Lake Huron House

Lake Huron House


Matter Architectural Studio Inc.
Ontario, Canada | View Map
Project Year
Private Houses
Stories By

NEOLITH by TheSize
Adam Letch
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct Name
ManufacturersNEOLITH by TheSize
Bespoke FurnitureOKHA
Tile fabricationBernardo Group Ltd.
Exterior fabricationOntario Panelization

Product Spec Sheet
Bespoke Furniture
Tile fabrication
Exterior fabrication

Lake Huron

SAOTA as Architects, Lighting Design

This summer house is set on the banks of Lake Huron in a small, remote Canadian town about an hour’s drive from London, Ontario. While the architectural context might be characterised as somewhat conservative “cabin country”, this house attempts to extend the possibilities of the traditional lakeside family retreat through a contemporary architectural approach, harnessing recent developments in design, technology and sustainability to connect meaningfully with its beautiful natural setting while exploringnew ways of enhancing the lifestyle experience of the family summer getaway.


While theaesthetic approach that Cape Town-based architecture firm SAOTA took might seem like a radical departure from the traditional regional architecture, the architects havetaken great care to keep the design unobtrusive and sensitive to its setting, while still making an architectural statement.


The site is a bluff occupying the transitional space between water and forest, rising 3.5m from road level and then dropping down to the water to create a grassy embankment. The building is set back on the property towards the street to preserve the natural bluff. On approach,the houseis largely concealed by the surrounding mature fir trees, appearing as a simple light-coloured stone box floating effortlessly between the tree trunks. The rear of the house, facing Lake Huron, dissolves into a two-storey wall of glass washing natural light deep into the interiors.


Conceptually, the design consists of a series of stacked and suspended rectangular boxes, one embedding the building into the ground plane, the other suspended overhead to allow the living level to exist between the volumes. An indoor/outdoor volume to the south anchors the building andmaximisesthe site’s lakeside views while allowing the living spaces to occupy the foreground. A bank of bedrooms projects backwards abovethe garage.


The way in which the building is largely obscuredfromthe street and inturn screens views of the lake helps buildsuspenseon arrival, only to satisfy the sense of anticipation on entry via the large pivot door.From the threshold,a dramatic triple-volume atrium lets in natural light and drawsthe eye outwards towards the view.


Programmatically, in keeping with the client brief, the spaces are fluid, the levels easy to navigate and the layout simple and well-structured, allowing for a casual atmosphere.The vast central volume is subtly contrasted with more intimate and contained volumes in the kitchen and other living spaces for a varied and articulated spatial experience.


The upper-level housing the master bedroom is devoted entirely to the owners’ private space, including an office and a gym. To the front of the house, a covered outdoor entertainment area flanks a swimming pool. A boardwalk and staircase descend to a refurbished cabin that predated the house, and now houses a guest suite and additional outdoor entertainment area to facilitate long summer days playing on the lake.


The client’s favourite roomis the ‘engine room’ on the lowest floor, which houses all the building services infrastructure. Acommercial-gradeBuilding Automation System (BAS) controls and monitors the home, ensuring optimum performance at all times. A 15kw solar array provides power to the home and excess power is regularly fed back into the utility grid for credit and later use. The limited municipal infrastructure for stormwater and sewer resulted in an on-property underground stormwater system that can handle a 100-year storm and an eco-flo septic system to deal with all sewer requirements on site.


The finishes, externally and internally, favour a ceramic panelled system robust and hard-wearing enough to prove long-lasting in the extremes of the Canadian climate, which together with the home’s energy efficiency and the general longevity of the project and its materials, components and fittings contribute to its sustainability.


The interior decoration was by ARRCC, the interiors division of SAOTA.

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Lake Huron House

NEOLITH by TheSize as Manufacturers

A home away from home in the Canadian Great Lakes
37,000 sq. ft. of Neolith® specified for a stunning getaway in Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada
• Highly contemporary, shoreside home
• Monochromatic exterior delivers impact, yet sits well in the natural setting 
• Design combined with durability due to the challenging climate 

Located on the shoreline of Lake Huron, one of the five Canadian Great Lakes, is an awe- inspiring 17,222 sq. ft. second home in cottage country, approximately one hour from London, Ontario. The lake ‘cottage’—although in reality, far from your average getaway—is used as a retreat by its owners throughout the year, for all three generations of the family to enjoy. 

In order to create a striking contemporary space for the owners, Neolith®, the pioneering brand of Sintered Stone, was specified for both the exterior and interior of the home. The homeowners requested a space that was durable, versatile, low maintenance and visually captivating from the inside out.

