifs. Whether indoors or out, the family here always benefits from the soothing forces of Heather Dubbeldam’s bioliphic design.


Categories: Spaces
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