A Calgary Overlook With an Innovative Roof
A 2,600-square-foot, sunny, south-facing refuge
Photos by Robert Lemermeyer
High on an escarpment overlooking the city of Calgary, the Bow River and the Canadian Rockies beyond, a couple found the perfect spot for a new home that would welcome both the sun and the scenery. They reached out to Jeremy Sturgess and Anita Gunther, from Calgary-based Sturgess Architecture, to help bring their dream to life.
“They asked for a house that was a refuge,” Sturgess recalls. “A comfortable place where they could come home and just be themselves after their busy work days.”
Although the homeowners opted to remove an outmoded bungalow from the site, they were committed to retaining a natural setting by keeping as many trees as possible. “This lot is very unique in that it’s not bordered by any other houses except to the north, which we absolutely ignored,” Sturgess explains.
Taking advantage of the sloping site’s 50- by 120-foot dimensions, the designers configured the 2,600-square-foot house to showcase its magnificent views and southern exposure. The homeowners were enthusiastic about a cantilevered roof, so Sturgess’s solution involved a structure he calls a “woof”—a combined wall and roof that creates a solid barrier at the back of the house, with a soaring plane hovering over the home’s many-windowed front. It’s a stylish merger of shelter and shade that controls solar exposure year-round. And one unintended yet delightful bonus of the roof’s Le Corbusier-inspired round aperture? Sturgess explains, “It casts a light pattern across the floor of the deck and really acts as a clock during the day.”
“In Calgary, the sun is everything,” Sturgess says. “And the decision was made early on to create almost as many outdoor rooms as indoor rooms.” Multiple levels allow the home’s spaces to be divided logically, with room for parking and guests below, main living areas above, and bedrooms at the top. A series of skillfully positioned terraces with tall, solid handrails allow the home to be open to the outdoors yet remain private. Sturgess explains, “We deliberately made those solid, because those become the curtains.”
The interior design was a joint effort between Sturgess, Gunther and the couple. “We were looking for a contemporary-style house, with a modern aesthetic,” the homeowner explains. “We said open space, lots of light, concrete and steel and glass.” And that’s precisely what the design team delivered. Steel and concrete feature both indoors and out, while a palette of cool neutrals with jolts of bold color creates a fresh, clean and modern mood. Despite the industrial materials, the surrounding trees, abundant light and wood ceilings lend warmth to the rooms.
The double-height living room with a towering wall of south-facing windows is the heart of the home. With an adjoining terrace and open kitchen and dining areas, it’s a versatile space for casual daily living or elegant entertaining. Gunther helped the homeowners choose “the perfect white” paint. “They selected beautiful furniture,” she says, “And we wanted the white walls to celebrate and frame the furniture, as well as the art and the lighting.”
“Those three elements—the ‘woof,’ the double-height glass wall and the solid handrails—are well modulated, so you have the luxury of living in a glass house without ever feeling compromised by it,” Sturgess says. Indeed, the house offers a weightless feeling of floating among the trees. “You definitely know what’s going on outside,” the homeowner says. “Whether it’s snowing or the sun is shining or there’s a storm brewing, you’re very much communing with nature.”
THINK BIG, BUILD SMALL
Sturgess Architecture’s Anita Gunther suggests three key design strategies to make the most of small spaces: flexibility, variety and connectivity.
LOOK UP “Introducing height into a space provides the opportunity for elevated and interconnected floors,” Gunther says. “Height allows for a variety of scale in an interior, forming both intimate and grandiose spaces.”
LIGHT UP “By bringing natural light and view into a small space, it not only creates a visual connection to nature and the outdoor environment but also creates a dynamic space that continuously changes from day to night and from season to season,” says Gunther.
LINK UP “Connectivity in a small space is created by forming interior spaces that are linked to exterior spaces,” Gunther explains. “By blurring the line from inside-out and outside-in, the exterior space—such as an outdoor living room—can become an extension of the interior space, making a small space feel larger than what it actually is.”
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN Sturgess Architecture CONSTRUCTION Warbleton Development/Conroy Custom Homes CONCRETE FLOORS Aesthetic Concrete CUSTOM METAL STAIR GUARDRAIL Modern Metals CUSTOM GABION RETAINING WALL Gabion Wall Systems FURNISHINGS/ACCESSORIES TRACK LIGHT Manufacturer: Sistemalux, Vendor: Vektra Lighting DINING ROOM PENDANT Manufacturer: Moooi, Vendor: Robert Sweep ISLAND & STAIR PENDANTS Manufacturer: Bocci Vendor: Bocci DINING TABLE Manufacturer: Horizon, Vendor: Roche Bobois LIVING ROOM/DINING ROOM CREDENZE Manufacturer: Horizon, Vendor: Roche Bobois BATHTUB Manufacturer: Agape, Vendor: Inform Interiors PAINT Manufacturer: C2, Vendor: Walls Alive KITCHEN HOOD FAN Manufacturer: Faber, Cylindra Isola, Vendor: Jerome’s Appliances