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Designing her own home was a quick and streamlined experience because she was her own client, Kayla Browne says. ‘I could do what I believe is good design, what I believe makes a good home and what I believe is important in a home’

Kayla Browne’s ‘Slice House’ is so named for its sliced structure in both the front and back façades.Kokemor Studio​./Handout

Kayla Browne is used to passers-by stopping in their tracks when they see her three-storey home called the “Slice House.” The Calgary-based architect enjoys standing at the large windows in her study and watching visitors snap pictures of the home she designed and shares with husband, Nick Tumu, and their two cats, Stink and Tina Turner. And when she’s looking for a private space away from views of the street, Browne retreats to the spacious, high-ceiling living room strategically nestled away from curious eyes.

“During the active hours of the day when you’re at home working, you’re in the most public exposed place in the house,” Ms. Browne explains. “And then, when it becomes evening time or even morning time, you can retreat to the more private areas of the house.”

Located in Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood, which is filled with a mix of old and new, the 2019 infill home stands out with its unique construction meant to maximize light. But it also meshes with its environment. Built with affordable materials, the hallway-less home and adjacent laneway house also prove design doesn’t need to be compromised by cost.

The couple had searched for more than a year for a new home – looking at everything from penthouses to townhouses – but couldn’t find one that fit their needs. That’s when Ms. Browne decided it was time to custom-make a home for herself, and, as an architect, she knew exactly how to achieve her vision.

Balance, for Ms. Browne, was key. Both open and private, modern and yet contextually fitting, the 3,400 sq. ft. home and 540 sq. ft. laneway home are tailored to the family’s needs and her design philosophy of wanting to feel a “connection to a place and time.”

“When I imagined this house, it’s that space,” Ms. Browne explains. “It’s that feeling of brightness and openness, and also protection and security.”

The four-bedroom and three and a half bathroom “Slice House” is so named for its sliced structure in both the front and back façades. Due to the site orientation angled just off due north, Ms. Browne wanted to create an east-facing ‘slice’ in the back and a south-facing ‘slice’ in the front to position her windows according to the sun’s movement. In the morning, sunlight floods the east-facing kitchen and master bedroom, where Ms. Browne and her partner enjoy the warmth before heading off to work.

But the sliced façade isn’t the only design element that plays with light – the board and batten cedar siding casts dynamic shadows on the house throughout the day creating vivid lines and exuding warmth along the home’s exterior.

“A big criticism of more modern-style houses is they’re austere and cold,” Ms. Browne explains. “So, I really wanted to do a wood exterior but I wanted it to also have a bit of a modern touch.” Ms. Browne says she wanted an interplay of contemporary design and warmth, creating a new home that would still fit her neighbourhood’s style.

  • Kokemor Studio​./Handout

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When Ms. Browne saw her neighbourhood was filled with homes with porches, she knew her house had to have one. Part of her design philosophy is to create “architecture that’s representative of its time” but also responds to context. She envisioned a deconstructed porch with no rail that could also serve as seating spilling out towards the street to match the aesthetic and functional context of her neighbours’ porches. The design element also laid the foundation to getting to know her neighbours better when she moved in.

“This is where community starts,” Ms. Browne explains, highlighting the importance of the porch. “It starts with people being connected to their street where people can be connected to their neighbours.”

For Ms. Browne, creating both private and gathering spaces was also vital. She says the living room is the ‘heart’ of her home, functioning as its symbolic center with all the other rooms feeding into it. Light pours into the open space from three skylights and two floor-to-ceiling windows, letting her follow the sun throughout the day and save on electricity.

“It’s serene, it’s calm.” Ms. Browne says about her favourite design element in the house.

The use of affordable materials throughout the home also helped save money without compromising function and style. In a contemporary take, Ms. Browne used cold-rolled raw black steel on the living room fireplace, the catwalk, and the kitchen backsplash that makes for a striking modern finish throughout the house. She says the steel backsplash cost her about $1,000, a steal compared to other materials. “It’s like 15 feet long. That would have been a fortune if it was made of tile or stone,” she says.

Saving precious square footage, Ms. Browne also traded in a walk-in closet for millwork closets which line the walls of the master bedroom. She says that although most of her clients request walk-in closets, she knows that the design wastes space when millwork is much more efficient. She says guests in her home often have an epiphany about the space-saving design once they see it in-person. “You don’t have to have as big of a space to get the same out of it,” Ms. Browne explains.

Another efficient element included – or rather omitted – from the Slice House were hallways. “I wanted to make sure there was no wasted space,” Ms. Browne says. And if there is a space that may seem like just a hallway, Ms. Browne would be quick to point out that it serves a double purpose like having built-in storage or a desktop running along the length of it.

Designing her own home was a quick and streamlined experience because she was her own client, Ms. Browne says. Combining her personal preference and expertise, her home is now the serene and welcoming place she was searching for.

“I didn’t have to design on someone else’s terms,” she says. “I could do what I believe is good design, what I believe makes a good home and what I believe is important in a home.”

Kokemor Studio​./Handout

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