This house, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, dates back to the 1950s. It had a small and inefficient kitchen, poor access to the backyard, and inadequate lighting and ventilation on the main floor.

The design of this project had to overcome two main challenges: the height limit imposed by the Kensington Municipal Advisory Council, and the gross floor area limit set by the Kensington Zoning Ordinance. To increase interior height, we used a vaulted ceiling system to create more height in the areas that needed it, and lowered the ceiling in the areas that required more cozy spaces. We also added a two-story open atrium/stair at the front of the house, which enhanced the vertical dimension of the entry.

The new floor plan design differed from the original layout in that it followed a narrative of events that shaped the architecture throughout the design development process. The narrative began at the entry gate at the front yard, where one entered a platform that overlooked a beautiful landscape, and then ascended to the front entrance of the house via exterior concrete stair. The front porch, with its surround bench and covered trellis, welcomed the visitors.


The main entrance led to a two-story open atrium/stair at mid-landing that branched down to family/entertainment room or up to the main floor. As one climbed the stairs, the impressive living/dining area with window wall facing east unveiled its grandeur, and offered a preview of the splendid stepped backyard.

The vaulted ceilings indicated the importance of the spaces in the house. The living/dining area was the single largest space in the house, with the highest ceiling designed for big events; smaller activities in the main floor had their area and ceiling height adjusted accordingly. This spatial hierarchy organized the activities and created unity and wholeness.

The living/dining area was linked to the kitchen via a nook with a built-in bench; the lowered ceiling at nook served as a transition between the two different ceiling heights in the living/dining and the kitchen. The lowered ceiling in the nook, with an eye-catching light fixture at the center, established a cozy space for casual eating, and suggested a boundary between the nook and its surroundings. The location of the kitchen in the house and its layout allowed for maximum view of the backyard garden and integration of indoor and outdoor activities, between the kitchen and the level patio.

The living/dining area connects to a hallway opposite the nook entrance, which leads to the bedrooms, baths and laundry in the private section of the house. The new layout separates the public and private zones clearly, allowing easy access and maximum privacy to the bedrooms. Glass doors open the bedrooms to the outdoor space, while windows offer views and ventilation from all sides. The walls, windows and doors are well-spaced to create a functional furniture layout and optimal use of space. The bathrooms have well-placed windows that let in light, air, and view without exposing the interior space.

The two-story open atrium/stair links the living/dining area and the family/entertainment room on the lower level, but also defines them well; the upper-level activities do not interfere with the lower-level ones and vice versa.

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