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Perched above north Toronto’s Cedarvale ravine, this home was crafted by architect Drew Mandel for young clients – a professional couple with two small boys and a handsome collection of contemporary abstract paintings and works on paper – who told the architect that nothing but a glass box would do.

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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Front entry detail. The 3,350-square-foot home is, in Mr. Mandel’s words, ‘a glass box that came north and grew up.’

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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A view of the rear garden. Instead of being tightly locked into a unified mass, the various rectangular volumes of Mr. Mandel’s house float loosely over their site. A dark, zinc-clad oblong containing the master bedroom suite thrusts out over the pool at the rear, as if taking flight from the cluster of rooms (the children’s area) at the front of the second storey. Down below, instead of pulling away from each other, every space seems to have drifted alongside the next, coming lightly to rest around an interior wood-decked courtyard that is open to the sky.

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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Transparency is a central theme. Step inside the front door, into the passageway lined by the mud room and a washroom, and almost immediately you see everything through tall, successive walls of glass: a small lounge, the courtyard at the centre of the house and the adjacent dining room, the living room and kitchen beyond, and finally, the pool outside and the densely forested edge of the ravine. This quietly dramatic rhythm of alternating interiors and exteriors, of rooms and voids – with each component partitioned off from the next only by enormous black-framed expanses of glass – is one of the most attractive features of this beautiful house.

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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A view of the courtyard and green roof.

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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The living-room area, for instance, has a polished concrete floor, a ceiling that is over 11 feet high, and it is framed, on two opposite sides, by glass exterior walls. Without being in any way cold or harsh, this bright, exposed, hard-surfaced space is sociable, but also public. The mood changes as one walks into the kitchen. The dark ceiling drops – it’s the underside of the master bedroom volume above – and this gesture sharpens and tightens the atmosphere in this zone.

Tom Arban/Tom Arban Photography

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