Pro of the Week – Neil Burke of BurkeWorks

Looking ahead to landscapes

Don’t be deterred when building challenges arise. In fact, expect they will and be prepared to deal with them as they do – that’s the advice from expert builder Neil Burke of Toronto’s BurkeWorks, when it comes to landscape design.

His one-stop residential trades and design company, which specializes in both interior and exterior builds, is known for meticulous execution, especially when it comes to working with Western Red Cedar.

“We’ve always been proud of our commitment to an open line of communication, and proud of our ability to help clients solve problems on-the-fly,” Burke explains.

Communication is key when it comes to working with a contractor, as anyone who has waited for a response from a missing-in-action builder can attest. Continue reading “Pro of the Week – Neil Burke of BurkeWorks”

Book with Benefits

Award-Winning Architectural Designer Gets the Exposure She Deserves

Houry Avedissian - Ha2 Architectural DesignMeet Houry Avedissian. She’s an architectural designer whose time has come. After developing her expertise at notable firms in Montreal for 7 years, she launched her own studio, Ha² Architectural Design, and began making a name for herself right away. One of her first major projects out of the gate was none other than the award-winning “Treehouse”.

Featuring four different Western Red Cedar applications, this innovative design was a natural choice for the cover of Cedar Book 9. And like previous editions in this collectable coffee table book series, Cedar Book 9 was distributed to architects, developers and builders throughout North America. Continue reading “Book with Benefits”

Architect Spotlight – RHA

Image courtesy of; photographer: Mark Woods

Where did Robert Hutchison’s love for wood design come from?

Well, it was a lifetime in the making, really. In fact, it all started on a family vacation during a tour of wooden stave churches in Norway’s’ Fjord region. He was only five or six at the time, but the wood’s depth, beauty and scent clearly made a lasting impression. Fast-forward a couple decades, and Hutchison is a young architect grad working at the Miller/Hull Partnership learning how to detail wood buildings. This led him to eventually launch his own firm: Robert Hutchison Architecture (RHA). Based in the capital of West Coast contemporary design (i.e. Seattle), RHA is surrounded by lush Pacific Northwest forest. So it’s no wonder that Hutchison has such an affinity for incorporating natural building materials into his work. Continue reading “Architect Spotlight – RHA”

Pro of the Week – Studio North

If you’re a seasoned “Do-It-For-Me” kinda homeowner, then you probably already know that projects run a whole lot smoother when contractors and architects are on the same page. After all, nothing takes the shine off a reno experience than having to play middleman between creativity and craftsmanship. So what better way to synchronize your vision and the act of making than collaborating with a company that is both builder and designer? Continue reading “Pro of the Week – Studio North”

Project of the Week – The Diane Middlebrook Studios

Architect: CCS Architecture
Location: Woodside, California
Photo: Paul Dyer


If this isn’t an aspiring writer’s paradise, we don’t know what is. As part of the renowned Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Diane Middlebrook Studios host select scribes so they can focus on their respective prose for five-week intervals. And the setting could not be more ideal.


Atop the spectacular Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, these four anti-procrastination pods protect aspiring writers from outside distractions and generate the kind of inspiration most would-be wordsmiths can only dream of.


“Each of these is a womb with a view to the ocean,” explains Cass Calder Smith, principal at CCS Architecture. “However, it’s not just one building… it’s a quartet in a meadow with a halo.”


Along with inspiring future laureates, one of Smith’s major design goals was honoring the project’s naturally stunning surroundings by leaving the smallest possible carbon footprint possible. With that in mind, the minimalist work/sleep cabins were built with sustainable systems and construction methods, including a freestanding, pre-engineered steel canopy that shades the cabins, shelters exterior circulation and supports a solar panel array.

IMG_9994In terms of sustainable building materials, Smith opted to wrap each studio in Select Knotty Western Red Cedar cladding and roofing. And since WRC is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insects, Smith decided to let the beautifully textured wood weather naturally without finish. This will allow the structures to be at one with the jaw-dropping scenery for decades to come.


“It’s the perfect exterior siding… nice & warm when it’s new and then greys out perfectly,” says Smith, adding. “I also think it plays off the galvanized canopy very nicely and links to the meadows and trees beyond.”

