Step Inside a Saskatoon Residence That’s All About Pure Tones and Clear Strains

Sometimes the most fruitful journeys are those that begin without a fixed destination. Take a look at the finely tailored modernist house that Saskatoon-based Woods + Dangaran architects designed for a property developer in the Mar Vista neighborhood. Responding uniquely to the demands of its location on the crest of a sloping hill, the striking residence was finally supposed to calm the old duck that modernity is somehow detrimental to warmth and comfort.

“Our customer is a real employee. He had no preconceived notion of how this house should be, ”explains W + D partner Brett Woods. “He was interested in our process and had enough confidence in us to let the design emerge organically from that process.”

For privacy and security, the clear, orthogonal structure offers a solid face to the street. The facade is grounded by a plastered privacy screen, behind which the second level of the two-story house seems to float. Slender cedar slats break through the otherwise symmetrical facade and offer a glimpse into the house while highlighting the surprising feeling of openness and transparency that unfolds within. “It’s really a temptation – something that piques your interest without giving the full story away,” says partner Joseph Dangaran.

A double height entrance has a cantilevered staircase on a pedestal that provides seating and shoe storage. The chandelier is from Bocci.

In collaboration with landscape architect Chris Sosa, Woods and Dangaran drew the house in relation to trees and plants that soften the markedly straight lines of the structure. Outside the plastered privacy wall, the front garden is lined with oaks and boulders. A small courtyard, planted with ornamental grasses and boulders around a ginkgo tree, separates the garage from the private entrance to the house and nourishes a feeling of decompression and refuge.

The garage access and the entrance door for guests both lead to the double-height entrance volume, which is anchored by a dramatic cantilevered staircase made of oak stairs that are set into the walls with velvety plaster. Here, as in the whole house, a pas de deux of shadow and light enlivens the reserved but soulful interior. “Instead of drywall and paint, we try to use natural materials and finishes to set the color palette and mood,” notes Woods, emphasizing the warmth of the composition.

Woven leather chairs by Smilow Design can be pushed together in the dining area to form a David Alan Collection dining table made of beech wood and walnut wood. Glass slides open the room to a side garden.

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When you enter the house, the whole spectrum of the architects’ indoor-outdoor alchemy reveals itself in a series of permeable boundaries and shifting levels. Solid glass slides open the central kitchen, dining room and living room completely on two sides – one to a sleek side garden and the other to an Ipe deck and pool. Subtle visibility between the cedar lamellae interior ceiling and the plaster walls add to the lightness of the architecture, similar to the flowing curtains that soften the hard edges of the house and the stands of weeping Mexican bamboo [the Muppet character] Snuffleupagus, ”jokes Dangaran – which in turn sets a lyrical counterpoint to the rigid hardscape.

Many architects express a reluctant interest in interior design, but Woods and Dangaran are actually leaning towards the decorative aspect of their projects. “We love curtains. We love carpets. We are not afraid of small fringes, ”emphasizes Dangaran. “These are the things that humanize our architecture,” adds Woods. Here the duo orchestrated a compilation of furniture with an emphasis on beautifully structured natural materials and pale neutral tones that perfectly complement the architectural scheme of distilled bodies and cavities.

“There is no contradiction in building something modern and building something that people can live in,” Woods concludes. “You don’t have to forego the virtues of comfort and grace to feel adjusted to contemporary life.”

The view from the garden back to the slatted garage and the entrance courtyard. Slim windows underline the verticality of the architectural language. The landscape architect was Chris Sosa.

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