At Phaedrus Studio’s Tesseract House, light and shadow create an ever-changing interior
“Interior designers often find they’re doing things to fix bad interior architecture,” says David Grant-Rubash, principal of Toronto’s Phaedrus Studio. By working on both together, as he prefers to do, the results are simpatico. “You end up with a better, more thoughtful space that’s part of a comprehensive experience.”
At Tesseract House, a new build in Long Branch, the interior and exterior are playfully in sync. Designed by Phaedrus Studio with architect Jeff Geldart, the 280-square-metre home’s striking facade complements an interior of light-filled rooms and artful, unexpected geometry. From the street, four windows set into trapezoidal corrugated steel and pale wood frames meet the gaze of onlookers. These are unusual at a glance, but the longer you stare at them their shapes begin to shift, challenging your perspective and drawing you in for a closer look. This is all part of the experience. “Tesseract” is the word for a four-dimensional cube, and as such, the home is intended to reveal itself not just as you move through it, but also over time.
Grant-Rubash, whose background includes training in industrial design and product design in addition to architecture, employed similar thinking at Thor Espresso on John Street. While the coffee shop was built into an existing commercial space, its origami-like counter is nonetheless a testament to Phaedrus’ adeptness with unusual lines. “There’s an interest to continue to pull at that thread,” says Grant-Rubash of his fascination with odd geometries. “At both Thor and the Tesseract House, you’re not always sure how it’s going to resolve itself.”
Both spaces are defined by asymmetrical shapes and the interplay of light and shadow they create. The main floor of Tesseract house makes use of the home’s long, narrow lot with a single open living space. Angled floor-to-ceiling windows on each end frame a formal dining room, a living room and a minimalist kitchen clad in black Brazilian soapstone. In addition to flooding the main floor with light, these two apertures create an ever-changing geometry of shadows throughout the day. Upstairs, a pair of light wells open the home’s four bedrooms to the sky, while connecting them to the rest of the house.
“You end up with this interesting experience where you’re in a very intimate moment with the house that’s expanding both outward and inward,” says Grant-Rubash, describing how the space transforms not just depending on the position of the sun, but also from your position inside (or outside) of it. “Just when you think you have it figured out, it surprises you again.”