Skip to Main Content

In Hamilton, a Mid-Century-esque Home is Built in Only 5 Months


Quality trumps quantity in Joel Tanner’s light and airy abode

Scratch-built homes have a lot of moving parts, from site-plan approvals to rounding up reliable trades to pinning down the exacting details of an architecturally nuanced design. Remarkably, Joel Tanner, the CEO of SMPL Design Studio, built his spellbinding home in Hamilton’s East Mountain neighbourhood – which includes a 2,800-square-foot green roof with vegetable beds that double as a habitat for butterflies, bees and birds – in a mere five months. “Some might say that’s too fast,” laughs Tanner.

Joel Tanner - smpl Design Studio - Mid-century Hamilton home

A green moss wall at the dry bar is one of several nods to nature. The tubular light fixtures are staggered for a subtle yet eye-catching effect.

This is the architectural designer’s fifth house, but the first new build he’s done for his family: his wife Jackie (the gardener in the family) and their kids Grayson, who is eight, and five-year-old Mila. Rounding out the pack are Mark, a senior cat, and Luthor, a toddler-aged Great Dane.

Joel Tanner - smpl Design Studio - Hamilton

The kitchen is beautifully concealed behind full-panel doors to better integrate into the living space.

When Joel Tanner spied the vacant 230-by-75-foot lot close to his previous home (the original house had burned down in a fire), he was drawn to its potential. It was rare to find such a generous lot, making it “a blank canvas for something gnarly,” he says – in this case, a decidedly mid-century modern building: lean and low-slung with a muted grey exterior and zesty yellow doors.

Joel Tanner - smpl Design Studio - Hamilton

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open up the rear of the home to the generously proportioned lot.

Tanner’s speed in getting the 2,100-square-foot building up can be attributed to knowing precisely what he wanted – and to experience. His 12-year-old, 17-person firm hustles through 100 projects a year. “I’m a simple person,” says Tanner, who eschewed extravagance for “no more space than we need to live and thrive. We maximized every square inch of space. We focused on room size and flow, what the kids like to do, where we entertain.” Instead of size, he says, they wanted spectacular execution and luxurious details.

Pendant by Flos - Fireplace by Malm Zircon.

An iconic five-light pendant by Flos sets the tone for the mid-century modern–styled space. Fireplace by Malm Zircon.

Those key points governed the open-flow floorplan and streamlined interior. Textural and thoughtful, the design includes concrete floors, elm veneer that’s especially cozy-making against grey Eramosa stone in the living room, and tons of splashy artwork. There’s a very cool disappearing kitchen, too – just slide the cabinet doors closed to conceal everything from the coffee station to the yellow Smeg oven. Such a design also broadens the room’s use. “With open-concept living, you don’t want to stare at appliances or something on the counter,” says Tanner.

artist Meaghan McMurrich - Hamilton

A playful dog mural in the kids’ bathroom is by artist Meaghan McMurrich, the owner’s cousin.

At the rear of the house, expansive windows bleed into the vibrant green beyond. “We always want to connect the house with the landscape. I wanted a country feel as you’re pulling into the home,” says Tanner, pointing out the naturalized roof with its photovoltaic panels and the front garden beds with 17 species of wildflowers. There’s no harsh pavement or concrete, only a friendly, crunchy white dolomite gravel driveway. It may all have been assembled in record time, but this is a home to slowly savour. SMPLDESIGNSTUDIO.COM

Joel Tanner - smpl Design Studio - Hamilton

Hidden from view is a full solar-electric generation panel and green roof.



Your Weekly Dose of Modern Design

Sign up for the Designlines weekly newsletter to keep up with the latest design news, trends and inspiring projects from across Toronto. Join our community and never miss a beat!

Please fill out your email address.

The Magazine

Get the Latest Issue

From a sprawling family home in Oakville to a coastal-inspired retreat north of the city, we present spaces created by architects and interior designers that redefine the contemporary.

Designlines 2024 Issue