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Home of Dr. Mark Unger and Linda Friis Petersen in Mulmur, Ont. Design by architect Wanda Ely.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

We’ve all seen them. So-called “OCD triggering” videos that feature sadistic folk haphazardly cutting pie or cake in non-geometric ways, ne’er-do-wells squeezing toothpaste tubes from the middle, or a window-gone-rogue that spoils an otherwise perfectly mathematical wall composition.

While there are equally soothing antidotes to be found online, might I suggest soothing one’s nerves with Sommerhus instead?

Recently completed by architect Wanda Ely for Dr. Mark Unger and Linda Friis Petersen, this holiday home in Mulmur, Ontario is an architectural balm of with crisp lines, creamy-white high ceilings, the yin and yang of black-and-white, precise millwork, rigorously planned moments, and the odd pop of colour.

And symmetry, says Ms. Ely. “I like the idea of two buildings that are farm-like [and] exactly the same size … one is the public, one is the sleeping/family wing, and then they’re joined by a little glassy link, and then they all join [to] one really big deck.”

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

The glass link between buildings.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

Today, that deck is covered in deep snow. When a visitor’s car trundles up the long, curved driveway, it’s the sight of two black art-objects hovering over an endless white landscape that greet the eye. The experience is not unlike encountering Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms minutes after a snowfall. It’s magical.

Because this was family land – Dr. Unger’s parents bought 80 hectares a long time ago – and Dr. Unger and Ms. Petersen were gifted with 18 hectares for their own use, much thought went into how to create that magic. To wit, after dismissing a site much closer to a stand of trees (for the diminished light and increased insects) and settling on a little rise in an open field of short grasses, the two house-forms and their windows could be positioned, literally, in any direction.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

Windows were positioned with views in mind.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

“This was such an interesting experience for me,” says Ms. Ely. “We stood [on site] and kind of rotated the foundation until we thought, ‘you know what, we’re getting a perfect view of this perfect tree,’ and that’s not something you can do in our semi-detached, downtown, 25- by 60-foot lots.”

“That’s something we see a lot in Denmark,” adds Dr. Unger, who, with his Danish wife, lived in Denmark for a while. “These beautiful – they’re called Sommerhus – summer houses, nestled in fields … we always notice how well they use light, and how big a difference that makes in your feeling of the space.”

And how does one feel here? Calm is the first word that comes to mind. The high, peaked ceiling in the public wing is immediately reassuring, domestic, and unfussy. There is the warmth of wood underfoot (and it is warm to the touch as the home is heated via radiant floors). The kitchen does away with uppers so that the (ordered) clutter of life is in evidence; because this is a house that co-exists with nature, half of the backsplash is window. The black line of lower kitchen cabinets leapfrogs past a long window to become a black, metal box that contains the fireplace.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

The kitchen does away with uppers.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

And because it’s reassuring, ritualistic, and primal, it’s a wood-burning fireplace. “You can’t roast a marshmallow on a gas fireplace, right?” Dr. Unger quips.

The mullion-free corner window is a little bit of trompe l’oeil – what’s holding the house up there? – and it combines with two others and a glass door to create a window-wall that invites a zillion photons inside. A walk past the dining table and its Ely-designed banquette (a “part of my dream,” says Ms. Petersen) and into the glassy link to the other wing causes yet another photon-shower before exploring the coziness of the bedrooms.

The dining table and its Ely-designed banquette.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

While the principle bedroom, the children’s bedrooms and the bathrooms are not huge, they all benefit from the same simple material palette, white walls, floating vanities, and a pop of colour via light fixtures or tile. In the principal bedroom’s en suite, royal blue tile extends from the sink right into the walk-in shower; because that tile is set into a niche, a special piece of machinery had to be employed to cut a bump-out into the shower’s glass wall.

Royal blue tile in the principal bedroom's en suite.Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

Is it too much to consider one little glass-seam as unsightly? Maybe, but it’s those sniggly little, individual things that really good architects obsess over, that, once there are a thousand of them, combine to produce great architecture. Here, at Sommerhus, changes in floor finishes are undetectable to the foot, the position of a lighting fixture – or the switch that controls it – is at exactly the right height, and metalwork around the fireplace and on the building’s exterior is thin, precise, and geometric. And speaking of geometric, exterior cladding is vertical on top, and then switches to horizontal at window-height. Power lines have been buried to keep the view pristine.

“The more things you customize, the more time it takes,” says Ms. Ely, simply.

To keep things calm during the build itself, Ms. Ely or her project architect, Brie Gillespie, would usually bring just three samples for their clients to choose from, whether that be tile, door handles, plumbing fixtures, or even a chair. Because, as anyone who’s ever browsed online can attest, there is so much choice out there it can overwhelm to the point of paralysis.

No paralysis here, just running free: because Dr. Unger’s parents are just a short walk away, and most of his siblings have built here too, this little piece of Dufferin County is a safe, fun, and calming place that generations can (and do) enjoy.

“It’s nice for my parents that we still come under their roof,” Dr. Unger finishes. “Sometimes people are here, and the kids are all here and the cousins are here, and sometimes we’re in somebody else’s place making a mess.”

A mess that I’ll bet probably doesn’t last very long.

Scott Norsworthy/Scott Norsworthy

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