When designing and building a home, few things are more difficult to achieve than clean, simple elegance. That’s because with a spare aesthetic, every detail matters. If the smallest touches are off, it’s visible to even the untrained eye.
Which is what makes this home in Huntsville all the more impressive.
“This was an exacting build for a client with high standards – which is just the kind of project our team loves,” says Sam Hisey, co-owner of Lischkoff Build Design.
The company is a full-service design-build firm: their team of designers and architectural technologists is adept at taking a client’s visions, plans and ideas and transforming that into detailed plans for their construction team to execute. This project was a little different.
“The client is an architect, Sharon McKenzie,” Sam explains. “She designed this home for herself and approached us to build it for her.”
Lischkoff Build Design has been crafting homes for over a decade, ever since James Lischkoff founded the company. Being asked to build something for another construction professional is always satisfying, says Sam. “Sharon knew exactly what she wanted, and she knew we would be able to execute it for her.”
Updating the neighbourhood
The site is on a residential street in the heart of Huntsville, a quiet, tree-lined road an easy walk to downtown. Most of the homes here are very traditional – midcentury bungalows, with the occasional wood frame two-storey. Facades are mainly brick or horizontal siding.
From the moment you come up the driveway, you can see that this home is something very different.
The exterior is clad in vertical shiplap siding. Made from rough-sawn pine, the wood is untreated and left to weather. “Right now, the wood is relatively fresh and golden,” Sam explains. “But over time it will grey and soften quite dramatically.”
The flat roof is sloped imperceptibly – just enough to allow rain and snowmelt to run off. In keeping with the modernist aesthetic, the oversized windows have minimal trim, but each is mounted in a field of gorgeous grey PVC. A pair of painted steel girder supports flank the recessed front door, further enhancing the house’s feel of solidity.
Bright and light
The emphasis on clean lines and modern materials continues as you walk in through the front door.
Flooring on the ground floor is polished terrazzo, the stone chips in the cement providing visual texture.
A bright, window-lined corridor leads to a sitting area and guest suite at the rear of the house, while a set of open stairs takes you to the second floor. A thick sheet of glass encloses the stairway on one side, allowing light to pass through while also deflecting sound – a key concern in a relatively open concept home such as this.
Upstairs is the main living area. “We wanted to ensure this home enjoyed plenty of light and took advantage of the fabulous views – this is the highest point on this street,” Sam says. “The best way to do that was to locate most of the living space upstairs.”
Indeed, the upper level is beautifully lit, with light pouring in from all directions.
The kitchen and living room are defined by a two-sided fireplace that divides the room. “This is Venetian plasterboard,” Sam explains. “It’s all hand-finished. Very unique.”
One wall of the kitchen consists of massive sliding doors that lead out to an enormous deck. “It allows truly indoor-outdoor living in season,” says Sam.
While the doors are huge, it only takes a finger’s weight to move them. “Everything needed to be installed and balanced just so.” The same precise work is seen on the pocket doors that separate the bedroom and bathroom from the rest of the upper floor. It’s the sort of detail that would be easy to get wrong, but it is essential for a design like this to succeed.
The same is true of the recessed baseboards that are found throughout the house. Rather than sitting in front of the drywall, they are installed in plane with it, separate from the drywall by a ¾ inch gap. Precise installation is vital in work like this: if that gap varied by even an eighth of an inch, it would be astonishingly noticeable.
“This was a fantastic project,” says Sam. “It really gave our team a chance to show what they can do. And I think they absolutely nailed it.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN