It's not hard to see where the nickname for this pair of modernist buildings by Alloy Homes came from. Side by side, dusted in the snow of a Calgary winter, the matching white square-faced home and detached garage do resemble a certain sweet foodstuff: a pair of (decidedly modernist) sugar cubes.
Photos by Joel Klassen
"The primary home and suite are designed to work together as a cohesive architectural composition," says Alloy managing partner Christopher Lemke. The 3,700-square-foot house acts as home base for the parents of a family of five, while a suite above the garage is intended for the older kids to use while in university, or as a revenue property.
For the exterior of both Bauhaus-inspired buildings, Lemke used a combination of crisp, modern acrylic stucco layered with earthier materials like masonry and stained wood. Inside, a high-contrast black-and-white palette is softened by natural hardwood floors and cabinetry and neutral soft furnishings.
"Both inside and out, the homeowners liked the contrast between gallery-white walls and darker, moodier elements," says Lemke. "We always try to let materials speak for themselves in our work, so in addition to the light acrylic stucco, we used tight knot cedar finished in charcoal-tinted EcoWood treatment." From afar, the home presents a pristine modern look, but as you get closer, you'll find yourself embraced by the warm, natural materials that surround the outdoor living spaces.
Both buildings take advantage of the corner lot placement with large side-yard windows to overlook the streetscape, though don't sacrifice privacy: neither overlook the yard. The unique massing of the home creates what Lemke calls "a modern reinterpretation of a front porch," creatively sheltered by the second floor above.
In the main house, the main living area—featuring 10-foot ceilings—is backstopped by a full-height glass wall that opens to a private terrace; a stairwell with a dramatic wood-slat guard rail runs to the upper floor. A suspended BioFuel FireOrb is focal point of the living and kitchen area, and can be rotated to face any part of the room.
On paper, this Calgary lot was a relatively tight site for the homeowners' big dreams: they wanted living space for an extended family, additional revenue generation potential and on-site storage for four vehicles. "We were asking a lot from a 50x120-foot lot," says Lemke. But with some thoughtful layout planning, Alloy made it happen–and in an elegant, cohesive way, no less. "We achieved the owner’s objectives by designing a very efficient floor plan with flexible spaces that may be converted to different uses as the family’s needs evolve," Lemke explains. In the suite, for example, the additional height required by the car lift was accommodated with a split-level floor plan; and in the main house, a room that today acts as a guest suite for the owners' parents on the main floor can convert into a dining room as needed.
Overall, Alloy's Sugarcubes are a great reminder that the humble garage needn't be an afterthought. "It’s tempting to treat service buildings/garages/secondary suites as less important, but this project illustrates the benefits of designing an entire projects as a single composition," says Lemke. "As you walk past the property, the massing of the two buildings is so much more appealing than a house and garage alone would have been." A residential design greater than the sum of its parts.
Photos by Joel Klassen