A totem can be described as an object with a strong significance that serves as an emblem for a group or a family. Similarly, the Totem House in Toronto is a perfect representation of its owners — world travellers and art collectors — Robert and John. With an astute sense of absolute minimalism and a modern interpretation of his clients’ wants and needs, Reza Aliabadi of Atelier Rzlbd designed this dream house as a direct extension of their passion for the extraordinary and devotion to the arts.
While there’s no doubt that this 1600 square foot charcoal brick mass stands out amongst the more traditional family homes that surround it, it does look a little on the miniature side from the outside looking in. However, the interior is anything but cramped and is in fact a beautiful, airy, wide open space.
The main centrepiece of the home (and its namesake) is a totem or ‘tower’ of sorts that acts as a vertical gallery for Robert and John’s various artistic souvenirs. The couple’s artwork is displayed in a series of nooks and crannies built into the totem which is encompassed by an open staircase. Because the home has a relatively open concept, this tribute to the owners’ many travels can be seen from a variety of angles and from one floor to the next, for that added touch of dynamism. At the apex of the totem is a skylight where sunlight illuminates the tower and floods the rest of the house. At night, specially placed LED lights are installed within each niche to ignite each piece.
While the totem is definitely the focal point, this home is not without other merits. Standout features include: an urban kitchen with a simple gas burner and cook-top, all other appliances concealed behind white floor-to-ceiling cabinetry; a bedroom masterfully merged with the en suite bathroom, the floor, a clever mix of hardwood and marble tiles (to identify wet zones); a free-standing tub with a direct view to the courtyard; the stark white decor with neutral accents and wooden details.
Built in a series of 10′ x 10′ squares, this house has a rigidly geometric aesthetic with a contemporary twist. Combined with the owners’ cherished artwork, the Totem House is an incredibly unique living space.
Story by Dayana Cadet, CITYGUIDE | KA MAGAZINE