Fraser House

Tinkering With An Icon

Renovating the Ron Thom designed Frazer House presented a daunting task.

To tinker with a Canadian architectural icon seemed sacrilegious. The house is pure sculpture. Once emptied of its furnishings it became clear that the house was happiest unoccupied; unfortunately this was not an option.

The renovation was extensive. The program of the house was turned upside down. The master bedroom and ensuite on the upper floor gave way to a library and a private office. Downstairs, a rec room and three small bedrooms were converted to a new master suite with a dressing room and guest room. All of the 1960’s bathrooms and the kitchen were gutted and replaced with all of the interiors redesigned.

Complimenting An Already Rich Material Palette

The material palette of the house consisted of brick, cork, mahogany and clear western red cedar. The cedar had gone a deep brown over the years and contributed to the dark feeling in the home.

All of the interior wood work was refinished by hand. To compliment and enhance the palette a host of natural materials were added. Jade slate, sisal, natural wool carpet, pear wood, purple heart, maple, birch, brass, stainless steel and etched glass were utilized throughout the house. The limited use of mahogany on the stairs was expanded upon to include floors, cabinetry and fixtures.

Staying True To The Original

The electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems were completely overhauled and in the case of lighting, was reworked from scratch. At night the home was very dark as all of the brown surfaces sucked up available light. Today, the home glows; light sources are carefully tucked away from view so that light emanates from the structure.

Conventional furniture would not fit into the home primarily because there are no right angled corners. Remaining true to the modernist style, built in furniture was used extensively. The built-ins became extensions of the architecture and were intended to be purposeful by design.

Nothing of the original house was left, however the result is pleasing and true to the original. The owners day-to-day living is not compromised by the architecture nor is the architecture compromised by their inhabitance.


Altius Project Team Architecture

  • Architecture: Cathy Garrido
  • Architecture: Graham Smith
  • Architecture: Trevor McIvor