Tech entrepreneur hired architect to design a unique house that backs onto the Iron Horse Trail

The custom-designed home at 605 York St. is now on the market for a cool $1.8 million.

It was designed and built several years ago and immediately had the attention of people using the Iron Horse Trail between Union Boulevard and John Street.

The white, three-storey, triangular, flat-roofed house was designed by Laird Robertson, co- founder of Kitchener-based NEO Architecture Inc.

Colleen Whitney, a real estate agent with more than 40 years’ experience, has had maybe five listings like this in her career.

“It is pretty uncommon,” said Whitney. “I love this design.”

She calls it Japandi — a look that combines Japanese simplicity with Scandinavian comforts, inside and out. The house fills the lot. It has 2,600 square feet of space on three floors, two bedrooms, two baths and a rooftop patio. It is known as “The Wedge House” and it is unique in the region.

“I think we are going to see more infills like this,” said Whitney. “I think we are going to see more of these creative structures getting built.”

There are two trends driving demand for that kind of house. Kitchener and Waterloo are both running out of land for new suburbs. At the same time, the startup sector has produced a growing cohort of young, wealthy homebuyers looking for something different in established neighbourhoods.

That’s exactly the market Robertson had in mind when starting NEOArchitecture Inc. several years ago.

Robertson designed The Wedge House for one of the region’s most successful startup entrepreneurs — Aaron Grant — a cofounder of Thalmic Labs (maker of the Myo armband), which became North (maker of smartglasses called Focals) which was acquired by Google.

Robertson also did the early design work for a house at 32 Ahrens St. W. in Kitchener, which was owned by another cofounder at Thalmic Labs, Stephen Lake.

Robertson said there is a demand for beautifully designed, unique homes among the traditional brick houses of established neighbourhoods.

His target market is interested more in gathering experiences rather than possessions, has little to no interest in yard work and gardening, and insists on uniquely beautiful designs, he said.

They are well educated, well travelled, change employers regularly or work for themselves, he added.

The idea of buying an old house and renovating it themselves is absolutely verboten to this group, said Robertson. So they hire an architect and builder to create the home they want.

Robertson’s residential designs can be seen in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, but they remain a tiny minority of the commissions at his expanding architecture firm.

“A home is the purest form of expression for an architect, and professionally is the most satisfying,” said Robertson.

With the current slowdown in the housing market, NEO sees more design work for renovations than new homes.

It is far too expensive these days to buy an existing home only to knock it down and build a newly designed one in its place, said Robertson.


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