- Maximilian Huxley
1950’s Uplands Home gets a Midcentury Modern Renovation
Article by Michelle Heslop. Photography byJoshua Lawrence.
Nestled in the Garry-oak lined labyrinth of the Uplands, a 1950’s split-level is reinvented and the result is a striking, family-friendly, midcentury modern home. Classic to the era, the house had a strong foundation but the layout was desperate for a reconfiguration. Knocking out the interior, right down to the studs, Maximilian Huxley, of Maximilian Huxley Construction, created a midcentury classic home with sleek details and fine finishes. John Graham of Virgin Ground Inc. was brought in to redesign the entire scale and architectural details of the house.
The goal was to reorganize the space to reflect a modern aesthetic by creating a unified flow and consistency through materials and distinct design fundamentals. As a custom-home builder for almost twenty years, Huxley suggested that the use of materials be limited to create a homogenous feel rather than create a look of more than one style under one roof. For continuity sake they used one type of tile and flooring, one type of wood for the feature details, and one paint colour for the entire house. The warm white used throughout the house offers a gallery-like backdrop for colorful paintings seen throughout the home. The result is a modern, uniquely personal expression of a modern family’s needs with a fluid layout, strong horizontal lines, and sleek minimal shapes.
Finnish Architect and Designer, Alvar Aalto captured this spirit by stating that, “Building art is a synthesis of life in materialized form. We should try to bring in under the same hat, not a splintered way of thinking, but all in harmony together.” Aalto was a modernist whose reputation rested on a distinctive blend of modernist refinement, indigenous materials, and personal expression in form and detail.
This is not to say that Huxley and Graham created a purist form of modernity but rather, responding to the synthesis of daily life, evolved this form and built a hybrid open-plan with options. With regard to distinct rooms, Huxley built double doors to rooms that mirrored double doors from the opposite room. When both sets of doors are open it is an authentic open-plan but doors provide a privacy option to create individual rooms when necessary.
Sympathetic to the desire for a lower maintenance house, the exterior finishes were kept simple and understated. “We limited the use of wood on the exterior because, as great as it looks, it is quite involved to maintain. As an environmental consideration, we used more metals and stucco finishes which have a long term durability,” states Huxley. The warm, elegant colours of the exterior and the sloped roof add curb appeal while the functional “pockets” created throughout the yard offer distinctive areas in the expansive landscape.
We wanted to create a sense of flow all the way around the property to echo the fluidity of the interior. We created a flow of entrances off the front of the property, a little patio on the south side, one on the east side, and one on the lower level,” adds Huxley.
“We went for the ‘midcentury classic’ look, as we referred to it. Currently a popular style of house, midcentury classic is modern, but not overly stark, it still has warm elements and an inviting look to it. This style can appeal to a range of people who aren’t completely in love with the pure modern feel. It is modern with options for more privacy. To capture all the lovely natural light and expansive views of the Garry Oak-lined property, oversize windows were one of the integral parts of the modern design,” says Huxley. The Scandinavian influenced white-washed oak flooring maintains the fluid flow of the home and partners well with the clean, modern furnishings.
The great room is a smaller space in relation to the rest of the house so to create the illusion of more space, Graham and Huxley employed the architectural trick of vaulting the ceiling. An expanse of large windows on all three sides adds to the impression of more space without taking away square footage from the rest of the house. “Great rooms tend to get too much real estate in my opinion and they aren’t generally used as much as people envision they will be. A great room is a space for visiting with friends and family so you want to create an intimate space rather than a huge room where you have to huddle on one side to visit with one another,” adds Huxley.
Without overusing this aphorism, there really is no question that the kitchen is the heart of this house. “The kitchen definitely needed the most square footage so we added to the house to enhance this space,” says Huxley. Preserving the home’s harmonious flow, the kitchen was built to create a seamless path to the outside, making indoor/outdoor entertaining effortless.
In lieu of upper cabinets, Huxley created a wall-length pantry for storage which adds to the efficiency of the kitchen and maintains the sleek lines and streamlined feel. The son of a millworker and craftsmen, it is no surprise that Huxley added rich warm tones of walnut to the entire house, starting with the pantry. The depth of the walnut veneer is enhanced
in a natural-light infused space and offsets the primarily white kitchen. The functional wall storage includes a conventional oven, steam oven, microwave and the pièce de résistance, a covert Miele coffee machine.
The family-friendly island allows a generous space for food prep, cooking, a place to eat, do homework, and stay connected to what’s happening in the kitchen. The island boasts two-inch Cloud White Zodiaq Quartz countertops and a reiteration of walnut on the open shelving grounds the island with thick, bold shelves. A drawer fridge and secondary sink add to the functionality of the island. Heated porcelain floor tiles elevate the luxury of this homey and functional kitchen.
The absence of upper cabinets allowed Huxley to build panoramic windows to span across the entire wall of the kitchen. Blurring the lines between the inside and outside creates a comfortable, natural feel and a constant connection to the outdoors.
Counterbalancing the stark, modern appeal, the corner couch banquette in an intimate eating nook draws people in and keeps family and guests close to the action. “With a built-in couch on two sides, the banquet can become a family’s main eating area and place to socialize. If you find comfort where you eat, people will linger, slow down a bit and dinners can be longer.”
Creating a uniform rhythm throughout the house,Huxleybuilt repetition into the design with a grid of skylights above the secondary entrance. The skylight grid is also found above the staircase and in both the kitchen and bathroom. With a courtyard feel, the skylights bring the light deep into the house and create a liveable, inviting atmosphere. In this midcentury modern renovation, with balance the theme, the repetition of horizontal lines in the walnut veneer and flooring contributes to the calmness and tranquility of the space, giving the home a relaxed and serene feel.
Akin to your own private spa, this spacious and airy bathroom offers a quiet retreat with a stunning view. The verdant landscape outside provides a burst of organic colour to offset this minimalist bathroom. Built for pampering and rejuvenation, the design boasts luxurious materials such as: a free-standing soaker tub, heated floors, Bianco Carrara marble, Italian Zucchetti chrome faucets, and mirrored walnut vanities. The walnut becomes the most commanding visual feature and unifies the home’s aesthetic.