Birch Grove Residence

Birch Grove Residence


Fox Whyte Landscape
Oakville, Ontario, Canada | View Map
Project Year
Private Houses
Stories By

Fox Whyte Landscape
Tom Arban

House in a Grove

superkül as Architects

Located in the community of Oakville west of Toronto, this new home for a family of five nestles into its narrow lot, inviting in the startling lushness of the neighbouring property through a substantially fenestrated northeast elevation. The two-storey, five-bedroom house is efficiently designed to maximize opportunities for natural light, engaging site and landscape through the provision of a generous courtyard and two outdoor decks.


Respecting the footprint of the previous house, the home’s setback accommodates an underground water course and meets stringent requirements relating to municipal stormwater management. A uniform cladding strategy of charred wood communicates an understated presence that interferes minimally with the landscape; itscolour and pronounced grain convey a texture and variegated quality thatreflects the densely treed property.


Spare finishes on the interior respond to the clients’ request for a clean, almost industrial ambience – to optimally showcase the many artifacts they have acquired over years of travel. This neutral backdrop comprises a restrained material palette of white oak floors and millwork, white walls, and brushed stainless steel handrails. Custom concrete panels in a deep charcoalwrap the generously scaled fireplace; the hearth seamlessly extends to form adjacent bench seating, taking advantage of the corner window condition. The kitchen features white lacquered millwork alongside dramatically grey-veined white Carrara marble countertops and backsplash.


Natural light is introduced throughout the home in a plethora of ways. A double-height atrium rises above the dining room, and the adjacent window wall encourages light to flood both first and second floors.At the rear, floor-to-ceiling glazingbathes the interior with northwestern light, and connectsthe house tothe verdant, tranquil qualities of the backyard.Even the basement is treated as a light-filled garden suite through the provision of a sunken walk-out patio off the guest bedroom next to an outdoor shower, and a deep light well suffuses the subterranean rec room with ample daylight.


The fluidity between interior and exterior space is enhanced by the open plan and the continuity between the kitchen/dining area and the outdoor courtyard deck, addressing the clients’ love of entertaining. Their substantial culinary skills are well served by the spacious kitchen; in warmer months, the side courtyard expands the capacity for guests, and exterior barbecue facilities aid in more extensive food preparation. Off the living room, an additional deck faces the beautifully landscaped backyard, promoting an even more active engagement with the natural attributes of the site. It is in these discrete zones of activity that the theme of discovery is most clearly manifest in this project, encouraging a continual exploration of home and site through a multiplicity of means.

Birch Grove Residence

Fox Whyte Landscape as Architects

The lush planting and unique design details in this contemporary residential garden offer a fresh, bold aesthetic within a suburban neighbourhood. When embarking on the design of their new home, the clients knew they wanted the outdoor spaces to be fully integrated with the indoor spaces, that they wanted to enjoy gardens with lush plantings that framed functional spaces in which to entertain and relax, and that they wanted a strong, contemporary aesthetic approach to both the house and the garden design.


The firm, Fox Whyte Landscape Architecture and Design (FWLA) was brought into the design process early on, to collaborate with Superkül Architects on how to make efficient use of the limited outdoor space available, provide strong connections between the indoor and outdoor spaces, frame certain views from within the house, and create thoughtful transitions from one outdoor space to the next. A deck located off the kitchen in the side garden provides an outdoor dining area, while another deck in the back garden off the living room provides a space for less formal entertaining and relaxing. From within the main floor of the house, these two large outdoor spaces are always visible and close by.


The materials and colours used were selected to provide a strong integration with the design language of the house and unique details were tailored to provide a bold contemporary aesthetic. A metal mesh guardrail surrounding the side deck provides a light, transparent screen which allows borrowed views from a neighbour's heavily wooded garden beyond. Low weathering steel retaining walls create a strong visual frame around a lawn area. Custom weathering metal mesh screens with integrated lighting provide syncopated structural elements along the front walkway, contrasted against the soft, lush plantings.


FWLA also collaborated with the civil engineer on how best to incorporate storm water infrastructure required to manage difficult site conditions. An existing catch basin and open drainage channel located on the property captured storm water drainage from neighbouring properties as well as from the owner's property. This catch basin was relocated and the channel was redesigned to alleviate chronic drainage issues.


Instead of a more traditional block planting scheme, the planting plan incorporates a matrix planting approach, inspired by Thomas Rainer's recent book, 'Planting in a Post Wild World' which mimics the way in which plant communities behave in nature. A mix of ground covers and mid-height plants provide a layered base with taller plants occasionally poking through to add interest and punctuation. This approach creates a plant palette that is more resilient, dense and biodiverse, and eliminates the need for mulch. Different mixes of plants and bulbs were selected based on the varying light conditions and microclimates within the site. The mixes were also selected to provide a range of seasonal interest.


The overall effect of the lush plantings, contrasted with clean lines of wood, concrete and metal elements is a design that is at once bold and innovative, but – as clusters of daisies graze the metal screens - also delicate and at times playful.


Material Used :
1. Cast-in-place Sandblasted Concrete
2. Pre-cast Concrete
3. Ipe
4. Powder Coated Stainless Steel
5. Weathering Steel
6. Black Decorative Gravel

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Product Spec Sheet

ManufacturersRenaissance Fabrication
Product Spec Sheet
by Ipe
CASACOR Minas Gerais
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