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With staggered volumes, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design’s Shift House blurs the boundaries between inside and out

In Toronto’s postwar neighbourhoods, unassuming bungalows are giving way to grandiose faux-historical mansions. A boldly contemporary addition, a new build from Dubbeldam Architecture + Design boasts a stepped facade characterized by protruding and receding volumes. Among a residential Toronto street lined with late-century builds, Shift House stands out for all the right reasons.

Toronto new build

The Shift House charcoal gray exterior is juxtaposed by Western red cedar in the voids left by the retracted volume. Windows, doors, Bigfoot Doors; General contracting, DDF Contracting Ltd.; Structural engineer, Blackwell Structural Engineers.

The firm opted to allow the interior rooms to shape its exterior, encouraging the livable spaces to come first rather than opting to fit them into a conventional box. With this, the sculpted facade plays with solid and void, creating additional views and access to outdoor space on multiple levels, which responds to the homeowner’s love for the nature and their desire to bring the outside in.

Dubbeldam Architects and Design

Focusing on transparency, the home’s glazing dissolves the boundaries between indoors and out with sprawling window features. Millwork, Lakeland Interiors and Kobis Cabinets Ltd.

Shift House’s interior reflects its intentional shift through varying ceiling heights, materials and colours. It was designed to have a sense of permeability and openness, offering ample natural light while still maintaining privacy.

Shift House

Photography by Riley Snelling; Pendant, Propellor Studio; millwork, dining chairs, Calligaris; dining table, Urban Mode.

Shift House

The scissor-esque stairs connect the home in a unique way. Photography by Riley Snelling.

white oak

Accents of blue and light wood make the home’s main living areas feel bright.

A sculptural white oak and Baltic birch staircase dynamically connects the homes upper and lower levels. Its scissor configuration adds a sense of movement and energy to the space. In a way that feels structured without compromising flow, wood-cladding of the stairs extends into the foyer, connecting the varying spaces.

Shift House

The dining room sits within a double-height atrium with a fully-glazed rear facade that provides an expansive view of the neighbourhood’s mature trees.

North York

Black adds a bold and grounding element in the kitchen, which is otherwise defined by a gentle and airy fashion.

Dubbeldam Architects

Within the living room, the use of walnut millwork and a slate fireplace surround offers a striking contrast to the light-coloured white oak flooring and stair. Photography by Riley Snelling.

The kitchen makes use of an open plan where the room can flow gently into the adjacent living space, meeting the family’s request for a home meant for entertaining.

Shift House

Frosted glass and baby blue accents bring a bright white ensuite to new heights. Photography by Riley Snelling.

Another crucial piece to the dream-home puzzle for Shift House homeowners were the employment of sustainable systems. Dubbeldam explains that they began by maximizing as many passive systems as possible including daylight, natural ventilation with and strategically placed operational windows.

Shift House

The porosity of the front façade is a friendly gesture to the street. Photography by Riley Snelling.

The home utilizes photovoltaic panels on the roof as an additional source of electricity, LED light fixtures and an efficient cooling system to reduce electricity demand, and triple glazing and low-E coatings on windows reduce both heat gain and loss. Shift House also features green roofs and robust landscaping to help minimize rainwater run-off.

In its final state, Shift House is a light-filled green space, both inside and out. It’s also a case study for how a modern take on architecture turns the notions of standard homebuilding on its head through strategic spatial arrangements we can’t get enough of.

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