Don Mills House

Toronto, Ontario

Don Mills Ravine Home serves as a “cottage in the city” for a couple that loves to host and entertain. The generous lot falls away to a forested ravine, and the design takes full advantage of the private 5,000 sq. ft. urban oasis. Public spaces make up the length of the rear side of the house with expansive views and access to the backyard, pool, and terraces.

Development of the program and layout was driven by the owners’ desire to host large events as well as smaller groups of guests, while maintaining the intimacy of a single-family home from day to day. Amenities include an outdoor bar served from the kitchen, a backyard pizza oven and barbecue area, a changeroom and bathroom accessed via the lower level walkout for pool users, a games room on the uppermost floor (with a treetop view), a wing of guest rooms at the second level, and a roof deck with gas fireplace.

The primary spaces are generous, with the home organized around a two-storey living room area with a double-height fireplace and curtain wall that connects the core of the building to the lush backyard and pool, which sweeps toward the ravine.

The open-tread steel and wood staircase allows natural light to penetrate from the third floor into the basement level; and at the second floor, this forms part of a bridge that divides the master bedroom suite from the guest rooms. A seamless connection to outdoors is provided on all floors including the basement with a stepped planter walkout. Large aluminum-clad operable windows in Douglas fir, a timber curtain wall, and sliding doors with glass guards act as Juliet balconies.

Ledgerock veneer wraps around the main floor space and elevator core, and transitions from indoors to outdoors as a feature wall in the dining room. Flat lock and standing seam-metal panels clad the upper spaces and cover integrated rainwater leaders. Significant overhangs with fir soffits lessen solar heat gain on the large expanses of glass.

The material palette was inspired by a rocky beach cottage, with soft greens, blues and greys. Oak, walnut, fir, zinc and stone compose the natural-material finishes and provide warmth and texture in contemporary spaces. Wide-plank white oak floors overlay hydronic radiant flooring.


  • Integration with the natural assets of site and terrain
  • Site-specific view and vista optimization
  • Natural daylighting
  • High-performance envelope design
  • Radiant heating
  • Heat recovery ventilation
  • Solar electric (photovoltaic or PV systems)
  • Low energy lighting and appliances (LED, CFL lighting and ENERGY STAR appliances)

Natural light is abundant due to the large windows, shallow building spaces, and generous building setbacks, with minimal artificial light required during the day in the main areas. The completed home is a warm and inviting space that connects its users to a lush urban oasis, and provides respite from the stresses of city life.