The Charcoal House, by Atelier Rzlbd.

A little over a year ago, my wife and I moved into our new house which is by most standards, sized at a modest 1500 square feet of finished living space. I say that because the average home in America these days reigns in at about 3000 square feet. Part of our decision was based on the idea of reducing our footprint, and minimizing what we own. If you come to our house, like most people you are probably going to ask, “Where is all your stuff”. The other half of the decision was based on the desire to live in a modern architect designed house. After moving into Modular 4, I set up a series of web feeds around modern architecture in North America, and this morning when I was going through them on my iPad, I came across this remarkable structure located in Toronto Canada.

The Charcoal House by Atelier Rzlbd:

This modern single-family residence presents a very bold modern facade of manganese brick, carried right up to a parapet wall concealing the rooftop terrace. The windows pushed through the South face of the structure to allow for solar gain and help reduce heating costs in the cold Canadian winters. The windows play off the minimalist exterior structure of the home helping to break up the flat charcoal surface.

The interior is a play of open spaces and light that is cast from the volume of windows placed across the vertical faces of the structure. Multiple skylights and extensive use of double-height space creates a welcoming and visually stunning home.

At 2100 square feet the house is still moderate in size compared with most homes in North America, yet it feels large do to the open expanses of interior space and the amount of glazing used to open the house up to the outside world.

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The Charcoal House by Atelier Rzlbd:

“Charcoal House, situated in Pape and Danforth neighborhood in Toronto, Ontario, is deceivingly presenting a raucous box. The randomly patterned square windows on its façade and the hidden entrance door at the corner of the building are elements that not only make it difficult to associate the building with a single family house, but they also trick the eye to an extend where the scale of the house is distorted and one might not be able to guess the number of floors inside.

Although the monolithic facade, the black brick cladding, states an asperous architecture, the airy spaces within the black box reveals the true identity of its functional spaces. The house as the architect describes, resembles a “coconut” which is dark and hard on the outside, white and delicious on the inside.

While it’s successful attempts to minimize physical connection to the front street creates a bizarre solitude for the building-such as the front door, which is carefully hidden inside an exterior corridor and melts into the facade around the corner of the building- this wood-framed single-family house of about 2,100 square feet suddenly transforms into a dynamic living space with a careful attention to openings and natural lights in each room, and once again deceives one’s immediate impression of disengagement from the outside by creating unexpected and glorious openings to the outside.

The Charcoal House sits on a small lot with a narrow plan. It is not a spacious house to live in, but an avant-garde mind that seeks an alternative living space is perhaps looking for a change in effects. A modern house is about a modern living style, and the Charcoal House is an attempt to provide that chance for Torontonians.”


  1. It’s ugly, face it. I would be willing to bet the neighbors rue the day that monstrosity was dumped into their neighborhood. A small house does not have to be ugly. A little imagination and creativity could have made this house more presentable to the neighbors who have to look at it out their windows. Has anyone asked the neighbors how they feel about this house?

    1. I actually think this house is quite wonderful, and wouldn’t describe it as ugly at all. That’s why I posted about it. As for how the neighbors feel, I bet they are quite happy with it. This house probably raised their property values. I live in very modern house that is located in the middle of a street full of 1930’s looking bungalows and shirt waists. Since my house was built, everyone’s property values went up, the landscaping on the block improved, and my neighbor’s love the fact that we chose to build something this modern in an area that is filled with traditional and mundane. The charcoal house while not like the others on the block, is aesthetically pleasing, well constructed, beautifully designed, and painted in unobtrusive dark gray.

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