As far as the eye can see
The architects and designers, Mark Bullivant and Johan Basson at SAOTA in Cape Town, South Africa, in collaboration with Steven Cooper and Phil Sharron at London, Ontario- based firm, matter architectural studio inc., were faced with a significant challenge from the get-go when they took on this project. 

“When you first arrive at the location, you can’t see the lake right away because the site sits on a bluff, occupying a transitional space between the water and acres of forest land,” said Bullivant. “We therefore wanted to make sure that the first moment you see the lake has a real impact.”

Conceptually, the architects stacked a series of rectangular boxes to embed the building into the ground plane, and suspended one overhead so that the living level could exist in between. They then placed an indoor-outdoor volume to the south in order to anchor the building and allow the various spaces to capitalize on the views. The architects have designed it so the setting sun creates a dramatic view from the living room in the summer. Further, the spaces within the home are fluid, yet well-structured, ensuring the house has a casual, effortless feel—a big driver given the home was built for the whole family to relax and entertain.

Sintered Stone on the inside
Neolith was specified throughout the interior of the home in collaboration with distributing partners, Marble Trend and Ontario Panelization. It was used for all the flooring, bathrooms, kitchen ceiling, several corridors and the stairwell, which is three stories high.

The interior colour palette is a subtle representation of the exterior, with a strategic balance of light and dark. While Strata Argentum was used for the floors, Krater was used to achieve the blackened metal look of the fireplaces and external screens. The seamless continuity of material from the inside out was further aided by Stone and Textures artist, Eva Chylinski, who hand-painted the edges of each surface to match its pattern.

Speaking on the overall design concept, Basson stated, “Materiality is a key pillar of our design ethos, in that we constantly seek to create interest and expression in our buildings through the products we use.

Faced with the challenge of working in an environment as demanding as this one, the product choice and its longevity were critical. Our main goal was to build a home that could withstand Canada’s weather conditions, while also being beautiful. When the client, in collaboration with Ontario Panelization, introduced us to Neolith, we immediately fell in love with the brand and its wide variety of high-quality finishes, as well as, of course, its durability.”

And on the outside
The entire exterior of the home is clad in Neolith, and 21,000 sq. ft. of the material was specified for the Ceramitex ® Facade System utilizing the proprietary Unity ® Attachment Technology by Elemex ® and installed by Ontario Panelization. Here, architects Bullivant and Basson used lighter hue, creamy Strata Argentum, to blend in with the snowy landscape in the winter and bright skies in the summer, and the darker charcoal Nero Zimbabwe to match the lower-level forest and the rest of the surrounding environment. The project is unique both in its appearance and its construction, as it was designed in the same way a commercial project would be, due to its size and complexity. However, with its sleek lines and earthy tones, it still manages to encapsulate the warmth of a beautiful, modern home.

Steven Cooper, Architect-of-Record, noted that “the final execution of the project was realized due to deep collaboration, technical expertise and appreciation of the design intent. Minor modification to design and construction details were suggested based on the geographic location, building code and local municipal practices. Ultimately, this collaboration has produced a project we are collectively very proud of”.

Neolith was the ideal choice for the home’s façades due to both its durability and its ability to be shaped in an unusual way. According to David Waugh, Facades Specialist at Elemex, “One of the great features of Neolith is that it not only comes in a very large format, but is extremely durable for such a thin panel. Its strength was initially proven when we had to cut the material into particularly complex angles.

Further, it is scratch resistant and immune to high impact—all essential traits for a home surrounded by wilderness. Neolith is also tag resistant, which means the homeowner’s grandkids can play freely without fear of permanently marking the floors and walls.”

A product of the future
Neolith was specified for this project due to its similarity in appearance to elements found in nature with the added benefits of durability, versatility and even sustainability. This makes it a modern and practical choice for a range of residential applications.

Commenting on the project, Robert Geerts, Project Manager at Bernardo Group Ltd., the subcontractor who managed the interior tile fabrication, said, “When first introduced to Sintered Stone, I saw it as the product of the future. I believed in it right away. The material takes tile to the next generation, and having now worked with Neolith products, I can say its advantages truly lie with the end user: they will have floors which will last decades, wall cladding that is non-pervious, and outdoor applications that can withstand Mother Nature.”

Mar Esteve Cortes, Neolith director, added, “This home is very special due to the numerous factors that surround its creation. From the stunning location and the architects’ inspired design concepts to Elemex’s ingenious Ceramitex ® Facade System, the project was a success from start to finish. This is one of our most exciting projects in the region and the team truly pushed endless boundaries with this build. We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome.”

This story is available in multiple languages
Project Credits
Architects, Lighting Design
Interior Designer
Structural Engineer
Lighting Design
Products used in this project
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