Located on the shoreline of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes, is an awe-inspiring 17,222-square-foot second home in cottage country, approximately one hour from London, Ontario. The lake “cottage” -- although in reality, far from your average getaway -- serves as a retreat by its owners throughout the year, for all three generations of the family to enjoy. In order to create a striking contemporary space, Neolith, a pioneering brand of sintered stone, was specified for both the exterior and interior of the residence. The homeowners requested a space that was durable, versatile, low maintenance and visually captivating from the inside out.

As far as the eye can see

The architects and designers, Mark Bullivant and Johan Basson at SAOTA in Cape Town, South Africa, in collaboration with Steven Cooper and Phil Sharron at London, Ontario-based firm matter architectural studio inc., were faced with a significant challenge from the get-go when they took on this project. “When you first arrive at the location, you can’t see the lake right away because the site sits on a bluff, occupying a transitional space between the water and acres of forest land,” said Bullivant. “We therefore wanted to make sure that the first moment you see the lake has a real impact.”

Conceptually, the architects stacked a series of rectangular boxes to embed the building into the ground plane, and suspended one overhead so that the living level could exist in between. 

They then placed an indoor-outdoor volume to the south in order to anchor the building and allow the various spaces to capitalize on the views. The architects have designed it so the setting sun creates a dramatic view from the living room in the summer. Moreover, the spaces within the home are fluid, yet well structured, ensuring the house has a casual effortless feel -- a big driver given the home was built for the entire family to relax and entertain.

Durable and beautiful

Neolith was specified throughout the interior home design in collaboration with distributing partners, Marble Trend and Ontario Panelization. The material was employed for all the flooring, bathrooms, kitchen ceiling, several corridors and the stairwell, which is three stories high. 

The interior color palette is a subtle representation of the exterior, with a strategic balance of light and dark. While Strata Argentum was selected for the floors, Krater was chosen to achieve the blackened metal aesthetic of the fireplaces and external screens. 

The seamless continuity of material from the inside out was further aided by Stone and Textures artist, Eva Chylinski, who hand-painted the edges of each surface to match its pattern.

“Materiality is a key pillar of our design ethos, in that we constantly seek to create interest and expression in our buildings through the products we use,” said Basson of SAOTA, speaking on the overall design concept. “Faced with the challenge of working in an environment as demanding as this one, the product choice and its longevity were critical. Our main goal was to build a home that could withstand Canada’s weather conditions, while also being beautiful. When the client, in collaboration with Ontario Panelization, introduced us to Neolith, we immediately fell in love with the brand and its wide variety of high-quality finishes, as well as, of course, its durability.”

Withstanding the outdoor elements

Outdoors, the entire exterior of the home is clad in Neolith. A total of 21,000 square feet of the material was specified for the Ceramitex Facade System utilizing the proprietary Unity Attachment Technology by Elemex and installed by Ontario Panelization. Here, architects Bullivant and Basson used lighter hue creamy Strata Argentum to blend in with the snowy landscape in the winter and bright skies in the summer, and the darker charcoal Nero Zimbabwe to match the lower-level forest and the rest of the surrounding environment.

The home’s design is unique -- both in its appearance and its construction -- as it was designed in the same way a commercial project would be, due to its size and complexity. However, with its sleek lines and earthy tones, it still manages to encapsulate the warmth of a beautiful modern home. 

“The final execution of the project was realized due to deep collaboration, technical expertise and appreciation of the design intent,” said Steven Cooper, architect-of-record. “Minor modification to design and construction details were suggested based on the geographic location, building code and local municipal practices. Ultimately, this collaboration has produced a project we are collectively very proud of.” 

Neolith was the ideal choice for the home’s facades due to both its durability and its ability to be shaped in an unusual way. According to David Waugh, facades specialist at Elemex, “One of the great features of Neolith is that it not only comes in a very large format, but is extremely durable for such a thin panel. Initially, its strength was proven when we had to cut the material into particularly complex angles. Furthermore, it is scratch resistant and immune to high impact -- all essential traits for a home surrounded by wilderness. Neolith is also tag resistant, which means the homeowner’s grandkids can play freely without fear of permanently marking the floors and walls.”

A product of the future

Neolith was specified for this project due to its similarity in appearance to elements found in nature with the added benefits of durability, versatility and even sustainability. This makes it a modern and practical choice for a range of residential applications.

Commenting on the project, Robert Geerts, project manager at Bernardo Group Ltd., the subcontractor who managed the interior tile fabrication, said, “When first introduced to sintered stone, I saw it as the product of the future. I believed in it right away. The material takes tile to the next generation, and having now worked with Neolith products, I can say its advantages truly lie with the end user. They will have floors which will last decades, wall cladding that is non-pervious and outdoor applications that can withstand Mother Nature.”

Mar Esteve Cortes, Neolith director, added, “This home is very special due to the numerous factors that surround its creation. From the stunning location and the architects’ inspired design concepts to Elemex’s ingenious Ceramitex Facade System, the project was a success from start to finish. This is one of our most exciting projects in the region and the team truly pushed endless boundaries with this build. We are absolutely thrilled with the outcome.”