Just 15 feet separate the back end of Clinton Cuddington’s home and the laneway studio at the end of his property. The distance was intentional – and mandated by Vancouver building and zoning codes – creating the effect of a protected outdoor sanctum, as you might find in an Italian courtyard house. “You go through the door and there’s this inner world,” he says.
Cuddington is an architect, and he and his partner, : Piers Cunnington – both of Measured Architecture – designed Rough House. The home’s double entendre name refers to the quality of materials used and the playful roughhousing of its creators and collaborators. In creating the space, they used the Japanese principle of shakkei, or borrowed scenery: the tradition of providing visual access to spatial expanses and distant landscapes. For Cuddington, this technique is preferable to incorporating a diminished version of nature, such as a manicured lawn.
Rough House forgoes the usual backyard for a yellow cedar deck, left to grey naturally, and a verdant green wall of semi-arid grasses and indigenous ferns – chosen to do well in Vancouver’s “semi-rainforest environment,” says Cuddington – growing on and atop the laneway studio. “Really, what people want is to gaze onto a garden,” he says, and that gaze is constantly rewarded with greenery that changes, providing visual interest through the seasons.
When the warmer months arrive, the outdoor space becomes more than just a view. The five-panel sliding door pushes into a side wall cavity, opening interior to exterior, “so it not only reads as one space,” says Cuddington, “but it also operates as one microclimate. We get hummingbirds in the house.” Come May, whimsical flying creatures aside, those windows stay open about 50 per cent of the time, he says.
Furnishings, likewise, move inside and out. Eames wire chairs are robust enough to do double duty. “We have a fleet of those vintage chairs that we drag out,” Cuddington says. “But also, the way in which we built the deck eliminates the need for a lot of furniture.” Twenty inches below the main floor of the house and two feet off the ground, the deck provides plenty of edges that serve as impromptu seating. A built-in fire pit is located strategically to allow views onto the flame from inside. Cuddington prefers this to an indoor gas fireplace, which doesn’t feel or smell like a wood-burning fire. “That’s our hearth,” he says.
Measured Architecture has developed a reputation for smart laneway housing solutions, exemplified through Rough House. The studio at the rear of the property means the main house can have a smaller footprint while the former can change functions over time. Today’s home studio is tomorrow’s ensuite/on-site apartment for a boomerang kid (Cuddington and his wife have two children, 16 and 18). “It may or may not be a place where we nudge someone out of the nest, but they stay at the trunk of the tree,” he says. Later still, it could be repurposed for an elderly parent. “We think very myopically as a species and try and solve our momentary problems, but we don’t think about how to be graceful over time,” he says.
Rough House is meant to last, from the charred carbonized cypress lumber that makes up the exterior façade to the way the space functions. “This house, I think, can hopefully make it a hundred years,” Cuddington says . But for now, at this particular moment, he’s enjoying the sounds emanating from the below-deck nautical speakers, which point up and away from the neighbours, “so we can listen to David Bowie late into the night,” he says.
Get the look
Gufram Pratone Design garden sculpture and lounger, US$16,170 at Connox (connox.com).
Herman Miller Eames wire chair outdoor, $938 at Gabriel Ross (grshop.com).
Tureen steel charcoal fire pit, $789.99 at Wayfair (wayfair.ca).
Wally eco chite, $25.66 at WallyGro (ca.wallygro.com).
Varvunraita green cushion cover, $65 at Marimekko Vancouver (marimekkovancouver.com).
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