This two bedroom and two bath house was built in the 1950’s. The main level had minimum access to the backyard; the house had a narrow and insignificant kitchen layout, nonfunctional circulation, and poor lighting and ventilation.

Design challenges of this project were the height limit set by the Kensington Municipal Advisory Council, and compliance with threshold of gross floor area sets by the Kensington Zoning Ordinance. To keep the roof lines at existing height and achieve maximum height for the interior space we made use of vaulted ceiling system which allowed us to increase ceiling height in the area that was needed most, and lower the ceiling height in the areas called for more intimacy of space. In addition, in the front of the house we introduced a two-story open atrium/stairs which heightened the sense of vertical dimension at the entry.

Unlike the original layout, the new floor plan design was based on a narrative of events which guided the architecture throughout the design development process. This journey started at the entry gate at the front yard, where one steps into a platform facing a beautiful landscape, and gradually moves up to the front entrance of the house via exterior concrete stair. As you go up the stairs, the front porch with the surround bench and covered trellis invites you in.


The main entrance opens into a two-story open atrium/stairs at mid-landing that goes down to family/entertainment room or goes up to the main floor. As one moves up the stairs, the striking living/dining area with window wall facing east reveals its grandness, and gives a glimpse of the magnificent stepped backyard.

The height of the vaulted ceilings defines the hierarchy of the spaces in the house. The living/dining area is the single largest space in the house, with highest ceiling designed for big events; smaller activities in the main floor are defined by their area and ceiling height accordingly. This hierarchy of space defines the activities and generates unity and wholeness.

The living/dining area is connected to the kitchen via a nook with a built-in bench; lowered ceiling at nook works as a transition between the two different ceiling heights in the living/dining and the kitchen. Lowered ceiling in the nook with the attractive light fixture at the center forms an intimate space for casual eating, and implied boundary between the nook and its surrounding. The position of the kitchen in the house and its layout allow for maximum view into the backyard garden and integration of indoor and outdoor activities, between the kitchen and the level patio.

Opposite from the entry to the nook, the living/dining area opens into a hallway that leads to the more private part of the house: bedrooms, baths and laundry. Well-defined public and private zones in the new layout, gives maximum privacy to the bedrooms, while making them easily accessible. All the bedrooms are directly open to the outdoor space by glass doors, while windows provide surround views and ventilation in all directions. Well-designed spacing of the walls, windows and doors provides a functional layout for furniture and maximum use of space. Well-positioned windows in the bathrooms provide direct ventilation, light, and view without compromising the privacy of the interior space.

The link between the living/dining area and the lower level family/entertainment room via the two-story open atrium/stair is open but well defined; activities of the lower floor do not interrupt the events at upper level and vise versa.

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