Homes

GREAT SPACE: Outdoor elegance at Michael Potter’s Rockcliffe residence

By SARAH BROWN

 

Facing page: The main house (a portion of which is visible in the top right corner of the photograph) is centred around two original stone barns that were renovated and incorporated into one larger design. The new section is an indoor-outdoor space connected to the house by a glass corridor. Photo by Doublespace Photography.
The main house (a portion of which is visible in the top right corner of the photograph) is centred around two original stone barns that were renovated and incorporated into one larger design. The new section is an indoor-outdoor space connected to the house by a glass corridor. Photo by Doublespace Photography.

As the moon rises on a warm summer’s night, the patio is illuminated and the pool glows, setting the stage for an evening of lively conversation and fine food. Clean, crisp, and cool, this expansive addition to Michael Potter’s Rockcliffe residence takes on a number of roles — casual space for his daughters, alfresco dining area, guest house, and spa. The technology entrepreneur teamed up with architect Barry Hobin to envision an informal patio and pool area overlooked by two outbuildings whose exteriors complement the two renovated stone stables that form the core of his original house (one of those stables is shown on the right side of the moonlit photo).

“We didn’t want to mimic the original house directly,” explains Hobin, “but we knew we wanted to match the spirit of those buildings.” The resulting L-shaped extension sees a glass-and-stone walkway connecting the main house with the outbuildings. The palette for the two buildings is one of stone and copper, the outer walls designed with irregular stonework similar in look to that of the original house. The copper roofs will remain a deep mahogany colour for years before they start to take on a green patina. “We wanted to create the sense that the owner ‘found’ these outbuildings and renovated them into what you see now — very modern but also comfortable,” says Hobin.

The main floor of the larger building includes a casual kitchen anchored at the far end by a stone fireplace. Stone floors, wood finishes, and unadorned walls lend an informal feel to a room that blurs the indoor-outdoor divide. It’s a kitchen that’s intended to function as an extended covered porch, the doors folding back to allow the family to go from table to poolside. The fireplace, meanwhile, allows Potter to extend the outdoor season: picture the doors thrown open for a reception on a brisk fall evening, guests mingling on the patio before warming up by the fire.

A fitness room and a cedar-lined spa, also with doors that open to the patio, grace the ground floor of the second building. While the main level has an air of simplicity, that sensibility takes a subtle shift at the stairwell that links the buildings. Here, wooden stairs lead upwards to the luxe second floor and two compact guest suites, each with its own private terrace overlooking the pool area.

 Facing out over the pool, the second level of each building houses a compact guest suite with a sunny terrace. In the building to the left, a kitchen with a fireplace functions like a covered porch, the doors folding back to allow access to the patio. In the building to the right, there is a workout area and a spa room. The stonework and copper roofs complement the original home but don’t mimic it. “We wanted to give the sense that the owner ‘found’ these outbuildings and renovated them into what you see now,” says Hobin. Photo by Doublespace Photography.
Facing out over the pool, the second level of each building houses a compact guest suite with a sunny terrace. Photo by Doublespace Photography.

 

Much of the beauty of this addition can be traced back to the time expended in making it just right. Because Potter had an existing house, the construction wasn’t too disruptive and deadlines could be reasonably elastic. Renovations took place over a period of 18 months, with everything ready to go for the summer of 2013. “Obviously, as soon as it was done, we knew it would get used, but we also had the luxury of time to really think about the design and work through things,” says Hobin.

Yes, he wanted plenty of space to relax, but Potter’s main motivation for the addition was his three daughters. Although the original house is very elegant and formal, this new section is beautifully simple while still including spaces — like the stone wall at the end of the glass corridor — for Potter to display a favourite painting from his collection. Here, his girls can hang out, swim, or read under a shady sun shelter. Dirty feet are welcome during the day; at night, the informal space can be quickly transformed for a poolside fund-raising event or an intimate dinner party. The indoor and outdoor elements merge, simply and naturally.

Click on the thumbnails for a slideshow of images from the Potter residence.