Echo House by Kariouk Associates

The challenging task here is to marry the eighty-four years of history by integrating a contemporary, open, and functional living space with a 1924 landmark that overlooks the Rideau Canal.


Echo House 1 - Interior Architecture Art

Left: Before; Right; After


 Architect: Kariouk Associates

Location: Ottawa, Ontario

Project Dates: 2007 – 2009

Paul duBellet Kariouk (Principal)
Chris Davis (Senior Design Associate)
Susan Gardiner (Design Associate)
Cedric Boulet (Design Associate)
Josee Labelle (Design Associate)
Matthew Lahey (Design Associate)
Todd Duckworth (Design Associate)

General Contractor: G.M. French Construction (Pat Lambert)

Structural Engineering: Leibe Engineering (James Diamond)

Lighting Design: Gabriel-Mackinnon (Philip Gabriel)

Woodwork: Gruber (Robert Gruber)

Photography: Photolux Studios (Christian Lalonde)

Echo House 2 - Interior Architecture Art


Echo House 3 - Interior Architecture Art


Design Challenge:

The starting point for this renovation was a conventional 2 1/2-storey Victorian brick home built in 1924. The house was in poor condition with its leaky roof and poor insulation. Everything – from the plumbing and electricity to the floors and roof – was woefully sub-standard. The rooms with small windows and dark interior spaces were separated from one another, as was typical of homes built in an era when privacy was a cultural priority.

A professional couple bought the house in 2007. The client required the renovated space to welcome work life in the home while continuing to maintain clear separations from their family life with proper privacy consideration. With its small house footprint (approximately seven-hundred square feet), it is almost impossible to create a modern, bright space that, albeit small in size, would still appear spacious visually connected and a welcomed work life.

Another larger and paradoxical challenge was to create a space to accommodate thousands of books, a den and a master bedroom suite, based on a loft-style, but maintaining the Victorian style of the private areas.

Design Solution:

Echo: noun; “A sympathetic or identical response, as to sentiments expressed; a lingering trace or effect”

The house had scarcely been changed since it was originally constructed was both a virtue and a challenge that enabled design opportunities. While it seems not possible to create a loft-like setting on the ground floor that seemed simultaneously open and provided the required distinct work/living spaces due to its small house nature, the architect however, managed to re-envisage the small house as a vertical loft – an open, four-storey volume reaching from the basement to the ceiling of the new roof.

The new main level and former basement level are opened to each other by a wide stair that highlights views to the home’s original stone foundation walls. Hence, the former Victorian main living level, once segregated into four separate rooms, is now made open and spacious. The small, original windows are replaced with large windows both at the front and rear of the new parlour, visually extending that space into the front yard and the back yard, and, finally, enabling views from the back yard (all the way through the house) to views of the Rideau Canal.

The remaining spatial requirements included very private spaces: a study that could accommodate several thousand books, a den, and a master-bedroom suite. In order to achieve the seemingly paradoxical request for a loft-like home but with spaces as private as the former Victorian ones, the study, den, and “book vault” are designed as distinct volumes suspended inside the larger, four-storey volume. Because these volumes “float” high up within the now-emptied shell of the original house, they achieve the required visual privacy from the parlour below and the street outside (despite the expanded areas of windows). Though these spaces are small, they are bright and airy and seem large since they all have visual access to both windows and other interior spaces of the home.

The very most private areas of the redesigned house (such as closets, toilets, and stairs) are arranged along the south wall of the house and are shielded by a three-storey hickory “modesty screen.” At the top level, the master-bedroom suite cantilevers over the front facade and yard and also appears as a distinct, floating volume, and forms a canopy over the entry. In this way, the former attic space of the Victorian house is redesigned to provide for light and views where none existed before in the original home, and due to its elevated position, it does so while maintaining privacy. At the initial request of the clients, this renovation allows the values of a bygone era to be given voice in the current era.

Echo House 4 - Interior Architecture Art

The ground floor combines dining room, living room, kitchen and entry.

Echo House 5 - Interior Architecture Art

At the entrance, a grate on the floor has a drain underneath it. The hand-held shower can be used to wash the muddy boots, or dogs.

Echo House 6 - Interior Architecture Art

The steel “cage” reinforces the exterior brick walls.

Echo House 7 - Interior Architecture Art

The study, den and library “float” high within the shell of the original house,achieving visual privacy in a bright and spacious setting.

Echo House 8 - Interior Architecture Art

The spaces, although relatively small, seem large and airy, having visual access to both windows and the other interior areas.

Echo House 9 - Interior Architecture Art

The main floor is centred on the kitchen, which has two facets: a sleek wood-paneled wall incorporating storage, an oven and a fridge, and a long granite counter, with a sink, stove and workspace.

Echo House 10 - Interior Architecture Art

Left: The front door (visible in the center of the photo) opens directly into the open living room and kitchen area.
Right: The dining area cabinet.

Echo House 12 - Interior Architecture Art

The “hanging pods” include a study space (nearest side), leisure den/TV space (middle) and library (far side).

Echo House 13 - Interior Architecture Art

The library is the only one of the second floor pods to be enclosed. While the study and leisure den/TV area have half-walls, which increase the feeling of openness. Light pours into the home through the master bedroom, which acts as a skylight for the building.

Echo House 14 - Interior Architecture Art

The home library, containing several thousand books.

Echo House 16 - Interior Architecture Art

Left: The master bedroom suite links via a catwalk to a bathroom and dressing area.
Right: The master bedroom suite, overlooking the house, and its view towards Rideau-Canal.

Echo House 17 - Interior Architecture Art

The third floor, containing the master suite and roof terrace. Its elevated position ensures privacy.

Echo House 18 - Interior Architecture Art

The ensuite bathroom



The Design Diagram

Echo House - Diagram 1 - Interior Architecture Art

Original “Victorian” Spaces


Echo House - Diagram 2 - Interior Architecture Art

Reconfigured Primary Spaces


Echo House - Diagram 3 - Interior Architecture Art

Reconfigured Primary Spaces



The Construction

Echo House - Construction 1 - Interior Architecture Art

Echo House - Construction 2 - Interior Architecture Art



The Plans

Echo House - Ground Floor - Interior Architecture Art

Echo House - Second Floor - Interior Architecture Art

Echo House - Third Floor - Interior Architecture Art






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