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Feels Like Home

Nature, light and spaces designed for the senses, rather than a specific look, were the inspiration behind architect Peter Theodore’s dream project.

The ceiling drops to 10 feet in the spacious kitchen, designed by Theodore and installed by Miroslaw, that is ideal for entertaining with its long island and plenty of storage tucked beneath. The double oven and cooktop are Wolf, as is the grill on the patio just outside, and the built-in refrigerators and freezers are Sub-Zero. The 7-inch-thick quartz counter on the island wraps around, waterfall style, and drops down to a built-in, floating custom table to maximize efficiency and use of the space.

The 1-acre heritage oak-wooded site north of the city sat untouched for nearly 20 years. It was the stuff of dreams—a green canvas of birch, aspen and spruce trees to enjoy rain or shine, just waiting for the artful creation of a home that brings nature to its door and invites it inside. Fast-forward to the dream coming to fruition almost instantly once architect Peter Theodore, president of Camburas and Theodore Ltd., was involved. He saw the potential and felt the possibilities.

This is a house “that flows from the minute you enter it,” says Theodore, one that celebrates nature at every turn. In order to take advantage of the abundant greenery on the lot, he had to build as close to the street as the setbacks would allow, carving out precious green space in the rear. “It creates depth; a nice silhouette,” says Theodore.

The structure is totally contextual with the neighborhood, blending in with the traditional streetscape. Theodore chose a blend of custom-made bricks with a vintage look manufactured by Glen-Gery, and select Blue Label hand-split cedar shakes for the roof. He strategically centered the front frameless cedar strip doors on a bank of windows that are set into the back wall so when the doors are open, there’s an amazing view through to the north-facing landscape.

But the nod to tradition and blending in is left at the doorstep. This 5,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bath house is thoroughly modern, with lofty open spaces, soaring ceilings, windows that bathe interiors with natural light, a stunning linear fireplace, and handsome walnut cabinetry and custom pieces that add warmth and function.

A sunken soaking tub feels like part of the outdoors with a backdrop of a small walled-in courtyard clad in the same brick as the home, with clay pocket planters holding air plants that require no soil. Theodore custom-designed a slatted oak plank that extends across the 4-foot square tub to hold soaps and towels.

“I don’t think in terms of style,” says Theodore. “I think in terms of quality of space and how space relates to how it’s used. Every space here creates a feeling and an environment rather than an aesthetic. That sets a tone for how the family feels when they come home to it. Nothing more than that.”

But it is a little bit more. It is actually magical, in the way light dances around from east to west and morphs across walls all painted with Benjamin Moore #872 in a flat finish. “What’s beautiful about that is that there’s constant, even light throughout the day,” says Theodore.
Massive windows, the largest that manufacturer Pella makes at 12 feet by 12 feet, and the clerestories above offer unobstructed views while bathing the home with an abundance of natural light.

“You would never know there are three individual [clerestory] windows carved into those dormers,” says Christopher Miroslaw of Miro Builders, who worked on the project with Theodore. “Since the house is south-facing, light saturates the space. No matter where you are, you’re looking outside. It’s very peaceful.”

Throughout the interiors, there is a continuity of white plus a simplicity of materials underscored by the repeated application of walnut. The floor is 4-inch-wide select-grade white oak plank, which is stained in a silvery gray that was achieved after trial and error with hundreds of hues.

Furnishings are crisp, sleek and mostly white leather, with a few unexpected punches of butterscotch and blue.

Artistry comes into play with the fireplace, which hints at midcentury-modern style. “We wanted it to become a sculptural element,” says Theodore. The gas fireplace, with a steel trough recessed into a limestone slab, is an engineering feat with its planes that intersect and a wall that floats above a 10-foot-long cantilevered form. “Cladding the wall in walnut up two stories is a subtle way to tie it into the kitchen and its cabinetry,” says Miroslaw. “It’s very elegant, and the illusion of a floating hearth is relaxing,” he adds.

“There’s an intentional lack of walls and dividers,” says Theodore. “Everything flows yet everything is separated. There are no conventional headers. The doors are frameless. As you move through the interiors, you realize it’s one big space.”

To that end, the materials were chosen carefully, which is why walnut was used in the kitchen. The typical galley layout contains some surprises, like a full 12-foot-long recessed wall above the sink that fills the 10-foot height. Its grid look is functional, disguising a ton of storage inside. “Upper cabinetry would have felt like the walls are closing in,” explains Miroslaw.

The generous island with a thick quartz counter has built-in dining and work spaces, and glass doors expand the entertaining possibilities to the outdoors with the terrace’s built-in grill.

While a chill vibe permeates the main living spaces, the real Zen is in the master bath. Here, the architect fashioned a spa-like oasis, with a walk-in shower and soaking tub, that overlooks a brick-walled garden. The rest of the bath is contained behind a floating wall that houses the vanity. On the opposite wall, there’s storage and a built-in dressing table.

“When the snow is falling down and you’re sitting under a shower of 90-degree water, it’s pretty incredible,” says the homeowner. “There’s never a sense that you’re disconnected from the outside.”

“Design should evoke and awaken all of our senses,” says Theodore. “Trends lack permanence. The experience of feeling rejuvenated and spiritually lifted speaks to the success of a space that’s never static, always evolving, timeless.” Behold, a new awakening.


Single-family home

Lake Forest

Peter Theodore, Camburas & Theodore Ltd.

Christopher Miroslaw, Miro Builders

Bernhardt Design
Living room and music room furniture

Kitchen sinks

Brann Clay Products
Glen-Gery brick (facade, garden walls), Royal Mosa tile (porcelain tile throughout)

Dining room furniture

Vase on sofa table

Handwoven silk and wool rug

Bowl on cocktail table


Carlo Scarpa table behind sofa, Carlo Scarpa chairs

Miro Design
Kitchen and bath cabinetry

Peter Theodore
Custom pieces in European walnut

Faucets, toilets, bidet, shower fittings