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'Caterpillar House,' in Mississauga, Ont.Riley Snelling/Handout

Homeowner John David is pointing to his poured concrete foundation, as it’s the only piece of the original Clarkson Village house that was retained, when a blur of golden fur catches his eye.

“Oh, there’s a coywolf-coyote running through there,” he says.

“There” is two yards over, which is too close for architect Gloria Apostolou’s comfort: “I would be terrified if that was in my backyard,” she says, shuddering.

The coyote, in absolutely no hurry, ponders our little group for a few seconds before trotting away. Needless to say, the conversation about John and Erika David’s charred and textured shou sugi ban siding – ”I just love it when the sun shines, the play of light and shadow,” says Ms. David – is hurriedly brought inside.

It’s fitting that a little piece of four-legged nature happened by. Not only does the Davids’ property abut a protected City of Mississauga woodlot, nature, say all involved, inspired the overall design. It’s evident in the kitchen, where forest-green stained cabinets and a textured porcelain countertop seem to pull in the soon-to-be verdant view that’s framed by immense sliding doors.

  • The Caterpillar HouseRiley Snelling/Handout

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“Bringing the outside in, having them speak to one another,” confirms Ms. David.

“I think green is such an easy colour to bring into the house,” adds Ms. Apostolou of Post Architecture. “If you’re going to pick a colour for the interior it’s always going to echo somewhere.”

Long clerestory windows in the living area and even more in the bathrooms also contribute to the nature-fest. In the front carport and beside the backyard deck, perforated metal screens allow for filtered light to stream through but also, says Ms. David, “look like the veining on a leaf.

“You know in the autumn when leaves fall and the bugs have had their way?”

The bright 1,700-square-foot house – which is actually smaller than what was torn down – bears some resemblance to the sunshiny 1950s and 60s vacation homes found in architecturally progressive places such as Palm Springs, Calif. And, as a cheeky nod to the ones with zoomy butterfly roofs (architect William Krisel did many), Ms. Apostolou has christened this, with its solo wing (or shed roof), “Caterpillar House.” Since the Davids are now mostly empty-nesters (two of three kids have flown the coop) and close to retirement age, a breezy Palm Springs-style home seemed like the right fit since they, too, are about to morph into a new life.

A mostly open-concept main-floor features just one chunky, battleship grey wall/curio shelf to divide dining from living. Beside it is a wood-burning Stûv stove that can rotate to face either room. “I love these types of dividers that you can walk around, and they offer a backdrop to that space, but they don’t close it off,” Ms. Apostolou says.

Visitors entering via the front door will subconsciously contemplate the natural world as they confront a ribbed, golden-wood coat closet and, underfoot, printed porcelain tile resembling sand under the microscope. A trip to the powder room might bring to mind childhood tadpole-collecting trips at the local creek as eyes pause on the big wall of leafy green tile or the speckled terrazzo-look floor. Even the couple’s art collection seems to favour the pastoral: a Hereford cow over here; a red fox there; horses in a field; or a close up of wildflowers (a few pieces of art do reflect Mr. David’s passion, cycling).

Even sunshine plays a role. Twenty-eight solar panels on the roof silently collect energy and help with the couple’s household bills: “In the peak summer months it almost fully offsets our electricity use – almost,” laughs Mr. David.

The principal bedroom is on the main floor (rather than the fully finished basement), doorways throughout are wider than average, and the front steps are also wide to accommodate the four legs of a walker: “We’re doing this adventure a little late in life, so I wanted to make sure that I could basically go from this house to the funeral home,” Ms. David says. “John hates that I talk about this but we are aging and I want to maximize how long I can stay in this house.”

Perhaps that’s why early plans calling for a “skinny farmhouse” with a gabled roof and a balconied second floor were scrapped. Who needs two floors when there’re only two or three people knocking about? Also, with a backyard beside a woodlot and a wide deck to monitor users of Ms. David’s pollinator garden, who’d want to stay inside? (When they do stay in during colder months, the new construction means their bills are minimal; in 2022, they paid $1,100 for gas and $1,000 on electricity).

The rear of the house, with its jutting roof overhang to shelter part of the deck, is just as stunning as the front, since Ms. David “wanted the house and the yard, the light to speak to one another. … I think so often people plop the home down on a lot and they don’t think of the surrounding area. … I want it to be about the entire property.”

And speaking of the property, the Japanese have a concept called shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing.” Time spent in nature, it’s believed, has multiple benefits, from decreasing blood pressure and boosting the immune system to focusing the mind and lowering anxiety levels. With Caterpillar House, the Davids can indulge in a restorative nature bath whether inside or out.

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