This Colorful Lake House Makes for a Whimsical Escape

Located two hours outside of Toronto, this residence designed by architects Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik can fit up to 27 guests.
modern retreat toronto lake house

A long pier-like ramp, which ensures handicap accessibility, is meant to “evoke the sense of joy a child gets running on the dock towards the water,” explains Kempster. “We wanted it to feel like you were entering into an escape from the very beginning.” Courtesy Doublespace Photography


When a Toronto-based couple approached Buffalo, NY-based architects Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik to build their dream house, they knew exactly what they were looking for: the perfect holiday residence to escape the city with enough room to fit not only themselves and their eight-year-old, but their entire extended family. “They had a very precise idea of how they wanted to use their house,” says Kempster. “They knew it had to fit anywhere from three to 30 people, but feel cozy regardless. They had everything down, even the sequence of meals and how they envisioned spending time in their home, they just had no idea how it should look.”

When it came to developing the site, however—a relatively large plot on the edge of Stony Lake, a vacation town two hours outside of Toronto—Kempster and Jamrozik came up against some problems. Former owners of the plot had settled a legal battle over the distance the house could be to the water. Therefore, to avoid significant delays, the architects needed to design a structure that not only considered the topography of the region—a steep and challenging bedrock—but stood within the previous house’s footprint.

“It had a peculiar shape—it was an envelope,” recalls Jamrozik. “So each of our solutions had to consider the topography and this silly little envelope shape. It was quite funny.”

modern retreat toronto lake house

Courtesy Doublespace Photography

The creative solution was two long volumes, crossing over one another, with the lower floor submerged partially in the bedrock, and the upper floor jutting out towards the lake. The lower level and the roofs are clad in galvanized aluminum and the upper volume is covered with heat treated pine. (The pine is baked until it has almost zero moisture content, effectively eliminating nutrients in the wood that support many insects and some rots.) The upper level is also situated with several solar panels that power the house’s appliances.

The true challenge, however, came with the interior. Kempster and Jamrozik needed to consider how to create a large space that was welcoming for many while not feeling vacant for just three. “One of the things we tried to do was create spaces that felt ‘closed’ in a way where people could cluster and feel cozy, but not feel suffocated, and still have a view of the landscape from any angle,” says Kempster. In the upper level’s main living space, the architects created several such subtle demarcations with the kitchen island, the screened-in porch, and the blue-glazed fireplace.

modern retreat toronto lake house

Courtesy Doublespace Photography

The lower level is considerably more segmented than the upper level; it contains primarily bedrooms and possesses a distinctly warmer feel. The plywood and concrete carry over from the upper level, but this time with a simple clear glazing. And although the residence sports primarily neutral tones at its core, it’s not without punches of color: blue furnishings anchor the living room and kitchen while the three bathrooms feature brilliant color palettes—a touch the architects thought was both playful and helpful with guests. “It’s much easier to tell your guests, ‘go to the blue bathroom,’” says Jamrozik.

In addition to helping direct visitors, the colors serve a deeper purpose. “We wanted to lean into the idea of waking up and being unsure where you are…you walk into your bright yellow bathroom, or turn to see the seemingly endless view of the wilderness and remember, ‘Ah yes, I can relax.’”

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Categories: Architecture, Residential Architecture

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