Urbis Infill Homes builds on bringing vision into creation

Infill clients are interested in location or a desirable part of the city.

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It’s a little bit country and, perhaps, one of Edmonton’s more interesting homes.

It also walked away with two awards — Best Infill Over 4,000 Square Feet and Best Single Family Home Over $1.5 Million – not that long ago at the 2024 Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Edmonton Region Awards of Excellence in Housing gala.

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The home, a bungalow in Highlands in northeast Edmonton, comes in at 6,475 square feet of finished living space — 3,375 sq. ft. on the main floor and 3,100 sq. ft. in the finished basement. It was a built on an empty lot.

“It was a labour of love,” said Katie Warwa, partner and lead of design and operations for Urbis Infill Homes, the builder who brought the homeowners’ vision to life. “They always had this vision of a French Country exterior look.”

But it isn’t just the exterior that speaks to the French Country design style of rustic charm and refined elegance. The interiors are just as eye-catching, if not more, than the exterior.

Interior highlights include:

  • Hand-forged railing elements with hand-crafted ornamental tulips;
  • A main floor backlit bar with a hand-painted custom wallpaper mural — the bar inspired by a New York speakeasy the clients visited and loved;
  • Two wood-burning fireplaces with extensive stone detailing;
  • Plaster walls in the powder room to give an upscale restaurant vibe, and,
  • Custom plumbing fixtures and lighting packages to complement the French Country motif.

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Other features of this custom build, which took 18 months but was part of a four-year process that included a start-and-stop one-third of the way through, include a vaulted ceiling with beams in the kitchen, library ladders in the mudroom laundry zone and the primary’s walk-in closet, and an all-seasons room with folding sliding doors that open onto the rear courtyard.

“It was challenging in the sense that there were very unconventional details,” said Warwa, noting some items were hard to source or like the front door, had to be shipped in from out of the country. “There was a lot of thorough sourcing of finishings and we were working with a lot of trades that were new to us because they were the only ones that could execute the type of detail they (the clients) were looking for.”

A lot of the work, added Warwa, was finding the right trades, essentially artists, to create the desired finishes.

“A lot of time and energy went into it and the clients had participated heavily — we worked very collaboratively through the process to get the look that you see,” said Warwa.

As for the two awards won at the mid-March CHBA-ER event, Warwa said they weren’t certain they were going to win, noting that they were up against stiff competition.

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“We were super honoured, we were up so against some amazing projects,” said Warwa. “To win twice was a shock to be honest, it was a lot of work. It was really rewarding to be recognized.”

Credit also goes to Urbis’ team and the trades, said Warwa.

“It really kind of shows we can do anything,” added Warwa. “If a client always wanted to do a certain design, it shows the breadth of design we’re capable of achieving. These clients tried to achieve this in a previous home build but didn’t really have the budget. We found the right trades that could achieve the look they were going for. It’s a really unique home — many times I would walk in and my jaw would drop.”

Infill Direction

From Urbis’ perspective, on the custom home side of the infill market, it is seeing an evolution since COVID-19 with some clients wanting to house their aging parents.

“With this in mind, in our designs, we have incorporated main-floor primary suites, main-floor in-law suites and also at times an elevator to allow for multi-generational living,” said Warwa. “Also, with the rising cost of construction, we have seen a desire to plan for garage or basement suites to allow for passive income or to assist in financing approval. Another shift is that almost all of our homes are solar ready and future proofed for EV car chargers, and other sustainable building details and upgrades.”

As to why infill, Warwa said clients are somewhat married to location or a desirable pocket of the city.

“Whether it’s to live by friends and family, or be in close proximity to work or the river valley, we find that the infill buyer is willing to pay a premium for their ideal location, and further invest the time and energy in working with us to design a custom home to suit their specific needs and wants given their initial financial investment in the lot,” she said.

Some of the most popular areas for infill, said Urbis, are Crestwood, Glenora, Strathearn, Valleyview and Westmount.

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