The listing: 229 Douglas Dr.
Asking price: $6.25-million
Taxes: $21,746.71 (2015)
Lot size: 50 feet by 178 feet
Agent: Helen Braithwaite, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston and Daniel Division
The Back Story
The demolition was already well under way at 229 Douglas Dr. when the owner realized that the project was going to be beyond the scope of an interior designer. She called in Bruce Studio Architects to reinvent the stately Rosedale home.
The owner knew the façade of the Georgian-style house is protected by the neighbourhood’s heritage conservation rules. But she did not envision herself surrounded by the wood trim, plaster mouldings and burnished antiques of an English country home. The owner told the architects she wanted an interior as spare and light-filled as a Soho loft.
Architects Kirsty Bruce, Jordan Winters and Suzanna MacDonald came in after the builder had ripped apart walls and hauled away cabinets and plumbing.
“They did need to gut it to see what was going on with the structures,” Ms. Bruce says.
The architects found, for example, that what appeared to have been a brick two-storey sun porch was independently structured. Taking out the masonry walls so that the volume could be incorporated into the main space was a challenge.
“That architecturally was a big ask,” Ms. Bruce says.
Mr. Winters points out that there were awkward changes in level between rooms. As well, an octagonal hall at the centre of the house created a formal separation of the rooms but it also blocked the views.
“It was kind of a dark, dead core,” he says.
Ms. Bruce points out that a circa 1915 Rosedale hostess most likely enjoyed having a lovely formal dining room, but in 2016, most families don’t want such a strict delineation between rooms.
They also want sunlight to flow through the interior.
“It was like a house with blinders on – it only looked in one direction,” Mr. Winters says. “We took the blinders off.”
The House Today
The architects have worked on the renovation of older homes in the past, but always with an eye to making them more environmentally sustainable and contemporary.
Their projects since Ms. Bruce launched the firm in 2011 have included residences, restaurants and the offices of a digital media company.
At 229 Douglas Dr., the architects were asked to make the most of the tall ceilings and large, Georgian-style windows that the house already has. They added floor-to-ceiling windows in the kitchen and dining room.
“There’s a much stronger connection to the landscape now because the light moves through the house the whole day,” Mr. Winters says.
The stairs to the basement used to be in the room that is currently the kitchen. The architects stacked the stairs to make more efficient use of the space and also so that the design ties together all three levels of the house.
Today the stairs, built of ladder-matched Douglas fir, is almost sculptural, the architects say.
“It’s quite monolithic,” says Ms. Bruce, who likens the parts to origami pieces.
“Putting it together was a really interesting design feat.”
But people who look more closely will see the workmanship in the way the white oak stair tread is revealed from the stair stringer, which adds interesting detail and also human scale, Mr. Winters explains. The reveal also pays homage to the building’s past in the way it bridges traditional and modern elements.
“It adds a level of refinement suitable to a Georgian house,” Mr. Winters says.
The stairs also become central to creating a harmonious design. The benches in the breakfast area and lining the bay window overlooking the garden are built of the same Douglas fir with similar detailing.
It kind of informs everything that radiates from around it, Mr. Winters says.
The large, open kitchen is designed for entertaining and to keep sight lines unobstructed throughout the main floor. A ladder provides access to upper level storage.
“The ladder rail makes it dynamic and gave us a kind of lovely horizontal data,” Ms. Bruce says.
On the second floor, four bedrooms were reinvented as two.
The master suite is designed to create a private sanctuary in the rear half of the house.
The master bedroom has stairs up to French doors which open to a wood deck. A separate dressing area is set up as a lounge away from the hubbub of family life. Lots of custom-built closets and shelves surround the lounge area.
The master bath has windows facing south and east, with a view of the backyard magnolia tree from the standalone bathtub. There’s also a glass shower enclosure and a floating custom-made vanity.
Throughout the project, making the house sustainable was also a priority, say the partners. Radiant heat warms the building in winter and the palette is comprised mostly of local materials.
“Long life, loose fit and low energy are the guiding principals,” Mr. Winters says.
A “loose fit” means that future owners will be able to change things around and use rooms for different purposes without having to gut the house again.
The lounge in the master suite, for example, could also serve as an office or a nursery. The basement has been primed for a gym, a wine cellar and an extra bedroom.
The exterior was also in need of rejuvenation, the architects say, so they found a photograph dated from 1915 and based the restoration of the front porch and steps on the exterior in the photo.
“We wanted to push a modern interior that still worked well with this Georgian envelope,” Ms. Bruce says. “And I don’t think there’s any conflict. It’s very fluid.”
The Best Feature
The architects were able to add six inches to the ceiling height of the third floor. Ms. Bruce also points to the beautiful, deep dormers, which help to create a feeling of privacy.
Light from three sides keeps the top level bright and airy.
The area was designed as flexible space that can be a playroom, a studio, a teenager’s crash pad, more bedrooms or an alternative place for the master suite.
“There is really beautiful light coming through that space,” Ms. Bruce says.