Classy, Contemporary, and Canadian

A Review of Canadian Contemporary: The Northern Home, edited by Hannah Jenkins

Written by Jenna Collignon, Junior Editor, Matrix Group Publishing

From West Coast to East Coast, Canada features beautiful feats of architecture; especially when it comes to homes. Canadian Contemporary: The Northern Home, edited by Hannah Jenkins highlights a selection of these incredible homes.

The book is, in one word, exceptional. From the clean lines to the incredible photography and modern layout, this book is a perfect demonstration of the architectural beauty that Canada has to show. 

The front cover is possibly my favourite image of the entire book. It portrays a home that is placed in a beautiful forest area amidst one of Canada’s most infamous features: our snowy, cold winters. The image is sharp and surprisingly warm, for it being a winter scape. The house itself has all its lights on, which calls people in – both into its warm and homey interior and the book itself. 

“The design of Canadian homes has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent decades. Owing primarily to a cohort of talented architects, a unique residential design identity has been established” (6).

Chalet Blanche

One of my favourite homes featured in this book is Chalet Blanche. It was designed by ACDF Architecture, completed in 2016, and is located in Cap-à-L’Aigle, Quebec. This house takes full advantage of the views of the forest and lake in front of the property with a beautiful overhang that juts out past the main body of the house on the second floor. Along with this, the second floor is almost entirely open with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for a seamless view from the beautiful interior to the treetops and lake outside. The home was designed to allow for the most panoramic views, keeping the bedrooms on one side of the house and opening the living spaces completely.

The photography

The photos are, by far, the stars of the show within this book. They command every page in a simplistic, stunning way. Each is high quality, clear, and completely eye-catching. 

Interestingly, these photos focus entirely on the design of the homes, yet they still hold a sense of hominess and life to them. If there are people in the photos, they appear as individuals, and they are mostly blurred and unidentifiable. This keeps the focus entirely on the place, rather than the people who live in it. 

The book itself feels incredibly classy and sharp, with full-page and double-page spreads of these architectural pieces. The homes themselves feel simultaneously of museum cleanliness and beauty, something that only the rich and famous would live in – yet, they are also full of life, which reminds us that these beautiful places are homes to regular people and families alike. 

The photography captures a pure essence of life within each place, which grabs your eye and keeps you flipping the pages, pausing to admire each place completely.

The Courtyard House

Another beautiful home in this book is the Courtyard House, designed by Atelier Sun, completed in 2016, and is in Toronto, Ontario. This house was designed especially for the limited lot space and client’s request for a large-scale house: the result is a place that is a two-storey structure that is built in a vertical village-like way. Rooms are stacked up and around the centre courtyard, hence the name of the house, which creates a unique layout. The house works for both entertaining and a sense of privacy, all the while remaining warm and welcoming throughout the design. Throughout, the architect used natural materials in neutral tones to infuse a sense of harmony in the home.

The text

Accompanying the photos in the book, there is a project profile that describes and tells the story of each place. The text about each place, however, is succinct, short, but exactly perfect for the minimalist style this book gives off. 

Each project profile details the basics of the house, the materials used for the project, and any design elements that are particularly unique for the place. Each section of text is loaded with information, while it keeps everything short and to the point. It is there to accent and enhances the photography – not the other way around.

Another fantastic addition to the text is the inclusion of the blueprints. Each project profile has one or two crisp black and white blueprints, detailing the layouts of the floors of each home. These allow for a birds-eye view of the project and design of the projects that the images occasionally cannot possibly lend. They detail exactly which parts of the house are featured in the photographs, as well as what is still hidden out of shot. They also add just a little touch of something extra to go along with the profiles and the photos.

Final thoughts

This book is an absolute knockout. From beginning to end, it is minimalist, impactful, and incredibly classy. Whether it is a house located in the depths of a Canadian mountain surrounded by snow, or in the heart of a bustling city, these homes offer a sense of complete calm and beauty for the families that return to them daily. Each is unique, built to be an architectural marvel, yet they all still have a life and heart to them. 

I highly recommend you pick up this book today to see just what kind of architectural secrets hide within the walls of homes across Canada!