Contrast House by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design

Contrast House by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design explores the role of contrast in the modern renewal of a 120-year old home. Employing the use of contrast in a historic neighbourhood and as a means to amplify natural light, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design juxtaposed opposing elements to explore the relationship between light and dark, old and new. Photography by Bob GunduTom Arban.


The owners, relocating to Canada from southern climes, hoped to brighten the dark, narrow house. Although the existing house possessed a south-facing façade, it was only 11 feet wide and due to a traditional Victorian layout, had no direct sight lines for views to the outdoors and access to light. As a result, the primary design challenge was to increase natural light in the space, accomplished through both physical and perceptual means. Physically, the long, narrow house was reorganized in plan and in section, introducing new sight lines to the expanded openings at the rear of the house and updating the layout for a growing family. Perceptually, contrast is used as a means to ‘brighten’ internal spaces without direct access to natural light. Contrasting elements are placed in proximity to visually intensify the natural light spilling down from the large openings above.

Stacked vertically along the party wall from the basement to the third floor, a repositioned, porous stair improves the flow of light and sight lines. The stair’s open risers and direct proximity to full height windows at the top, allows light to bathe the house’s interior spaces. At each level, the stair is delineated by a defining black element. Be it tall black bookcases housing the owner’s colourful collectibles on the ground floor, or a chalk board wall for play on the second floor, these bold, dark pieces, in combination with rich walnut floors and crisp white walls and ceilings, create contrast to produce an intensified effect. The monochromatic palette highlights the house’s architectural forms, and is animated by the family’s collection of colourful objects, furniture, art, books, and toys, as well as the original stained glass window and views to the outdoors.

Project Credits
Location: Toronto
size: 1,850 s.f
Project Team: Heather Dubbeldam, Oliver Dang, Jacob JeBailey, Bindya Lad, Rachel Tameriao
Photography: Tom Arban, Bob Gundu

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