Echo house by Kariouk Associates is located in Ottawa, Canada. A modern architectural moment of geometric shapes and neutral palette, the structure was originally Victorian – filled with small rooms and small windows. The name “Echo” was chosen for the home because of its dictionary meaning: “sympathetic or identical response, as to sentiments expressed; a lingering trace or effect”. This was the muse for the updated and completely modernized reinvention of the Victorian home.
The building had only a 700sqft footprint – which is tiny. So Kariouk Associates not only opened up the space but also created a design that took the building to new heights – literally. They turned it into a four-story volume with various zones projecting out into the large and open vertical volume.
Echo house overlooks the Rideau Canal so another important aspect to the renovation was to replace all the original – and small – windows. Large expanses of glazings take advantage of the stunning water views and let as much daylight as possible permeate the interior zones.
The main entrance opens up to a tiled foyer just beneath one of the many cantilevered volumes within Echo House. This lowering of ceiling height gives the entrance a sense of intimacy. Adding to the friendly nature of the foyer is the unique addition of a dog washing station on the hickory veneered wall, proving that Kariouk Associates takes every member of the family into consideration when redesigning a home.
The foyer is sandwiched between the home’s stairwell and main living space. This main living space is an open floor plan but began as four separate rooms. With the various closets removed, storage has been cleverly reintroduced in a variety of ways – including almost invisible drawers projecting into the space beneath the stairs.
The drawers are designed to be completely flush with the wood veneered wall and Robert Gruber of Gruber Woodworking made sure the visual flow was complete by ensuring the wood used for the drawer fronts were all book-matched to the wall veneer.
The living room is narrow, flanked on either side by windows and the basement stairwell. But the architects still managed to integrate a long and linear modern fireplace into the area by positioning it along the wall opposite the stairwell.
While the main stairwell to the upper levels is beside the foyer, the staircase leading to the basement is located between the living and dining zones. While walking past the staircase void, views to the home’s original stone foundation are clearly visible – paying homage to the original construction.
Above the basement staircase another cantilevered volume is directly above, held in place by white powder coated I-beams and posts.
Even the nuts and bolts used to hold the post and beam structures in place are painted white.
The kitchen cabinetry continues the wall of wood and the same sconces used in the foyer are repeated on either side of the wall oven. Additional pot lights in the black catwalk project task lighting onto the kitchen island. The lighting design by Gabriel-Mackinnon has been carefully and successfully planned to work in complete harmony with the new modern makeover.
The two projecting volumes above the kitchen are the home offices – accessed via the stairwell and then the catwalk. The view of the kitchen countertop granite from the catwalk is beautiful, truly a piece of functional art.
Although the offices are completely private to the rest of the home, they maintain a strong connection to the rest of the structure due to the use of pony walls rather then full height walls. Next to them – on the same level – is a library, which does have full height walls.
The library (or book vault) is a small U-shape of shelves filled from floor to ceiling with books. The library is an important part of the home’s final design – the architects needed to incorporate a space that would hold the owners vast collection of books.
Tubes of lighting follow the crown molding lines to keep the books well lit and a small window in the far corner keeps the space from feeling closed off.
The library window and the bold colors on the book jackets work well side by side.
The view of the Rideau Canal is mesmerizing as it peaks through the books.
The library is the volume over top of the foyer and living room.
The top level of the home is where the master suite is located, with the sleeping zone cantilevering out and over the front facade. This creates a covered canopy for the entryway.
The sleeping zone is one of the few spots in the home where color takes center stage via the bedding, the bench upholstery and the green area rug.
The master suite is located in the former attic space of the original Victorian home. But with the design focus on wide open spaces and lots of windows, this level has left its attic aesthetic in the past.
The private zones of the home are arranged along the south wall behind the three-story, hickory-veneered modesty screen. These spaces include closets, bathrooms and the stairwell.
Photography by Christian Lalonde of Photolux Studios