142 Kenilworth Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $2,870,000
Taxes: $9,216.00 (2020)
Lot Size: 21.5 feet by 169 feet, irregular
Agents: Monika Merinat (Royal LePage Terrequity Realty)
Joseph Siahou and Emma Hunt were struggling to find a home they both liked when they began their property search in Toronto in 2009. When Ms. Hunt saw potential in an older detached house in the Beaches neighbourhood, Mr. Siahou agreed to purchase it – sight unseen.
Mr. Siahou was willing to renovate but he was taken aback the first time he walked through the sturdy, red-brick dwelling with a lean-to on the front.
“I remember thinking, ‘what have we done?,’” Mr. Siahou says.
Over the years, a family with six children and a few tenants had been crammed into the circa-1912 home, and the interior was showing the wear-and tear.
Mr. Siahou called on designer Johnson Chou. The two had been friends since their days at University of Waterloo, where Mr. Siahou studied engineering and Mr. Chou studied architecture.
They collaborated when Mr. Chou designed the Toronto restaurant and sake bar Blowfish, in which Mr. Siahou was a partner, and again when Mr. Chou designed the offices for Mr. Siahou’s innovation firm.
“Johnson and I go back a long way,” he says.
The couple told Mr. Chou they wanted to open up the interior and create more space for themselves and their young daughter. They all agreed that the renovated building should not stand out too dramatically from the houses of similar vintage that line the east-end street.
The house today
The peaked roof remained, but Mr. Chou pushed out the back of the house and replaced the rear wall with two storeys of glass. A floor-to-ceiling window in the front façade opens up the main floor interior to the street and, on the second floor, a modern take on a bay window punches through the brick.
“We sort of pushed the envelope,” Mr. Siahou says of the home’s contemporary presence in the traditional streetscape.
Today the home has 2,340 square feet of above-ground living space, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a home office.
Mr. Siahou says the collaboration worked well because Mr. Chou brought his sound architectural principles and aesthetic while the couple knew the requirements of a family with young kids.
“If the design has integrity, you have the flexibility to do just about anything,” Mr. Siahou says.
Throughout the house, the couple tried to make each zone focused on the elements needed to do that activity well.
For preparing meals, for example, the kitchen at the centre of the home has an array of high-end appliances and a large island clad in marble.
The couple also incorporated a chalkboard along the length of the island to give their daughter a place to express her own creativity while they were experimenting with new cooking techniques.
“We’re a family of foodies,” Mr. Siahou says. “We’re always trying new things.”
When their little boy arrived, the toys underfoot multiplied. Mr. Siahou says an elevated bench with built-in drawers near the floating staircase is a good place to congregate and also provides hidden storage.
“It took the basic family things out of the way,” he says of the design. “It focuses you on the important things of a family – play and eating.”
A living room at the front of the house overlooks the street and a double-height music room at the rear gives the kids a place to hang out and play the piano.
The expansive rear door pivots so that the back of the house entirely opens to the fresh air in warm weather.
Upstairs, the children each have bedrooms on the second floor. There’s also a lounge and a library open to the family room below.
“It’s a very useful space because we do their homework with them,” he says of the family gathering spot. “We started with our family needs and built around that. The layout presented itself,” Mr. Siahou says.
Mr. Siahou says his daughter’s room at the front of the house has the bay window facing the trees across the road.
“It’s a beautiful view. My daughter is a big reader. She would sit in that big, glass cube and just read.”
His son likes to sit at the bay window in his own room and work on his projects and collections.
“We wanted them to have a good view to be inspired in what they do.”
Outside, the back garden has a patio clad in marble reclaimed from First Canadian Place in the financial district. Front and rear landscaping was done by Earth Inc.
Mr. Siahou says many contemporary homes have now sprung up in the Beaches area, so 142 Kenilworth does not seem as atypical as it did 11 years ago, when it defied the expectations of many of the neighbours.
“As hard as we tried to make sure it fit in, there was a lot of head-shaking,” Mr. Siahou says. “It certainly ruffled some fur but eventually everyone came to appreciate what it did for the street.”
The best feature
The home’s existing attic was opened up to create a master suite.
There’s a bedroom area, a lounging space, an open closet and a glass-enclosed shower. A stand-alone bathtub sits under the peaked window in the ensuite bathroom.
A door leads to a secluded deck.
Mr. Siahou says the space was more open and minimalist at the beginning; the couple has filled it in with more of their own style and belongings over the years.
“The third floor is entirely the adult playroom.”
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