How a Calgarian couple and a New York-based architect built the model of modern indoor-outdoor living.
The origin story of this southwest Calgary home—the serendipitous result of being in the right powder room at the right time—is reminiscent of a Hollywood romance. Ten years ago, on a dog walk along Calgary’s Riverdale Avenue, Alfred Huger and Tracy Luca-Huger were stopped in their tracks by an under-construction house. “It was so striking—very architectural, clean lines, strong dimension and details,” says Tracy, whose head was turned despite the fact they were already building their own home in nearby Mount Royal. “We were so impressed with what we saw, we vowed to find out who the architect was if we built again.”
Grand Opening. With its poured-resin floor, the main living space—the family room, paired with the kitchen off to the right of this image—is both beautiful and, in the warmer months, when the walls open up, offers a seamless transition from indoors to out.One year went by with occasional, wistful thought given to the house they’d admired. One evening at the Fleur de Sel brasserie, however, Tracy spotted a business card tacked to a bulletin board in the washroom. “I immediately recognized the house on the card—it was that house.” She asked the restaurant owner if he knew the architect who’d put the card up. “He told me she was his friend who lived in New York,” she says, “but that this was her favourite restaurant in Calgary.” As it turned out, the architect, Rachael Gray, had connections to Calgary and had built more than one house in the city she had lived in back in junior-high school. While the couple hadn’t been planning to rebuild at that point, when a corner lot they loved became available on a Parkhill street, they nabbed it. “What’s unique about the location,” says Gray, “is that it’s on a cul-de-sac on a ridge with no houses in front of it, and it has both a wide-open view of downtown and a south-facing backyard. It was everything they wanted.” Already confident that Gray could deliver, the couple offered only a few pieces of major guidance for the design of their home: to make it modern, flat-roofed and a model of indoor-outdoor living, and for it to contain a library. Gray’s intention, meanwhile, was to give the family a house that—unlike their Mount Royal split-level, which contained too many unused spaces—would be wholly useful and completely lived in. Indeed, there isn’t a wasted line or furnishing in the home, right down to the well-loved window seat in the spare room, which doubles as a playroom. Interestingly, on first entrance, the Luca-Huger home—with its strikingly high ceilings and vast, open plan—feels formal, almost museum-like. That feeling, however, quickly becomes a warm invitation: the kitchen, which opens into the family room and connects the backyard via two 20-foot-long glass accordion walls, is clearly the heart of the home. Little wonder Tracy’s sister opted to hold her wedding reception—a lighthearted cocktail party for nearly a hundred people—in the space.
In and Out. Two 20-foot glass walls open on either side of the family room, leading to the outdoor living spac. Homeowner Tracy Luca-Huger hung the mirrors on the back fence, which architect Rachael Gray “just loves. They look like portholes through the fence,” says Tracy.For Gray, the kitchen posed a particularly welcome challenge. “New York kitchens tend to be much smaller and are often not used at all,” she says. “But this kitchen is the anchor of the less formal rear of the house, and the couple are avid cooks who entertain often. Alfred has even started making his own charcuterie.” Everything the couple needs for cooking is stored in an oversized pantry behind lacquered doors and, hidden on either side of the range, two tiny cabinets are configured so that each appliance remains plugged in and in position to use. The flooring throughout the main level adds to the seamlessness of transition from indoor to outdoor living. It’s poured resin—a choice that, the homeowners admit, was both finicky and expensive (they had to pour it twice to get it right), but durable and in harmony with the poured concrete outside, making it ideally suited to the personality of the house and its breezy, often barefoot occupants. The life-sized birch trees, featured on a transparent divider that sections off the staircase in the middle of the room, were another visually stunning way to fulfill the couple’s desire to bring the outdoors in. As much as the Luca-Hugers value the airy spaciousness of their main floor (the upper level comprises four bedrooms, a laundry room and two small, frequently occupied north-facing terraces), the couple and their young daughter are regularly drawn into the home’s relatively private library, separated from the living room by an oversized pocket door. “We love this room,” says Tracy. “It’s warm and intimate and a great place to play board games together.” To be sure, family game night in the library doesn’t have the dramatic payoff of a typical Hollywood ending, but it’s a happy conclusion for the Luca-Hugers’ nearly unrequited romance with their dream home.
Great Heights The formal living room is on the side of the home that faces downtown, so Gray included double-storey glass windows to capture the view—the same reason she included a balcony off the master bedroom. The library was at the request of homeowner Alfred Huger, who collects antique books. “This was our modern interpretation of what a wood-panelled library looks like,” says Gray. In the master bedroom, the headboard is lacquered, while the walls have a natural hide wallcovering.