The Rosemary House By Toronto’s Kohn Shnier Architects

The Rosemary House was designed by Kohn Shnier Architects. It's an understated two storey dwelling located midblock in a well-established Toronto neighbourhood.





The building is flanked by Tudor-style homes original to the neighbourhood which date from the 1930s and 40s. Its contemporary design makes it immediately distinct, though by no means is it ostentatious. The simple geometry and limestone cladding do not scream for attention. While it replaces an older house that protruded further into the street, the dwelling is set back in line with the neighbouring houses. It is almost like a new kid at a school trying not to stand out too much although you can already tell that they are unique. 

And unique it is. The building was created to be the new home for a young family of working parents and three children. The design of the residence was also intended to accommodate a sizeable art collection and the preservation of (and engagement with) a large tree in the backyard. 




These requirements meant that the house could not take up as much area as some of the neighbouring residences while ensuring it offered generous spaces to display their art. Kohn Shnier Architects intelligently and innovatively achieved this by planning the interior around flexible spaces that could be used for living, working and playing. The successful key to this was the approach to spatial circulation.




The ground floor houses the entertainment needs, including a sunken living room, an open concept kitchen and a dining area. These spaces are separate but not enclosed, allowing them to flow visually and spatially into one another. They effectively merge into one continuous space that allows the art to be displayed, while simultaneously facilitating open play areas and space for familial contact.







The uniqueness is not limited to the concept of the continuous circulation space. The heart of the home features a pleated undulating ceiling element that adds to the dynamism of the space. Physically, the ceiling supports the lighting for the art. It also adds reflective surfaces to enhance the ambient acoustics of each area.




Another apparent focal point of the design of the Rosemary House was to create a structure that impacted the natural environment as minimally as possible. The exterior strategically employs glazing to connect the interior and exterior. The preserved tree has become a compelling view.







The finishing is done with low-maintenance, natural and sustainable materials that tonally tie the house to its environs. There is also a beautiful skylight that bathes the central circulation space in natural light. The white of the walls and ceilings allow light to filter throughout the dwelling.




I love the Rosemary House. I love the structural components; from the spatial arrangements to the clean aesthetic of the interior finishing. But more than that, I love what the design principles stand to achieve; bringing a family closer by creating continuous interaction opportunities for them regardless of which space they may be in.




I think the home is a modernized iteration of the other houses around it. Thematically, it represents a modernization of the family unit itself and the necessity for open contact and interaction amongst the members of the family. The creation of open and flexible spaces is nothing new in itself, but the implied purpose of its use here is what makes it so beautiful to me.I will definitely be looking at more work by this firm.

Join me in taking a look at more of the work of Kohn Shnier Architects.

The photography is courtesy of Doublespace Photography.

Did you enjoy this? For more modern family homes in the Toronto area, you can read about these features: Royal York Road Renovation and this Johnson Chou Toronto Home


Researched and Written by Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku, Undergraduate Student of Architectural Design at the University of Toronto

Posted In: Ontario

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