Project of the Week – Boathouse

Architect: Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited
Location: The Archipelago, Georgian Bay
Photography: Arnaud Marthouret

“We chose WRC for its durability & resistance to the elements, modern aesthetic & natural patina.” – Kevin Weiss, Architect

The glacially carved granite islands that dot Ontario’s Georgian Bay are every bit as breathtaking as one might expect. That’s why designing for this particular archipelago requires a certain amount of refined ingenuity. After all, the structure is not the star of the show. The scenery is. Kevin Weiss was obviously well aware of this architectural reality when he created his beautifully integrated modern boathouse.


As per the clients’ request, this is not merely a storage space for water sports equipment either. With the main cottage quite a bit inland and almost out of sight from the water, the boathouse site also serves as the primary hub for all daytime leisure activities. Therefore, the plans called for a fully equipped kitchen, bar seating, covered lounge and more. All these connected building elements sit on a submerged structure of rock and timber cribs. It’s a stunning feat in architecture, especially when you consider that this leisure palace is barely visible from many points of view.

“On approach, due to its thinness and horizontality, this ensemble almost disappears as it recedes into the landscape,” explains Weiss. “As the main dock extends out far into a small bay, it sits under the cover of the pavilion and blends into the surrounding panorama of smooth granite, still water and commanding jack pines. The landscape remains the dominant experience.”

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REC CENTER: Since the island is only accessible by boat, the cedar clad boat house and durable dock areas are an important part of life for these cottagers.

Along with scale and composition, building materials were carefully considered to make sure the boathouse harmonized within its natural context. The docks, for example, are made with Architect Knotty Western Red Cedar decking and the storage building features a clear grade of Western Red Cedar siding.

“WRC is perfect for the integration of the landscape,” says Weiss, who also wanted a species of wood that could stand up to Mother Nature all year long. “While the interior utilized Douglas Fir, we wanted to ensure a more durable product for the exterior, hence the use of carefully detailed cedar.”


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WRC Specs 
GRADE: Select Knotty T&G & Architect Knotty decking
SIZE: 1 x 6 T&G, 2 x 6 decking
APPLIED FINISH: Stained black (servery building),natural (dock)
FASTENING: Exposed stainless steel fasteners (storage building), hidden deck fasteners (dock)

Project of the Week – CHS Field

Architect: Snow Kreilich Architects and Ryan A+E
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Photography: Paul Crosby Architectural Photography & Christy Radecic Photography

"The character, contrast, dynamism & scale of the Western Red Cedar ceiling makes it the defining & most memorable feature of the ballpark." - Mike Ryan, AIA Leed AP, President, Ryan A + E, Inc.
“The character, contrast, dynamism & scale of the Western Red Cedar ceiling makes it the defining & most memorable feature of the ballpark.” – Mike Ryan, AIA Leed AP, President, Ryan A + E, Inc.

When Snow Kreilich Architects and Ryan A+E teamed up to design the CHS Field, the goal was to create the greenest ballpark in America. Which they accomplished by incorporating an aggressive storm water management system, installing a record-sized solar array and building the new structure on crushed concrete made from the demolition of the existing building.

The awarding-winning design firms also put a lot of focus on respecting the historical designation of the area, providing spectators with additional views of the surrounding bluffs, and of course, setting the stage for the notoriously carnival-like atmosphere of St. Paul Saints games.

SCIENCE OF SOUND: The T&G WRC on the exterior and interior is spaced to allow for acoustic control.
SCIENCE OF SOUND: The T&G WRC on the exterior and interior is spaced to allow for acoustic control.

Once again, mission accomplished. Interestingly though, the greatest attention-grabbing feature of this design is not their ingenuity, but rather their choice in building material. “By far and away, the Western Red Cedar ceilings at the ballpark are the most talked about aspect of the park,” says Andrew Dull, lead designer of CHS Field.“Most ballparks have a utilitarian expression: exposed structural steel, metal decks or concrete is the typical experience. So using Western Red Cedar for the entire ceiling brings an intimacy and warmth that is unique to ballparks.”

In their search for a natural, sustainable, low-maintenance building material, they considered other woods. But none seemed to possess the deep richness of WRC’s celebrated colors.

