Lawren Harris did not have a swimming pool. When the Group of Seven painter commissioned a grand house in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood in 1931, the Art Deco building was oriented to a formal foyer, a living room and a dining room. After Drew Mandel Architects renovated the place for a new family of owners, however, the firm turned its attention to the back of the home, where a new kitchen, breakfast room and backyard cabana are all designed around a pool. “The more casual rooms of the house have become the heart of it,” Mandel says. In this context, the swimming pool is crucial.
“Pools are all about lifestyle; they’re entirely fun space,” says the architect. “People aspire to carve out space in their lives for more family time, more relaxation. And this is a way to literally make a space for it.” Mandel’s office, which designed the landscape as well as the interiors, applied the same, subtle Modernist aesthetic that it brought to the house to the pool: The limestone covering the walls of the house continues down onto the decking. And yet the pool has a few details designed for comfort and for visual effect. Among them are overflow (or “infinity”) edges on two sides, which create a block of water, dappled with light; “it has that special reflective quality and turns the pool into a sculptural element,” says Mandel. A bench along one edge also allows adults to sit and rest their elbows, while a row of “stepping stones” set in four inches of water provides visual interest and a whimsical way to travel along the pool.