Mirroring Nature: The Echo House, Toronto

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Whether its the beauty of a still lake, the feeling of a campfire at night, or the firey hues of autumnal leaves, the Echo House aims to encapsulate them all, somehow.

This naturalistic abode is set on a two acre property in Toronto’s posh Bridle Path neighbourhood. The Echo House is the outcome of a conscious renovation of an existing residence by visionary architect Paul Raff, whose projects include residential, cultural, and commercial architecture, as well as environmental and public art. His studio consistently produces exceptional, evocative constructions, and the Echo House is the epitome of such expression.

The unique eco-mansion is drenched with Eastern philosophy in terms of being in harmony with nature. A clear example is given by the way the outside environment peacefully blends with the house thanks to the use of local wood and stone: The layout also masterfully follows the principles of Feng Shui, which provides a feeling of balance and harmony in the property.

Each room is designed to connect with nature by focusing on outward looking spaces facing lush flora to create a dramatic, panoramic effect. In fact, the entire garden facing side of the house is defined by floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall glass, which ensures the colourful landscaping can be enjoyed from season to season.

The low Algonquin limestone wall that constitutes the front façade enthrallingly welds with a taller volume of dark raked stucco beyond. This natural stone that has an earthy tone and veined patterning, which is well suited for both interiors and exteriors, and which seems to magically change colour when the sun hits it at different angles.

As Paul Raff explained: “this house is intimately connected to nature, tradition, and the needs of its residents.” It welds the best from the East and West: tradition blends with functionality, focusing on sustainability and minimalist design.

The Echo House, TorontoThe Echo House, TorontoThe Echo House, Toronto

Sustainable Elegance

And speaking of sustainability, the new refurbishment of the building’s exterior, the high-efficiency heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, and the use of technology such as smart thermostats and motion-detector lighting have reduced the house’s energy consumption by more than 50%. This home is also eco-friendly in terms of its use of reclaimed wood, which can be found on the house’s façade, swimming pool ceiling, in the kitchen wing and the forecourt screens, which can be open or shut to use or block the sun’s energy.

The blinds also provide privacy for the guest bedrooms while allowing an enchanting view of the gardens, and were inspired by the traditional craftsmanship of Korean antiques. The large pivoting doors at the entry to the pool area are another outstanding feature of this home, and were fabricated in laser cut steel filigree.

The Echo House, TorontoThe Echo House, TorontoThe Echo House, Toronto

But it’s not all serious elegance; there are plenty of fun components in the house, too. For example, those who are fond of the notion of secret passages, such as those as seen in old castles or Bruce Wayne’s mansion, will be delighted by the secret staircase that leads to a photography studio on a hidden floor.

There’s a generous-sized swimming pool that invites not only family leisure time, but pool parties, too. It’s surrounded by floor to ceiling windows that face old-growth, native Canadian trees. Furthermore, the master bathroom was designed to be an indulgent home spa, featuring a Jaccuzi, sauna and luxuriously tiled shower and bath.

In short, this conscious home has everything a family needs to enjoy each other’s company, whilst enjoying the natural beauty surrounding the house. As the homeowners themselves say, “It is an expansive house, but feels intimate and peaceful. The spaces flow beautifully. We feel like we live in a garden.” 

Image credits: PHOTOS BY BEN RAHN AND STEVE TSAI for Paul Raff Studios. For more information, please click here.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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