Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

This Rosedale home had the inside carved out and replaced

Heritage designation required careful handling

1 of 11

South Rosedale home renovated by Steven Eisner of infill builders Eisner Murray and architect Bill Dewson of William Dewson Architects. From the street, this home offers all the delights of the 1880s: big gables, an interesting fenestration pattern, a side porch, a large cantilevered bay window on the east side and a wonderfully-windowed coach house over the garage. It all stacks up as a great example of a solid Victorian in a protected heritage district. The inside however, is thoroughly modern.

William Dewson Architects

2 of 11

'What we essentially did was cut out the centre and replace it with this post-and-beam and timber joist system by Timber Systems and secured all of the exterior into it,' explains Mr. Dewson, 'and this created the frame, which stabilized [the home] and allowed us to open it up.'

William Dewson Architects

3 of 11

Because it is a protected heritage home – the double-wythe lath-and-plaster walls had to be retained as well as the window openings on the three public sides – the interior had to be gutted while saving original floor joists that were tied into the exterior walls. Then, this new timber skeleton was “inserted” into the empty space. 'We sliced and diced,’ says Mr. Eisner.

William Dewson Architects

4 of 11

What hits a visitor first is the sheer openness of the house. A formal sitting area connects to the formal dining area, which is punctuated by a lovely doughnut-shaped light fixture. Overhead is the timber ceiling which spans the entire main floor and is repeated on each of the three other floors.

William Dewson Architects

Story continues below advertisement

5 of 11

'Now we live open-concept,’ Mr. Dewson says. ‘Everybody wants to use most of their space [and] kitchens are an integral part of their living.’

William Dewson Architects

6 of 11

To give the eye a treat, the chunkier posts and beams were accentuated by staining them a lovely “coffee-black” colour, while joists above were left looking raw and woodsy. Here and there, drop ceilings offer creamy-white visual relief. The overall effect is so casual, it overwhelms all traces of formality.

William Dewson Architects

7 of 11

Up on the third floor is the 'children’s area,' where each of the homeowner’s three girls have their own bedroom. The girls also share a spectacular, curved-wall bathroom positioned in the middle of the floor; with no opportunities for direct sunlight, a clerestory has been added to the wall closest to the stairwell in order to 'borrow' some from big skylights on the roof.

William Dewson Architects

8 of 11

A whimsical staircase helps lighten things up. From the main floor one notices a slight curve, but, as one climbs it, it becomes more apparent as one realizes the next staircase up (from the second to the third floor) does a criss-crossy dance across one’s head as it moves into a cantilevered bay window. The effect is rather like ascending an escalator in a funky department store. Thick, 5/8 -inch curved glass balustrades (bent in the U.S. as no factory could do it in Canada) add to the visual lightness.

William Dewson Architects

9 of 11

A little half-stair extends from the master bedroom to the coach house, now transformed into a handsome home office. The stair is visible from the informal living room at the rear of the home, too, as it hangs over the top of the floating mudroom closet.

10 of 11

On the second floor is the home’s master bedroom, large walk-in closet and master bath.

William Dewson Architects

11 of 11

Standing outside beside the backyard pool and peeking into each of the home’s four levels (a walk-out basement was created due to the site’s existing grading), one really gets a sense of the home’s new, non-Victorian openness and the warmth offered by the new timber system that holds everything together.

William Dewson Architects

Report an error Editorial code of conduct