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The house has a double-sided fireplace on the exterior wall of the family room that allows people outside to cluster around the fire.
The house has a double-sided fireplace on the exterior wall of the family room that allows people outside to cluster around the fire.

Home of the Week: Example of ‘slow’ architecture is light on its feet Add to ...


ASKING PRICE: $2,349,000

TAXES: $12,693.92

LOT SIZE: 48.7 feet by 134.6 feet

LISTING AGENTS: Robin Millar and Christine Breen (Re/Max Hallmark Realty Ltd.)

The back story

Drew Mandel was a young architect working in Toronto when he designed his own modern house at 83a Marlborough Ave. in the Yonge and Summerhill area. Construction had just come to an end when a couple knocked on the door to ask if he would mind passing on the name of his architect.

Introductions were made and Mr. Mandel soon found himself with a new project: designing a residence for the couple in Bennington Heights.

The clients had lived in a small bungalow on Evergreen Gardens, near Moore and Bayview avenues, for years. They didn’t want to leave the tranquil street, but they were ready for a new, modern dwelling.

The starting point, says Mr. Mandel, was the existing landscaping, which included a grand maple at the front of the house and tall spruce trees at the rear. The architect designed a new house that would preserve the trees and create two courtyards.

People arriving at the front of the house see a carport with a strong roofline. A low stone wall creates a sitting area near the entrance.

“It’s sort of a modern interpretation of a front porch,” says Mr. Mandel.

Inside, the house is comfortable and airy without being massive.

“It’s generous with light and spaces,” he says of the open and fluid arrangement.

The project won an award from Canadian Interiors for best of Canada design.

The house is also featured on the website slowhomestudio.com as an example of “slow” architecture. The curated website advocates for the design of houses that are simple to live in and light on the environment – especially compared with the poor design practices of the mass housing industry.

To Mr. Mandel, that philosophy includes creating rooms that are no larger than they need to be and building a house specifically suited to its site.

“I see this house as an alternative to McMansion architecture,” says Mr. Mandel.

Mr. Mandel explains that he started with a simple box, then set another box containing the stairwell and bathroom within that. He manipulated the elevations within to define the spaces.

The dining room, for example, stands next to the family room, which is a couple of steps lower. Stepping down into the family room creates the feeling of arriving at a separate space with a soaring ceiling.

“When you’re in the dining room, you feel like you’re on a platform,” says Mr. Mandel.

The kitchen pierces the box, in effect, with a long eating counter with views to the garden and the family room.

At the front of the house, the living room includes built-in benches in a window jutting out towards the tree canopy.

“You feel like you’re sitting under that big tree,” says Mr. Mandel.

Upstairs, the house has four bedrooms. The master bedroom has an ensuite bathroom and a private terrace overlooking the garden.

The house today

Iain and Kim Stevens and their children took over the house from the original owners.

The family loves the street, which has so little traffic that kids can play out front, says real estate agent Robin Millar of ReMax Hallmark Realty Ltd.

Tall trees and wide lots are also typical of the neighbourhood.

“This all used to be orchard,” says Ms. Millar of the area near Bayview and Eglinton.

Ms. Millar says 6 Evergreen Gardens has been changed very little by the Stevens, but they did have some additional landscaping done by Earth Inc.

“It was built for a family,” she says of the house with more than 2,700 square feet of above-grade living space.

The very deep basement has a recreation room and a home office.

“A lot of people work at home so it’s nice to have a quiet spot,” says Ms. Millar.

The heated concrete floor in the basement lets kids big and small play with abandon.

“It does lend itself to having just about anything happen in the basement.”

Outside, the house has a large cedar deck at the rear. The double-sided fireplace on the exterior wall of the family room also allows people outside to cluster around the fire.

The best feature

Most of the action takes place in the kitchen, with its long counter overlooking the back garden and views into the dining room and family room.

“This is the hub,” says Ms. Millar. “This is where it all happens – the homework, the cooking, everything.”

The kitchen has custom-built cabinets and built-in stainless steel appliances.

There is also a walk-out to the deck.

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