Sylvan Lake House

Framing family life and landscape

  • Type House, Residential Interiors,
  • Location Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada
  • Area 2,809 s.f. (conditioned spaces)
  • Status Built
  • Date 2023
  • Collaborators

    Min | Day (through Design Development)

This second home occupies a narrow lot on a large, recreational lake midway between Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. The house comprises simple masses with spatial intersections that create a complex interior environment, all focused on the lake. A mute opacity on the inland side provides privacy and intimacy, while the lake side opens to generous views and exterior spaces. Glass curtain walls and decks extend the indoor surfaces outside (from the main living spaces, the lake is all one sees through floor to ceiling glass). Indoor porosity continues vertically through shafts connecting floors to provide a counterpoint to the monolithic stacked-box appearance of the exterior.

Material selections are kept at a minimum, maintaining the prominence of the lake and surrounding woods. Structural silicon-glazed curtain walls with hidden frames punctuate black-stained cedar walls allowing the smooth glass to be flush with the wood. Exterior walkable surfaces are clad with a light Accoya wood matching the bleached White Oak interior floors. Interior walls, recessed curtain wall frames, and integrated cabinetry are white and accented with hot-rolled steel surfaces (stair, kitchen, and main bedroom) and a few moments of unexpected color. Furniture and artwork were selected with input from the Architect. Environmental systems include a super-insulated building envelope, triple-pane glass, in-floor radiant heating, ducted forced-air cooling, and recessed or coved LED lighting.

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A house all about the lake

Front entrance and windows frame views through the house to the lake – the semi-enclosed Entry Patio is a moment of calm, away from the lake

The house is a composition of simple masses with spatial intersections that create a complex interior environment. A semi-enclosed courtyard brings light and air into the center of the house. This indoor porosity continues vertically through shafts that connect floors and provide a counterpoint to the monolithic stacked-box appearance of the exterior.

All living spaces on the first floor have access to the deck overlooking the lake

Section through deck, Main Bedroom above, Office & Guest Room below

Double-height volumes link the first and second floors; views through the house are carefully curated toward the lake

Kitchen / Dining window

Multifunctional Guest room, TV room, and Office can be partitioned from the Entry with large, wood-clad rolling door

Construction & Finish Materials:

Wood framed construction with steel structure at rims and cantilevers. Insulated concrete foundation. Stained Cedar rain-screen siding with aluminum-framed structural silicon glazed window system (triple-pane insulated glass is adhered to the exterior of the frames, flush with the adjacent siding). Accoya decks and bleached White Oak interior floors. Custom cabinetry integrated into gyp-board and painted MDF walls. Hot-rolled steel & Oak structural stair and hot-rolled steel cabinets in se-lected areas. Stained Cedar from the Guest Wing extends through to the interior and ends with a large rolling wall panel. Frameless doors throughout. Radiant in-floor heating with forced-air cooling. LED lighting.

The stair as seen from the Entry with view off the East Patio

Wall section through the staircase and Pantry; view of the patio and steel canopy through the pantry, open to the stair

Handrail detail - White Oak hardwood and hot rolled steel sheet metal

View from the pantry into the Kitchen / Dining / Living area

Main Bathroom

Monolithic wardrobe in the Main Bedroom clad in hot rolled steel

View from the Main Bedroom to the lake; detail of the Main Bedroom wardrobe

Pandemic Construction

The project was built during the pandemic necessitating a shift to all-Canadian products and finishes to avoid costly and unpredictable imports. Owner-Architect-Contractor meetings were conducted via weekly Zoom and Facetime links.

(photo at right by the owners)

Project Awards

2023 AN Best of Design, Editors’ Pick

2023 AIA Central States Region Merit Award

2023 AIA Nebraska Citation Award


Residential Design Magazine, v3. 2017

Photography By Bruce Damonte
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