An Open Concept Infill Designed Around the Details

Step into the Macduff house and your gaze is pulled to the floating timber staircase and the sparkling quartz island, lit by the oversized windows suffusing the space with pure, natural light. As defining as these dramatic features are, home builder Dryden Pauls says it’s the details that truly make the house shine.

“I am a very particular person when it comes to layout and design,” Dryden said. “I find that by focusing on the little things, you can take obstacles and turn them into features, and take features and really make them stand out.”

With this focus on the fine points, Dryden and Blackburne Inc. were able to design and build a Lethbridge infill leaning into the atypical aspects of the southside property.

Embracing an unusual lot

The first step to any infill is to find a lot. Before Dryden began his search, he created a list of neighbourhoods throughout the city he could see himself and his family moving into. Then, he jumped on his bicycle, eagerly scouting out lots and houses for sale in these ideal locales.

When he finally found a lot on the edges of a desirable neighbourhood, it had a few quirks he would need to work around.

“The lot is narrow with no laneway access so I knew that good design would be important,” Dryden said.

Knowing he could overcome the property’s issues, Dryden dove in and bought the lot.

To make the most of the narrow space, the current home was built as tall as city bylaws allow, giving him two floors above grade, plus a finished basement. Then, Dryden added a laneway to the west side of the property, where a shared driveway had previously been, to create access for the double garage at the back of the property.

“It feels really natural,” Dryden said. “I wouldn’t change that part of the design for anything. When coming home, it feels like you’re coming into your own private space.” 

With the right property in hand, the next step was to design the layout for the new home.


Creating a seamless, open concept design

With a clean sheet in front of him, Dryden was free to create the perfect home for the lot. He knew he wanted an open, clean design, and that started with the layout

Often, layout doesn’t get the design attention it deserves, leading to broken sightlines and a chaotic jumble of wall junctions and openings. Dryden knew this approach would wreck his vision for a clean, minimal design, so he mapped out the first floor to avoid it.

“You’ll find that when walking in the main entry all the walls on the main floor line up,” Dryden said. “This helps the flow and eliminates visual noise in the space allowing the dramatic pieces room to breathe.”

He then pushed the ceilings up to 9’, and designed the floating timber staircase with glass railings. Huge, oversized windows at the north and south ends flood organic light into the space, further enhancing the home’s open, airy atmosphere.

“You could literally drive a vehicle through our house when we were installing windows,” Dyden said, laughing.

In contrast, the kitchen island and cupboards are black, drawing the eye and creating a natural anchor point at the centre of the room.

Ascending to greater heights

At the front of the home, the floating timber staircase invites you upwards to the second floor, where you’ll find two bedrooms – one for the kids and one currently used as an office, along with a laundry room. 

At the front of the house, the master ensuite commands a gorgeous, coulee-view from the 8’ square window. It’s here, the only surviving relic from the previous 1910 home sits – a gorgeous, refinished clawfoot tub.

“When I walked into the original house, I knew immediately it needed to be torn down,” Dryden said. “It was a mess. But when I saw the tub, I just had to save it.”

The tub, which was refinished before it was moved back in, sits on top of heated flooring that extends throughout the ensuite and into the curbless shower.

A basement that defies the name

With an upstairs defined by natural light and uninterrupted flow, the basement couldn’t let the house down with cramped rooms and low ceilings. So instead of cutting corners and leaving the foundation as an afterthought, Dryden made sure it followed suit with the rest of the house.

“One thing that’s always bothered me about what is “typical” in Lethbridge is the ceiling height in the basement – it always ends up less than 8’ high,” Dryden said. 

So, he added extra plates to the foundation before framing the first floor to heighten the basement ceiling. As a result, the basement ceiling reaches an impressive 8’ 1”.

Just like the above-grade floors, light is a main feature in the basement. With a south-facing oversized window in the main gaming/family room, it successfully combats the dark, dingy reputation basements are infamous for. To eke out every last foot of available space in the basement, Dryden created a home gym in a nook created by the stairwell.

In the back of the house, Dryden added another bedroom giving house guests their own, private space along with a bathroom.

The drama’s in the details

From subtle details to statement features, the Macduff house is Dryden’s attempt to push the bar higher for what’s standard in the construction industry. It’s the culmination of years of experience, along with the drive for fine-tuning each detail so that a house can truly shine. 

The Macduff house is the very heart of Blackburne Inc., and Dryden’s just getting started.