Riverhouse Niagara / Zerafa Studio

© Tom Arban
© Tom Arban

Architects: Zerafa Studio llc.
Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario,
Architect of Record: Chapman Murray Associates Architects Inc.
Structural Engineer: ACA Engineering
MEP: Hallex Engineering LTD.
Client: Withheld at Owner’s Request
Facility: Private Residence
Project Area: 464.5 sqm
Project year: 2009
Photographs: Tom Arban

© Tom Arban © Tom Arban © Tom Arban © Tom Arban

The principal feature of the 1.85 acre site fronting the Niagara River just upstream from the Horseshoe Falls is the long unobstructed river views across the full 164 ft width of the property. The 4700 sq.ft of interior living space and 1200 sq.ft of covered terrace were crafted to embrace this feature and find a balance between the relative transparency encouraged by the views and the privacy concerns of the owners.

© Tom Arban
© Tom Arban

The house is comprised of three distinct horizontal volumes. The building’s north south massing is defined by 2 overlaid rectangular shells within which the glass, cedar and granite clad volumes for the interior living spaces are placed and a series of voids create covered exterior terraces. The shells are clad in silver metal panel and are mostly opaque to provide privacy from adjacent properties to the north and south. The open east and west ends of the shells reveal the River and garden views. All exposed interior surfaces of the shells are lined with t&g cedar siding to provide a warm interior transitional environment. The ground floor shell floats 3 ft above the ground elevation to accommodate the long horizontal views to the River across the primarily flat site and give the building a delicate footprint in the landscape. The upper level shell is offset from the one below to create an exposed roof terrace to the north and a dramatic 17 ft cantilever to the south. The large cantilevered volume creates a covered entry to the garage area. The third volume clad in charcoal quartzite is a single story shell that slips under to support the cantilever and extends west into the rear garden.

ground floor plan
ground floor plan

The ground floor is comprised of two primary program groups separated by an east west glazed circulation space that bisects the house and extends the river views through to the rear garden.

The service and ancillary spaces, garage, storage, guest suite and access to the basement level area contained within a single-story bar that runs east to west to minimize the obstruction of views.

The primary living spaces are distributed in a linear bar across the width of the site to maximize exposure to river views. The home office, kitchen/dining room and double height living room extend the full width of the north south bar to mediate the front and rear gardens and establish a strong visual connection to the outdoors.

© Tom Arban
© Tom Arban

The more private spaces including an expansive master suite, two additional bedrooms with ensuite bath and laundry facilities are distributed in a parallel bar on the second floor accessible by a dramatic sculptural stair. The master suite extends the length of the River view façade bridging across the circulation space below and extending out to a large covered terrace.

The kitchen by Bulthaup Toronto features a combination of grey aluminum and kaolin laminate faced cabinetry with the integrated “multi-function” glass wall system.

The kitchen counters are engineered quartz and st. stl with integrated sinks and wet areas along with an 8′ long island unit with a walnut veneer slab breakfast bar.

The custom designed  “museum” stair was engineered and fabricated locally of steel-reinforced maple and has a furniture-grade walnut finish and structural glass railing.

Cite: "Riverhouse Niagara / Zerafa Studio" 29 Oct 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=38998>
  • amr

    Seemingly unlimited budget equals one thing……..big and banality wins

  • Mark

    I love how they describe the house as having a “delicate footprint.” I don’t think I’ve ever read about a house with inside parking for 5 vehicles described that way.

    • nal


  • Kevin

    While the inside has all the furntiture and fittings you would expect of a house, it doesn’t look like a house and I can’t imagine it would ever feel like a home.

    It seems to me the modern house is more of a showroom rather than somewhere anybody would actually live.

    Perhaps i’m being harsh as i’m guessing these pictures were taken before the house was ocupied. Still the spaces are so sparse that i don’t imagine the house could ever look lived in.

    • john

      it’s called minimalism…less = more. death to clutter!

  • philadio

    I echo your statements Kevin, but isn’t this true for a lot of modern houses that you see – that everything is created more for show than living?

    All the same we can label this house a “house,” but in reality its an office/showroom/firestation/car depot/etc.

    All in all, a bit of a bohemoth with a so-called “delicate footprint.”

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  • Archmike

    I like the fact that you have to cross the entrance hall in underwear to have shower in the master bedroom!

  • Robesfran

    To many materials on Facades

  • complot

    very similar to this one (i think assadi’s house is much better)


  • the uninformed observer

    It’s apparent by the personalized nature and scale of the whole program that the owners got exactly what they desired, it is strange though that the second floor foyer void was not instead incorporated into the mbr suite as sitting area etc. Also that the chunky drywall fireplace focal wall didn’t instead house a real fireplace clad in the same gorgeous stone work (seen in relatively the same proportion) used on the exterior block to the left of and leading into the entry. The senses upon entering seem to scan naturally for this balance…

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