Skip to main content
//empty //empty

Janna Levitt is photographed in the living room of her home in Toronto, on March 1, 2019.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

For architects Janna Levitt and Dean Goodman – the L and G in LGA Architectural Partners – designing their Toronto home was an opportunity to innovate within the narrow dimensions of a 20-foot-wide downtown lot and to “demonstrate the many things we think are really important in our time, in an urban environment,” as architects, Levitt says.

The house boasts a bevy of green and energy-saving features, and is modestly sized at 2,000 square feet. Levitt and Goodman designed in a green roof for on-site stormwater management, mature trees for shading and cooling (these were so important, they budgeted for them in the construction cost), and beehives and butterfly-attracting gardens. A high-efficiency wood-burning stove and polished concrete floors with radiant heating warm the space, but, crucially and intentionally, there’s no central air conditioning Once summer is in full swing, they’ll open windows and turn on fans for cross-breezes. In a pinch, they can activate the green roof irrigation system. “It drops the ambient air temperature a couple of degrees, which makes a huge difference,” she says.

All these relatively low-fi tactics mean Levitt is highly aware of her environment – more so than if she could turn a single switch to steady interior temperatures. “If I spend the day working from home, I’ll actually move from one side of the house to the other for the daylight and views; “harvesting sunlight,” she says, as it moves east to west. There’s never a dull moment, looking out to the green roof, with plants growing and blooming and bugs and bees pollinating. Levitt and Goodman use the green roof as an experimental laboratory for testing different sedum mixes, to better inform their clients of what works when implementing green roofs in their projects.

Story continues below advertisement

Favourite room: How to cultivate an art collection – even if you’re a first-time buyer

“It’s been an incredible revelation – the complexity, the shifts and nuances [you see]. Once you’re attuned to it, it’s incredibly endlessly interesting,” Levitt says.

In the ground-floor living space, facing a residential street, there’s visual interest but also calm; a result of the spare finishes, 12-foot high-ceilings, and large, operable windows, covered by custom UV-resistant Gore-Tex drapery. It’s also a multifunctional space that can change according to their needs. “I think that’s part of what real flexibility in design is,” Levitt says. “It changes as your life changes.”

The sofa is from Italinteriors, with cushions by Bev Hisey. A coffee table is by a furniture design graduate from Sheridan College, purchased at a year-end show, and it’s laid with geometric objects: concrete casts of wine glasses set on a mirrored base, by artist Annie MacDonell and battered copper bowls by AKFD Studio and Ayush Kasliwal, purchased on a trip to India. Other artwork in the space are by Shelley Adler, Keesic Douglas, Luis Jacob, Jean-Paul Kelly and Katherine Knight. Many were friendly trades, some acquisitions. Levitt’s background is in fine art and she grew up with parents who were collectors of Indigenous and folk art.

Despite this urbanity, Levitt is a green convert. At LGA, she says, “We think about land differently, as an active participant, not as a substrate you plop something onto.” She likens it to the attachment and connection cottage-dwellers feel toward their properties. And Levitt doesn’t think this attitude would be misplaced in a city context – in fact, it’s a much-needed shift in mindset.

“I think we have to think about landscapes differently. To me, it’s a fundamental issue of stewardship and identity,” she says.

Editor’s note: (March 29, 2019) The square footage of the home has been corrected in the online version of this story.

Get the Look

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, design, entertaining, shopping and living well. And follow us on Instagram @globestyle.

Follow related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies