The Wychwood neighbourhood of Toronto is rather like Mr. Gump’s box of chocolates.
Stroll around and you never know what you’ll get: a few 1890s bay-n-gables; a 1920s craftsman over there; here, a little row of 1950s Toronto specials; a 1970s boxy beauty with brick archways shielding the front porch; even a few walk-up apartments.
And since no style dominates, one would be hard-pressed to pressure one’s street mates into the preservation of something as humble as a workaday 1970s bungalow with angel brick and a hipped roof. But look a little closer. A recessed front door right at the centre, and with a transom and sidelight. Solid brick, well laid. Big picture windows. A wide lot. An understated elegance.
It helped that Andrea and Mike Carter knew the owner and had a fondness for the place. Mr. Carter’s mother, an artist, had purchased the house with her sister in 2006 and had transformed the walkout basement into a light, bright painter’s studio. However, after Mr. Carter’s aunt moved away, the question of where Mr. Carter’s mother would end up popped up.
“My mom is going to move into a smaller space, loses her studio,” Mr. Carter says. “We were looking to move out of our house and move into the neighbourhood, and one of my friends who is a real estate agent said, ‘Why don’t you buy your aunt out and renovate the house and add another storey onto it.’”
That job, plus the preservation/enhancement of the 1970s exterior was handed to the very talented Joanne Myers. Before hanging her own shingle five years ago, Ms. Myers worked for the legendary KPMB, for Cindy Rendely Architexture, and enjoyed bouts in Colorado and at Scrafano Architects in Chicago before spending a little time at Superkul.
While the original plan was to tuck the addition as far back as possible from the street and have it sit flush with the rear façade, opposition from a neighbour triggered a rethink. So, what if the addition straddled the middle of the roof and gave “breathing room” to both façades?
“We didn’t have to reduce the square footage,” Ms. Myers says. “We changed the layout a little bit upstairs, but it didn’t compromise anything.”
“I think it all actually worked out better in the end,” Mr. Carter says of the addition. “The main living space is more open, before the stairs were more pushed forward.”
He’s right. Open the front door to the foyer, trot up the few steps to the main floor and there is a generous amount of sexy wood floor spread out before one’s feet. It takes a few seconds to make one’s way to the staircase to the new second storey. And while that staircase may not sport things like open treads or glassy walls, the skylight above lights it up to create a real impact, turning the ordinary into something special.
To one’s left is the generous living and dining area; to one’s right is the kitchen, with boasts both big island seating and a cozy banquette. Hallways on either side lead to unseen, tucked away nooks or the couple’s bedroom – unlike a fully open plan, these create mystery and interest.
“We wanted to keep some privacy … but don’t you want to know what’s around the corner,” Ms. Myers says with a laugh. “I like to have little moments: a desk, quiet, somebody could work there and be out of the fray.” And what’s that after the little built-in desk? Oh, a powder room with silly-wonderful wallpaper featuring a Dali-esque landscape of plants and animals by Moooi Wallcovering.
Take the left hallway and one can admire the large laundry room built under the stairs. With two kids, says Mr. Carter, “we do a lot of laundry.” It’s a nice place to do it.
Beyond that is the primary bedroom but, before one enters it, there is a little anteroom so that, Ms. Myers says with a chuckle, “if a guest stumbles into the wrong spot, before they’ve gone too far they can turn around. … It could be flex space too, it could be a little office, it could be a Peloton room.”
All of these first floor features will allow the couple to age in place, which they intend to do. And placing their two little girls up in the mid-roof addition keeps things peaceful for everyone: at night, the parents are tucked under their own, single storey roof at the back of the house, while grandma, in the walkout basement, has an entire floor as a buffer zone to the noise.
“We talked about it ad nauseam,” Ms. Myers says. “Like, do we put [the adults] upstairs or do we put [everyone] upstairs and make this a more traditional house with the bedrooms upstairs.”
And for the relatively tight budget of $400,000 (they went over by a little), Ms. Myers was able to add in some luxury, such as a fully custom kitchen in a lovely light pistachio colour, brass hardware, a big soaker tub in the ensuite, luxurious light fixtures, and built-in speakers in the ceiling. Architecturally, the logical flow of space, crisp lines and the big thoughtful moments combined with little surprises make the house a real joy to walk though.
That this once humble, once one-storey dwelling now houses three generations on two floors (plus a basement) is just icing on the cake, er, box of chocolates.
“Not many people can live with their mother,” Mr. Carter says with a laugh. “She’s very easy to get along with. … It works out for everyone.”
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