Toronto’s Atelier Kastelic Buffey designed an elegant open-plan getaway for a ski-fanatical family with a taste for contemporary art.
A glissadeis a manoeuvre deployed in skiing and mountaineering to control a breakneck plunge down a steep, snowy alpine slope. It’s an apt name to give a house like Maison Glissade, a rigorously elegant chalet in Collingwood, one of Ontario’s most popular ski areas, just an hour’s drive north of Toronto. Designed by Robert Kastelic and Kelly Buffey of Atelier Kastelic Buffey, the chalet is set almost at the base of a ski run. Standing in the spacious second floor, which combines a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and an office nook, all within a single sweep, one can see through the pitched windows to the blurred figures of skiers bounding down the hill, then drifting back up on the lift.
It was while working at KPMB Architects in Toronto that Kastelic and Buffey met, and in 2004 they formed AKB. Now married, the couple have brought together their respective strengths in materials, engineering and interior design to collaborate on a number of second-home residential projects, including three chalets in the Collingwood area.
Like many of these projects, Maison Glissade is simple and intimate. Designed for a family of serious skiers, it serves as a weekend retreat away from hectic city life. “We wanted a place near the hill where we could all be together,” says one of the owners, “a place that is playful, a place to relax.” AKB responded by creating a ground floor that’s both welcoming and serviceable. Just past the entrance is a mud room for storing ski equipment, with three modest bedrooms, two bathrooms and, at the back, a larger master bedroom with windows that open onto a field. While comfortable, these are not rooms to linger in, reading for hours, but to crash in for a good night’s sleep after a day on the slopes. Otherwise, one spends time up on the second floor, the heart of the house.
Reached by a stairway up the chalet’s west side, the second floor is a relaxing, gallery-like space, where a large photograph of Georgian Bay’s Sans Souci harbour by Canadian artist Scott McFarland dominates the main room’s wall. The family’s preference for a simple, open space corresponded exactly with Kastelic and Buffey’s own taste for paring things down to essentials. “We prefer to avoid puncturing the ceiling with pot lights and place them strategically, relying on accent lighting – pendants – to provide atmosphere,” says Buffey. “Whenever possible, we also avoid applying handles to millwork; and hardware on swing and sliding doors is kept as discreet as possible.”
A warm counterpoint to the white walls and pitched ceiling comes in the form of pale oak flooring. And the kitchen, defined by a long Corian counter, floats just beyond the room’s midpoint, providing ample space for cooking and serving, with the office nook tucked in behind. The room’s centrepiece, however, is the dining table, which seats 12. Designed by Buffey and fashioned out of reclaimed hemlock, it’s flanked by two rows of Wishbone chairs by Hans J. Wegner. In a room with so many flawless surfaces and symmetries, the table’s knots and cracks and warping grain exude tactile sensuality, while the vibrant orange of the chairs adds a dash of colour.
With such spectacular views all around, one would think that the house would look outward, but its principal strength is its inward volume. “Luxury doesn’t just have to be material,” Buffey points out. “There is a luxury of space, of line, of shadow and, of course, light.” Streaming in from all sides, it is the light that gives Maison Glissade a translucent presence.
Clarity is everything for AKB. But what is perhaps more important is how it feels to be within the space. One of the happy owners sums it up this way: “I sit in this place, and it feels better than a dream.”