A modern home emerges from the rock.
When architects Niall Savage and Rayleen Hill planned the design of this home, on a point of land near Hubbards, NS, they were careful to make the distinction between building “on the land” and “of the land.”
Deep Rock House—a home that appears to emerge out of the surrounding batholithic rock—was certainly built “of the land.” The name of the property is a nod to that geology (the Greek bathos meaning “depth” and lithos, “rock”).
Hill points out that there are two distinct land forms where the home is situated—the large “whalesbacks,” or curved hills of granite, and the “erratics,” which refers to the large, gravity-defying boulders left on the land by receding glaciers. (These are also the forms of the iconic Peggy’s Cove landscape outside Halifax.)
Those natural elements inform components of the home’s design. The lower level is a concrete base. Hard and rugged like the landscape itself, it emerges as if the batholithic rock has bubbled up from the land in which it sits. The concrete floors have white dye and blue stone aggregate added—a nod to the granitic rock of the area.
The upper floor is a light cedar box that settles down onto the concrete, much like the thin layer of organic matter that sweeps over the rugged terrain.
The form of the house itself is strong and unadorned. The architects and the homeowners, Bill and Kathy Rose, agreed that trim, ornament or other detailing would only detract from the views of the land and the vibrant sea.
With the exception of the master bedroom, the upper floor is open concept—which allows the homeowners to perch high and enjoy the natural light and panoramic ocean views.
The lower level features a large office, a media room and guest rooms that have their own washroom, laundry and kitchenette.
An important design consideration for people who love to entertain and host overnight gatherings is how to make a home that works well for themselves, but that is also able to accommodate visitors. The Deep Rock House strikes that balance beautifully with a design that can accommodate a crowd, yet is still cozy enough to feel comfortable and secure once the party is over.
The interior of the home is punctuated by a dramatic 63-foot (19-metre) countertop that runs along the entire back wall of the house. This surface does quadruple duty, morphing from master bath countertop to laundry folding table, to the main kitchen and pantry counter, and then to an office desktop. Pocket doors allow each area to be closed off when required. Most of the countertop underlines large windows that span to the ceiling.
Ten-foot (3-metre) ceilings in the main living and dining area lend a sense of volume to the space. Some of the concrete runs up to the second storey at the east side of the living room, grounding and anchoring the living room. This is where the remarkable Rumford fireplace appears. (Rumford fireplaces date back to the late 1700s, and are tall and shallow to reflect more heat.) A bench positioned just in front of the fireplace allows the homeowners to enjoy this concrete hearth up close.
The architects have incorporated passive solar heating—a must, they say, in any good design. The Deep Rock House has a south-facing overhang over the large, lower level windows; this allows the sun to penetrate into the rooms in the winter, while summer sun is blocked.
Upstairs, a shared screen porch, surrounded on three sides by the living room, dining room, and master bedroom, also acts as another opportunity to block summer sun inside the home, while allowing winter sun to penetrate the upper floor. Large screen openings on either side of the house allow the ocean breeze to flow through.
The 3,350-square-foot house is outfitted with a heat pump that allows for quick heating of the building until the warmth from the hydronic (water) heating in the floors kicks in. Because the property has a fairly low water table, a large cistern in the mechanical room collects rainwater from the roof, which is then used for grey-water purposes like flushing toilets and watering outdoor plants. Two solar panels on the roof help heat water.
Rayleen Hill says Deep Rock House speaks volumes about the importance of focusing on the lifestyle of the owners and working in conjunction with the environment. The design allows Bill and Kathy to experience the land, sea and sky unencumbered.