Russell Hill Road


The house built in the 1970’s, is situated on a 200 foot deep lot in one of Toronto’s downtown ravines.  The front of the lot faces south, sloping downwards towards the road.  The two-storey house is built at the midpoint of the lot, with the main entrance at the side.  The main floor extends from the ground level of the rear garden through the living area to the kitchen that is built over the garage at the south.

Built in the brutalist style of architecture of the times, the house was subsequently renovated several times following a more traditional approach to house design – especially by converting large open spaces to a more cellular room design. The renovation reopened the ground floor so that it became an open loft-like space from front to back (the house is about 70’ long). This helped to enhance the natural cross ventilation within the house. Operable skylights over the central stair also enables ventilation through the ‘stack effect’, and enlarged windows and skylights maximize day lighting within the house. By installing a new high performance, fully glazed wall at the rear garden side of the house, it was possible to extend the sense of the outdoor space through to the interior. This takes advantage of the house’s ravine setting by providing more opportunities to see and experience the natural landscape of the ravine from within the house and yet maintains privacy as the kitchen window is almost 30 feet above the public road.

Copy of Russell Hill Road - Stair Curve White Landing Black Stain

The interior of the building was stripped back to a more modern tradition of interior.  The house becomes a neutral shell punctuated by three sculptural elements – a block of stone that is associated with kitchen elements, a curved stair, and a 20‘ stone bench/shelf and fireplace wall.  Each of these elements is associated with windows, skylights, and double height spaces to enhance the spatial experience of the house.  Kitchen working areas and storage for dishes, books and media are organized linearly along the exterior walls and are conceals behind full-height doors.

Interior finishes were chosen for their neutrality.  Most surfaces were painted white and other surfaces that would incur more wear were finished with custom fabricated white corian.  Bathtubs, showers, walls of the kitchen and wet rooms, and counters with integral sinks were all design and fabricated out of white corian.  All floor surfaces, including the stairs are wood, stained nearly black.  The contrast with the walls also serves to extend and unify the space.


Location: Toronto ON

Completion: 2007

Architects: gh3

Consultants: Blackwell (structural)

General Contractor: Blue Springs Construction

Photography: Ben RahnStacey Brandford



2010 Design Exchange Award of Excellence


gh3 Team: Pat Hanson, Raymond Chow, Anthony Provenzano

Copy of Russell Hill Road - Stair Curve White Couch Living Room