Dezeen Magazine

Exterior of country house

Drew Mandel designs country home overlooking a woodland site in Canada

Contrasting finishes of concrete, brick, wood and aluminium fins form this country vacation home in Ballantrae in Whitchurch-Stouffville, Canada by Drew Mandel Architects.

Located among the protected woodlands of the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority, the different blocks that make up the Ballantrae Country House have been given full-height windows oriented towards different landscape views.

Country house in Ballantrae
Full-height windows decorate the facade

"The winter snow, autumn leaves, summer greenery and spring blossoms all become part of the home," said the practice.

A concrete plinth grounds the home on its sloping site, giving the spaces a sense of being both sunken into and raised above their surroundings.

Exterior of country house
The house sits on a concrete plinth

"The natural sloping landscape allows the house to play with levels and float above the landscape as one approaches deeper into the house," explained the practice.

"Ground floor access at the front of the house becomes eye-level views of the tree canopies at the rear."

House entrance via garage
A driveway leads to a garage and the house entrance

Access to Ballantrae Country House is via a tree-lined driveway leading to a garage, which sits between two entrances in the northwest corner of the building.

These lead into a circulation corridor running along the southern edge of the home, connecting a small, intimate study to the west with a central, open-plan kitchen diner and double-height living room to the east, wrapping the edges of an external terrace.

Open-plan kitchen diner
An open-space kitchen diner has large windows and sits next to the living room

"Designed as a simple plan, one circulation corridor connects 'fingers' that reach out into the landscape," explained the practice.

The living room looks out towards the southeast through a fully glazed corner, creating a feeling of openness that is grounded by a monolithic concrete wall housing a fireplace and overlooked by a glass balcony on the first floor.

Large sliding doors lead out onto the terrace, which is shaded by the slight cantilever of the floor above and shielded from view by a high concrete wall alongside a staircase leading down the slope of the site.

At the opposite end of the home, the contrasting fumed ash cladding of the study was chosen to soften the building's elevations, in particular the approach from the road.

Living room with fireplace
The living room features a monolithic concrete wall

"We didn't want the streetscape facade and garage view to read as too heavy or aloof, and the study presents a warm, wood-clad, human-scaled volume as an introduction to the house," Drew Mandel Architects said.

A staircase off the dining area leads to the first floor, where three bedrooms sit at the northern end of the home and connect via a glazed balcony overlooking the living room to the main bedroom, which cantilevers out to the south with a large window.

Bedroom in Ballantrae Country House
Upstairs the house holds a bathroom and bedrooms

Contrasting the bright, open ground-floor spaces, sections of the upper storey have been clad with aluminium fins, which act as brise-soleil to both offer privacy and moderate solar heat gain in the south-facing spaces.

The light interiors continue in these spaces, with a white-tiled bathroom, thin white curtains and pale oak fittings adding to the feeling of space created by the connections to the landscape throughout.

Living room in country house
The kitchen diner opens out onto a terrace

Drew Mandel also recently completed an extension to a home in Toronto's Bracondale Hill neighbourhood, designing a shingle-clad form intended to mimic the massing of the original 1920s building.

Photography is by Doublespace Photography.

More images and plans

Second floor and roof
Basement and ground floor
Ballantrae Country House by Drew Mandel Architects
Ballantrae Country House by Drew Mandel Architects
Ballantrae Country House by Drew Mandel Architects
Ballantrae Country House by Drew Mandel Architects
Ballantrae Country House by Drew Mandel Architects