BY NESSA PULLMAN | PHOTOS BY JOSHUA LAWRENCE
Two professional kitchen designers — a husband and wife duo — build their architectural dream home.
When Atarah Humphreys and Felipe Prado met in Italy, she was attending design school; she was from Canada and he was from Mexico. After graduation, Prado, an industrial designer, brought Humphreys to Mexico, where they opened up a kitchen design studio together. After their move to Vancouver Island — where they set down roots and started a family — Humphreys continued to share her expertise as a designer at Urbana Kitchens.
When their expanding young family outgrew their house, the husband and wife design-duo decided to put their artistry to use and custom-build an architectural home of their own. While they had the design portion mastered, finding the right build team who could match their appetite for meaningful design was a challenge — until they met Ryan Goodman and Matthew Jardine of Aryze Developments.
“Like us, they truly appreciate high-quality design,” says Jardine, partner at Aryze. “It connected us instantly.”
Being designers, the homeowners knew exactly what they wanted going into this.
“The kitchen had to be designed first,” says Humphreys. “The rest of the house was just going to have to fit around that!”
From their experience in the industry, functionality was placed at the top of the priority list. From creating an effective work-triangle in the preparation area to storage for the kids’ lunch bags, Humphreys thought of it all. Having their young children in mind, Humphreys wanted to keep the materials in this kitchen trendy yet transparent. Durable quartz countertops with waterfall edges allow for easy cleanup from the kids’ messes. Staying away from grout lines or textured materials, a solid panel of back-painted glass was used on the backsplash for simple upkeep. The slab-style cabinets are medium-density fibreboard (MDF) with integrated aluminum channels as the handles on the lower half to prevent snags and as a precaution while the kids play. To cultivate a festive Mexican influence into the space, the duo custom-designed angular shelving units in the island and coffee area using a perforated metal. These units act as effective storage while adding playful additions that stand out against the minimalist kitchen. Humphreys worked primarily on the space-planning while her husband added in the eccentric touches to make this a true architectural home.
“Felipe is the dreamer and I’m the realistic one,” says Humphreys with a laugh. “So we make a good team that way.”
During a visit to the Aryze office, Atarah Humphreys took notice of a lighting feature the team had created using LED insets and intense angles. While designing the custom hood fan for above the stovetop, Humphreys asked Aryze to recreate a similar design by integrating the same lighting into the structure. Originally Humphreys and her husband, Felipe Prado, were not sure they wanted a hood fan, but this appliance (that doubles as a light fixture) is now one of their favourite pieces in the home. The rest of the lighting is kept simple and efficient to maintain the minimalist approach. Häfele LED Mini Puck lights are placed underneath the cabinets for task efficiency, while white track lights are suspended from the exposed beams in the ceiling, giving an industrial appearance.
During the homeowners’ years living in Mexico, they were largely inspired by the culture’s minimalistic design sense.
“Mexico is known for its traditional and colourful esthetic,” says Humphreys. “But they also have this modern, cutting-edge design that’s really striking.”
To make the main living area appear larger, the owners maximized unused space by inputting a double-height ceiling above the living room, which also allows exposure to the floating metal staircase and overhead walkway on the north-facing wall.
The duo used simple essentials mixed with diverse design elements, such as texture, acute angles and raw materials to create the home’s striking appearance. They played around with these principles to produce different effects throughout the home. A floating staircase in the dining room was built with the same perforated metal used in the kitchen’s storage units.
“I fell in love with this material,” says Humphreys. “Because when the sun hits it, the shadows create all these beautiful patterns.”
To keep the space from looking too constrained, the pair added pops of vibrant colour in artwork and select vintage décor collected from their past.
“The foundation is simple in design,” says Humphreys. “But it’s the play of materials, light and shadow that adds life.”
Design + Life
“Creating an architectural home on a tight budget can be tricky,” says Ryan Goodman, partner at Aryze. “But in this project, the homeowners found a way to use it to their benefit.”
The cement foundation on the floors were given a polish and left uncovered for an unrefined and textured look. Hydronic in-floor heat systems were installed to add warmth to the bare material. The ceiling was left exposed, revealing the roof’s structural joists for an industrial feel. The build team applied the home’s insulation to the exterior of the roof (a term called outsulation), to lock in the heat. Not only did these methods create a unique look — it also saved them on material costs in flooring and drywall. With a combination of in-floor heating, thoughtful insulation application and large south-facing windows, there is no need for traditional heating systems on the main floor.
“Our new house is two-and-a-half sizes bigger yet it’s cheaper to maintain,” Humphreys says.
The goal for a high-functioning home on a tight budget meant that the homeowners and trades involved had to work collaboratively on all assignments.
“This house is a tribute to the homeowners,” Jardine says. “Their passion for design and life bleeds out of them and into this space. The home speaks to who they are as people, and that’s important in an architectural home.”