House of the Future

It’s constructed to be high-tech, low-maintenance, but designer Ramsin Khachi also made sure this is a beautiful, livable home

This 23-year-old split-level house in Oakville, a suburb west of Toronto, doesn't look like some jet-set house of the future, all sleek, white and modern. In fact, it's filled with classical details and timeless materials. But when Toronto designer Ramsin Khachi purchased and set out to redo the poorly-constructed house, he gave a great deal of thought to how to make each room function as ideally as possible. He incorporated state-of-the-art technology and amenities, without capitulating to the idea that that meant creating a minimalist, sterile shell. "The idea of this house is to enjoy life, and not be at the mercy of caretaking. We do a lot of high-end projects with beautiful materials, but one of the biggest complaints from clients is that they have to be so careful about maintaining them. That's why I chose to use Cambria throughout-it's a beautiful and versatile material, and it's incredibly durable and easy to care for. You don't have to worry about every red-wine or coffee spill and when you do clean up, it's just warm water and a cloth."

Khachi thought through every element in terms of convenience as well as energy efficiency: Instead of having to run water in the shower for several minutes until it gets warm, he installed a motion sensor that sends hot water through the pipes as soon as someone walks into the bathroom. When the hot water is not in use, the pump shuts off to save energy. He designed all the drains to funnel into one main pipe, where he installed a heat recovery system, saving 30% on hot water heating bills. All the tile floors-in the bathrooms, laundry room and mudroom (including the shower bench and floor)-are radiant heated, for energy-efficient warmth. That also helps quickly dry up moisture, preventing mold and mildew. The laundry room and mudroom were separated ("Why have to look at the laundry when you enter your house?" notes Khachi) and a large multipurpose sink/bath was installed in the mudroom, where the dog can be bathed, a child can rinse off muddy hands, and the cleaning buckets rinsed. The laundry room was moved upstairs near the bedrooms.

The house is accessed by a biometric keypad rather than keys. "Keys are thousands of years old, yet we still use them, even though they're not secure," says Khachi. "When your child comes home from school, you can program the system to send you an email to let you know they're home. You can give workers a numeric code and program it to let them in only at specified times. We've used systems in the past that were too complex; this is simple enough that everyone in the family can use it."

In the kitchen, Khachi showed off the intricate beauty that is possible with Cambria, creating a custom inlaid mural above the range with Cambria's "Torquay" and Emperador marble, cut into an ornate pattern with water-jet technology. He also thought through all the functional issues that arise in a kitchen. There is a stainless steel compost bin recessed into the island for easy, eco-friendly cleanup (it can also be used as an ice bucket for entertaining) and Khachi even made a custom walnut butcher block to curve around the compost slot. The trash pull-out can be hygienically opened with the touch of a knee (instead of a dirty hand) thanks to an automated door mechanism from Blum. The rich walnut table, echoing one wall of the cabinetry, was custom-built to extend out from the island, saving space.

Nothing escaped Khachi's consideration, including the garage. "With the price of property so high, to me, every space is valuable," he says. "People use their garages as catchalls, they become the dump." Here, the garage is fitted with stainless steel wainscoting, a porcelain tile floor, high-gloss cabinetry and even a TV, for watching DIY shows or how-to videos. (All the TVs and computers are networked on a home server, so you can download movies or access the Internet on any screen.) The garage is heated, with hot and cold running water, so it can be used year-round for carpentry projects, hobbies, car washing and more. The Cambria countertops stand up to grease and dirt, and there's a touch faucet, so you can wash off grimy hands without getting handles dirty.

The backyard patio is as beautifully furnished as a living room, complete with a gas fire-pit table, and a heated path to the grill for barbecuing in winter, which is activated by a sensor when it snows!

None of these high-tech bells and whistles, however, are apparent when you walk into the home. The impression is one of luxurious, yet supremely comfortable living. There are as many carefully chosen aesthetic elements as there are nifty gadgets. The living room, for example, boasts beautiful old-world plaster moldings, including a ceiling design inspired by a century-old glass pattern (the glass itself can be seen in wall insets in the upstairs bath). The dining room's wallpaper pattern is echoed in its plaster ceiling medallion. The master bedroom is a pampering two-level suite, lined with built-in cabinetry topped with illuminated display niches. The television swings down or retracts into the ceiling with the push of a button.

"I'm not interested in following trends," says Khachi. "I like to use classical details with a contemporary twist, and materials that will stand the test of time. This was my chance to create exactly the house I wanted, without worrying about client demands." The end result: a very livable house of the future, available today.