BALLPARK BEAUTY: Western Red Cedar helps set the stage for the theatrical vibe that Saints games are renowned for.
BALLPARK BEAUTY: Western Red Cedar helps set the stage for the theatrical vibe that Saints games are renowned for.

“We looked at Douglas Fir, but found the warmth of Western Red Cedar to be more appropriate than the hues of Douglas Fir, and the client agreed,” says Dull. “Also, although not forested in Minnesota, cedar is common to the area and has a local feel that the community can more easily relate to.”

Furthermore, as Dull explains, the look and feel of WRC doesn’t just suit the surrounding area, but the game itself.

“There is something about the Western Red Cedar that feels appropriate to baseball — the natural quality of it ties to the leather of the baseballs and gloves, the red picks up the red clay of the fields and, of course, the wood of the bats.”


WRC Specs
Grade: KD Clear Heart VG
Size: 1×6 T&G cedar paneling
Fastening: Blind nailed
Applied Finish: Clear

Project of the Week – Brother & Sister

Architect: Simon Storey, Anonymous Architects
Location: Los Angeles, California
Photography: Steve King, LA

Crane _ Anonymous - re-work FINAL (1)
“I’ve always loved the keeping it real aesthetics of cedar & in addition to that, it is termite resistant.” – SIMON STOREY, AIA

Speculative design has its challenges. An architect has to imagine what a future client would want simply based on the vibe of the location. In Simon Storey’s case, the spec project was for the hip, yet somewhat bucolic, Mt. Washington area of LA. Which means new residential structures should be modern and efficient in form, but also environmentally and aesthetically respectful of the surrounding rugged beauty. The award-winning architect also had to contend with building two houses on a limited lot size.

CLEAR CHOICE : The natural finish of the exterior WRC complements the rugged beauty of the Mt. Washington area.
CLEAR CHOICE : The natural finish of the exterior WRC complements the rugged beauty of the Mt. Washington area.

But Storey managed to factor in all those design considerations… and then some. The result is Brother & Sister, a matching pair of beautiful cedar-clad cubes with large bay windows that provide expansive views of the San Gabriel mountain range. The homes are warm, contemporary and, true to form, energy efficient.

“I’m always interested in producing a house as efficiently as possible and also making that house efficient to live in for the future,” explains Storey, principal at Anonymous Architects.“The selection of materials and the compact form all help achieve this. I also built the homes into the hillside, which will have a regulating effect on the interior air temperature and humidity.”

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For the V-joint siding, he opted for a knotty grade of Western Red Cedar, as opposed to a pristine clear grade.

“I specified knotty wood because part of the reason we used wood in the first place was to integrate the houses into a natural and wild environment,” he says. “The extra character that the knots provide helps to achieve this design goal. It looks exactly how I envisioned.”


And if the exterior’s not exactly how the future occupants envisioned, Storey’s not worried. After all, nothing is set in stone with nature’s most versatile building material.

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“Western Red Cedar has a maintenance schedule that the owner can choose,” explains Storey. “For example, the owner could maintain the finished facade, or just leave it to weather naturally to a beautiful silver patina. I like that there are options here — for both the future of how the buildings will age and also staining and aesthetic options when the wood is first installed.”

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WRC Specs 
Grade: KD Select Knotty
Size: 1×4 V-joint
Fastening: Blind nailed
Applied finish: Clear water based/hybrid oil

Pro of the Week – Stéphan Beaulieu


A great outdoor space is more than just the sum of its parts. That’s something Stéphan Beaulieu really seems to understand. The Montreal contractor is the very hands-on president of Patios et Clôtures Beaulieu inc., a company that specializes in designing and building landscape structures that last. His award-winning projects have been featured on several magazine covers. And for good reason – his craftsmanship and flair for design are both truly inspired. Continue reading “Pro of the Week – Stéphan Beaulieu”

Pro of the Week – Andy Allenspach


Whether it’s a show stopping outdoor kitchen made for year-round grilling or a stunning timber frame home on a remote island, Allenspach gets the job done with bang-on precision. That’s because this modern-day woodworker is a true craftsman. He’s also the shop foreman and partner of Island Timber Frame, a boutique timber frame shop. Continue reading “Pro of the Week – Andy Allenspach”