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A space odyssey

Opening up and adding to the kitchen and dining room made this space a gateway to the garden, the answer to clutter and a place for the family to just be.

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"New and old don't actually mind being next to each other---a lot of people think they do," says Halifax architect Alec Brown. He's talking about a kitchen and common space renovation he did at his own Harvard Street home that wasn't as much about adding to the area as it was re-imagining it. "We didn't expand a lot, we just tried to do a smart expansion and reorganize the space to make better use of it."

Craving a fluid connection to the backyard garden and a better way of concealing the "stuff" that comes along with five children, Brown combined multiple rooms in his 1920s home on the Halifax peninsula to allow for an open space that would be used by the whole family. And the clutter? An added- on mud room---which sits a half-storey below kitchen level, has a green roof and exits into the garden---keeps it out of the main living space, concealing bags, coats, shoes and the sort in cubbies that sit under the floor as well as a coat closet that, from the outside of the house, supports a planter.

That need to conceal bits and pieces continues into the kitchen, where the focal point is a monolithic concrete island, cast against rough-sawn timbre and hand-trowelled on top. "We wanted to get away from any sense of overbearing kitchen-yness, keeping things hidden behind cabinets," says Brown of the choice to put the refrigerator and kitchen accessories and utensils tucked away within tall Baltic birch plywood cabinets. And the windows are, of course, huge.

"The light is completely different," says Brown. "It feels so much happier in the house. You feel connected to your garden all the time and the whole family is just able to hang out together."

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