In Ontario, Canada, near downtown Toronto, a contemporary home pours out its unique beauty. But it’s more than large windows, tall ceilings and gorgeous wood floors that lend to the home’s beauty. The connected outdoor living spaces are as equally impressive and are enhanced through the use of woven metal mesh from W.S. Tyler’s Architecture and Design Division.
The large, two-story dwelling was designed by Hagy Belzberg of Los Angeles, CA on a sloping lot with views across the tips of a forest of large, old trees in a deep revine. The architect integrated the home into its environment in such a way that the home appears as a feature of the extensive garden, which spills out the front, sides and back of the home.
The backyard is a story of its own. Through the glass doors at the rear of the house, a covered terrace becomes an extension of the living area, featuring a fireplace and space for family and friends to gather. The backyard slopes into the ravine with terraces layering the lot horizontally, dividing it into sections to be appreciated individually. Two staircases lined with stainless steel woven wire mesh provide a passage down to the ravine.
This is where Mark Hartley rolled up his sleeves.
Hartley is the owner of a well-established Toronto-based landscape architecture and garden design consultancy, MHLA, Inc. His firm specializes in private, residential gardens and estates, making this back yard project ideal for his firm. Generally, Hartley, along with his six colleagues, meet with clients, conjure up designs that please them and oversee the implementation of the plan.
In this case, Hartley visited with the homeowners to begin the process of creating a design like no other – a project that, beginning in 2009, took more than two years for Hartley and his crew to wrap up.
When the homeowners bought the one-acre lot, the 100-year-old deciduous trees were one of the features that attracted them. They purchased the property with intentions of restoring the ravine and preserving the natural beauty of the woodlands. Hartley went to great lengths to spare a few of the rare plants and native trees on the property, such as a Japanese Maple. The contractors completed restorative planting as well, using native plants and trees that will eventually take over when the older trees fade with time.
Hartley’s design called for visually enhancing the existing landscape surrounding the home with thousands of plants, including more ornamental plants, and hedges for maximum privacy. This alone was enough planting to require 48 landscapers on site on one particular day.
But luscious greens and old trees weren’t the only desire of these Toronto homeowners. They also wanted the back yard garden to be split into a series of terraces: the home’s terrace, the pool terrace and the lower terrace of the lawn. Lower still would be the final touch, the ravine and woodland. The terraces, plants and trees were all instrumental in creating a very dramatic, yet serene, experience.
Because the property had a steep descent, the back yard required staircases descending to each level. Hartley and his crew were faced with a challenge of designing two sets of stairs, consisting of hundreds of steps each, that would not only be safe and functional, but also would complement the surrounding environment. Built to match the home, one set of limestone staircases stretches from the house terrace to the pool and then to the lower terrace. The other set leads from the house terrace directly to the lower terrace, where the owners and their guests can fully enjoy the beauty of the lower woodlands. Adding to the task, railings needed to line each step to ensure the staircases were safe. But the homeowners were concerned about implementing a railing design that would work with the architecture of the home.
Hartley knew railings were a major factor in the overall landscape design. Not only did he need a railing that would blend well with the rest of the landscaping, but he also required a long lasting, practical and attractive material. Hartley spent weeks researching before he found the perfect solution: stainless steel woven wire mesh railings from W.S. Tyler.
W.S. Tyler’s Architecture and Design Division has been manufacturing mesh to add aesthetic appeal, functionality and enhanced safety to buildings and interior designs around the world for more than 20 years. In applications including landscapes, bridges, walkways, guardrails and stairwells, the mesh holds strong to reduce the potential for falls. With fully customizable woven wire patterns, diameters and openings, W.S. Tyler can weave individual wires thinner than hair or up to one inch thick. In addition, they feature more open than closed area, which makes them nearly transparent.
“The material is see through, yet sturdy. From a practical point of view, it would allow air movement and it wasn’t too heavy. I also knew it would be maintenance-free and rust-free. It definitely suited the project at hand,” Hartley explained.
Hartley chose to use W.S. Tyler’s DOKA-BARRETTE 8914. Other varieties were thicker and heavier, but Hartley felt this material would fulfill the homeowners’ request for something unique. The DOKA-BARRETTE 8914 has openings throughout 68 percent of the surface area and is relatively light, weighing only1.33 pounds per square foot.
“This woven mesh works with the architecture of the house,” Hartley said. “The mesh has the right amount of movement within it to complement the linear stonework of the home. It really enhances the design.” Further, he said the material met Ontario’s building code requirements for the stairs and the pool.
Hartley wound several outdoor stairs, gates, and twists and turns into his design, so bringing them to life wasn’t completely straightforward. Installing the railings was going to be a complex process, one requiring some additional assistance and expertise. Enter W.S. Tyler’s engineers.
Over the course of six months, the company’s engineers went to the job site, fabricated and framed the railing materials to fit appropriately, devised a consistent method for attaching the railings to each piece of stone, and, finally, performed the installation.
“We were happy to have W.S. Tyler’s help. They didn’t just provide a product. They came forth with full-service engineering so it came together very nicely in the end,” Hartley said. “They were attentive to every detail and were certain to make sure this worked properly.”
W.S. Tyler installed approximately 220 linear feet of railing, or 660 square feet of woven wire mesh. It provided the perfect touch of excitement to bring the back yard to life.
Hartley had used woven wire mesh in the past, but not to this extent. The combination of beauty and practicality it brought to this project has increased his confidence in using the material.
“These railings are a thing of beauty and will stay a thing of beauty for a long time. If I had put a wood railing up, it would need replacing in the next 10 years,” Hartley said. “This one will last 50-100 years.”
He also said the positive experience has revealed another avenue of creativity that he’s excited about exploring for future projects. But for now, as with any of his work, Hartley gets the most satisfaction out of a happy customer. And for this multi-million-dollar project, the customers were more than pleased with the outcome.
The project’s general contractor was Wilson Project Management, Toronto. The main landscape contractor was TBG, also of Toronto.