This beautiful residence consists of a renovation and addition to an existing house built in 1930 along the south side of a Toronto ravine, this project presents a model for transforming and modernizing traditional residential architecture on established Toronto streets through a rigourous exploration of unifying the new and old.
The client’s mandate was to convert this single family dwelling into a new home for a young and expanding family of four. The renewal of the existing house through the additions and renovations rectifies the shortcomings of the original – lack of relationship to the ravine, small windows and a series of independent small rooms.
Existing house built in 1930
Rather than demolishing the existing house, the interior was gutted except for its “spine” - the original Arts and Crafts stair, that has been lovingly restored, linking a modern interior with its past. The brick shell has been preserved, continuing to tie the house to the street’s mix of early/mid-century styles. The gable roof/unfinished attic was removed, allowing the masonry box to become a plinth for a top floor addition.
Salvaged brick from demolished portions of the house were reused to add a mudroom on the side of the house and to infill window openings. The memory of these windows is preserved by leaving in place the original stone sills and arched brick lintels. A new material palette complements the old brick: black zinc panels, local Ontario limestone and cedar siding.
Early in the design process, an inherent dichotomy began to inform the design: a conscious decision was made that the new additions establish a dialogue with existing elements. Inside, the original Arts and Crafts stair was carefully restored as the central “spine” of the house and as a historical memory of the original interior. Outside, new and old are knit together: new zinc clad elements slide over the existing brick box; window openings that begin within the new cladding extend into the existing masonry; and existing window openings that were bricked-in retain their original stone sills.
Inside, the client requested that the interior spaces maintain the classic formality of room differentiation. However, open corners and cut-out slots in the walls allowed for a certain informality that creates guided views from room to room.
On the ground floor, in the centre of the home, children often run around a central bank of millwork that has four functions: the pantry and main storage space of the kitchen, the wine rack of the dining room, the credenza of the living room and the access point to the house’s central staircase. A bold gesture adjacent to this core is the kitchen island which combines a stainless steel sink, butcher block and cantilevered walnut table.
The rear addition has ten-foot high floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the view and allow northern light to flood the home. The master bedroom suite on the new third floor is also oriented toward the back yard, perching like a tree house amidst the densely wooded ravine. The master bathroom cantilevers out over the existing house, with a bathtub located at the corner window.
Modernizing the house redefines its presence on the street. What was once a faux-tudour two-storey home of no particular architectural value has now become a successful exploration of adaptive reuse in residential design.