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Caledon, Ont. home of Shawn McKenzie and Sydney Hoffman. Design by Trevor Wallace, Reflect Architecture.Doublespace Photography

Maybe you’d send a nautilus shell, because of that perfect Fibonacci sequence. Or, if sunsets are your thing, you’d send the best photo from your most recent vacation. If it’s your contention that the Jaguar E-Type was the most beautiful car ever produced, send an article on its creation.

Just don’t send Trevor Wallace of Reflect Architecture a photograph of your favourite building.

“We ask them for images that inspire them,” says the 41-year-old with a smile, “as long as they’re not architecture or design.” The reason, he expands, is because he’d be doing his clients – and himself – a disservice if he “regurgitates” something that’s already out there. “We want to get to know them.”

He got to know hockey broadcaster Shawn McKenzie and his partner, Sydney Hoffman, a content creator, through panoramic vacation photographs of Greece and Italy and, in particular, the stone walls that would often appear in them: some beautiful, some abandoned, and some simply there to “hold the land back.”

So, when Mr. Wallace accompanied the thirtysomething couple to their newly acquired, rough and wild, 0.7 hectare of land in rural Caledon, he was thinking of those stone walls. He was also thinking of a particular spot where there was a slight grade change, and that a house with a great wall of windows might work well there.

“He was just silent,” says Ms. Hoffman, describing Mr. Wallace as he crouched in the snow among the brambles and small cedars. “And we’re, like, ‘Do you not like it?’ In his brain he was going over the light, and these are things I didn’t even think about, so it was very fascinating; after about 10 minutes he started talking.”

And the couple so liked what they heard they provided only a few programmatic details: two small guestrooms (one for a possible first child); an ample living room with a large fireplace; a kitchen island with no stools (“We had an island with stools at our last condo and we never used them,” says Ms. Hoffman); a small banquette-style dining area but no formal dining room; and a decent-sized primary bedroom. And then they let him go back to the big city to sketch.

“And, no word of a lie, Trevor sent us the first – I don’t know if it was just the drawings, I don’t think it was the rendering, that came later – and I don’t think we changed a thing; I think I removed one door and maybe a plug,” says Ms. Hoffman.

It’s easy to understand why.

Rising ever so slightly above the land, an object seems to have stopped while in the process of unfolding; a pinwheel of delicate flower petals forever paused and transformed into solid steel and glass. Solid walls rise higher as if to protect the glass ones. Angles are origami-crisp and mullions are minimal. And, like a chameleon, the sky dictates the colour: pink sunset, pinkish house; steel grey January day, smoky grey house.

But the visitor won’t see any of that coming up the driveway. No, poke through that aperture of trees and it’s a blank building of mystery. Two slotlike openings – with welcoming lighting and wood-clad walls thank goodness – are the architectural equivalent of a curled index finger asking one to approach.

  • Mr. Wallace asks clients for images that inspire them as long as they aren't architecture or design, so that he can really get to know them. 'I don't think we changed a thing,' says Ms. Hoffman of Mr. Wallace's first designs for the house.Doublespace Photography

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“Before we had to do some value engineering these outer walls were all going to be stone,” says Mr. Wallace. “The idea that there would be these three bands of fieldstone that would be a found wall and that, in order to get into the architecture, you kind of come through these cracks.”

Step into the crack, trot down a few steps and the mystery box opens up to endless windows and light. And, in the living room and primary bedroom a trompe l’oeil has been achieved: the floor-to-ceiling windows seem to go further down than the floor and higher up than the ceiling. How? A tiny trough between the floor and the window-wall (big enough for the dogs to use) hides the heat registers and, above, another trough (which could contain curtain hardware but isn’t really needed here) before a slightly dropped ceiling that still contains “the required assemblies … to get the really good R-values that we were looking to achieve.”

And, to make life easier for the inhabitants of this 1,700-square-foot, C-shaped jewel box (and so it doesn’t become a heat box the glass walls all face north), each of its three sections has a defined role. The top of the C is the living room, where the highlight is a massive fireplace with an equally impressive hearth of local, greenish granite where Gary (one of the dogs) loves to warm himself. To the right of the fireplace is a wall of log storage, with metal frame still to come.

The middle of the C is the kitchen. Here, all eyes will land on the 18-foot-long island: “There were a few gasps when we told them how long the island would be,” Mr. Wallace says with a laugh.

“Yes,” agrees Ms. Hoffman with a laugh. “But I cook so much now that I’m so grateful.”

Yet, even with its busy, swirly stone cladding (“Muskoka Tides” in a leathered finish) the minimalism of the Scavolini cabinets allows it to breathe, and the tangible connection to the outdoors – the glass ‘wall’ here slides open to connect the kitchen to sunshine and birdsong – makes it seem as if a friendly rock just pushed up through the kitchen floor to begin a new life.

The bottom of the C is the private stuff: primary bedroom, which is quite small, walk-in closet, and the generous bathroom, which connects to a sheltered-and-treed yoga deck for Ms. Hoffman (which might also sport a couple of chairs so Mr. McKenzie can use it too, she says, but since the couple only moved in this past autumn, they haven’t purchased any yet).

For the price of a fixer-upper in Toronto – with a to-the-studs renovation – here is a private, thoughtful retreat that is a delight to behold. For Mr. McKenzie, who travels constantly for work, it’s a 45-minute drive to the airport; for Ms. Hoffman, who enjoys hiking and cross-country skiing, it’s paradise found.

And for Mr. Wallace? A picture-perfect building and a job very, very well done.

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