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Bloordale, Toronto renovation by blackLab Architects Inc. Tony Round and Andrea Kordos, of the young architecture firm blackLAB, transformed the house on limited funds, using an architect’s sensitivity to details and an awareness of the whole picture.

Jonathan Savoie

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When they bought the home near Bloor and Lansdowne in 2007, Mr. Round and Ms. Kordos found lots of work to do. They began with the usual modernist moves – taking out the walls in the middle of the house and opening up the back wall to make room for large glass-and-wood doors. “I think the lesson here is to begin by planning the space properly,” says Mr. Round, 33. “The big-ticket faucets and the last layer of materials are what people see, but that’s superficial. It can follow in time.”

Jonathan Savoie

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The house has been a laboratory to develop ideas about materials, space and ornament. ‘A lot of things in this house have been a process of experimentation,’ says Mr. Round.

Jonathan Savoie

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Jonathan Savoie

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For Mr. Round and Ms. Kordos, being their own general contractors has given them a similarly hands-on connection to the handiwork of building. They made their kitchen counters, for instance, out of plywood, and recently gave them a coat of high-gloss white paint. (It’s a placeholder, Mr. Round says, but for the moment it looks great.) It steps down from the kitchen island to form a built-in table, good for meals, snack time and crafts. Underneath the counters are a series of Ikea cabinets in three different finishes, mostly bought on sale and installed, like with like, in coherent blocks.

Jonathan Savoie

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A mosaic image of a lily covers one wall of the kitchen. ‘We wanted to do something fun with it,’ says Ms. Kordos. The mosaic combines a digitally derived image with low-tech handiwork. Ms. Kordos found a picture of a lily online, pixellated it in Photoshop, and printed out key maps to be executed with masking tape and paint. ‘It was a Friday night and it seemed like a good idea at the time,’ Mr. Round says with a rueful smile. ‘It started as a weekend project and wound up taking two weeks of standing at the wall slicing.’

Jonathan Savoie

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Combining store-bought components with custom ones helped the budget. A handsome bench extends from the kitchen into the adjacent living room; its guts are kitchen vanities with a white oak veneer, from Ikea’s final sale area. They’re capped with white back-painted glass – an unusual and handsome choice – and garnished with a few small pieces of custom woodwork. They hide kids’ toys and general clutter with style. The overall effect is bespoke; the cost, much less.

Jonathan Savoie

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Jonathan Savoie

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Another helpful ingredient was time to think. ‘We lived for two of three years with the original kitchen,’ Mr. Round says. When they first moved in, they bought an Ikea kitchen for the basement apartment, ‘and it stayed in its boxes for two years,’ Mr. Round says. Their own kitchen took even longer, and they say that taking so long allowed their design ideas to ferment.

blackLab Architects Inc

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