The listing: 201 Dunn Ave., Toronto
Asking Price: $2,695,000
Taxes: $8,419.76 (2021)
Lot Size: 30 feet by 140 feet.
Agents: David Bailye, Re/Max West Realty Inc. and High Park Real Estate Group
Not all renovations need an architect, and not all architectural expansions improve what was already in place – but if you’re lucky, you can get architecture that turns a renovation into something greater than the sum of its additions.
That’s what Dr. Richard Yanofsky, a physician, got from the principals at the Practice of Everyday Design – who later founded Design Architecture Everyday Inc. – when they redid his 2 1/2-story Victorian detached home in Parkdale in 2014.
“They were cool, they were one of the early Toronto design shops,” he said. “I’m involved in a restaurant and we have a cottage, and each time we’ve used architects and designers.”
When Dr. Yanofsky and his wife bought the house in 2012, it was subdivided into three apartments. The renovation plan was extensive: gut the interior of the house, dig out and underpin the basement to make it more usable, and add an addition onto the back. Inside, the couple were inspired by hygge, the Danish and Norwegian word for a feeling of conviviality and contentment that has come to define a certain design sense.
“My wife is also Danish, she grew up visiting there, and they have a rich tradition of the creation of a warm homes,” Dr. Yanofsky said.
In addition to hiding all the bulkheads in the walls and keeping open lines everywhere, the other ways this Scandinavian design expresses itself are in the natural material palate. “Soap-finished or unfinished light woods, brushing the oak floor to highlight grain, lime-washing brick wall rather than painting, slate flooring – we tried keep things as authentic and natural as possible,” he said.
But for some of the finishes, he had very specific and less rustic desires.
“I consider myself a very good consumer, I enjoy new interesting products,” said Dr. Yanofsky, as he filled his house with features he admired, including specialty faucets in the bathrooms. “These are the most classic faucets I know: Dornbracht, Mutina. They are very fancy and absurdly expensive. For as long as I’ve been imagining creating a fantasy space for myself, I always wanted them, I can’t imagine getting any other faucets.”
The house today
From the street, there’s no sign that a major renovation was undertaken. Instead, the façade was maintained and repaired with only new windows, offering a sense that not much has changed over the past 100 years. Pushing through the lush landscaping of the front yard, the front porch was also maintained, even if it’s a little small compared to the other interior spaces and is mainly used as an Amazon package locker. But the light that filters through the stained glass window panes does extend into the main house.
The first room is a grand open living and dining space framed by a staircase with built-in bookshelves climbing upstairs on the right side, a media wall and fireplace on the left, and a lime-washed brick wall in the rear with two doorways cut out leading to the kitchen.
“One of my favourite things the architects did was they twisted the orientation of the kitchen 90 degrees, so it’s perpendicular to the orientation of the house,” Dr. Yanofsky said. In many gut-renos of Victorians, you open the house all the way through with a counter and cabinet running along the exterior wall with maybe an island running parallel. In this house, the sink and dishwasher are against the brick wall, the old exterior; the island with cooktop is behind that; and the exterior walls are lined with floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets (with fridge on the right and ovens wall-mounted on the left).
Meanwhile, the rear wall is full of wood-framed glass doors that can fold like an accordion and fully open to the deck, making this room a flexible indoor-outdoor space in good weather.
Outside, the yard extends a long way back to a parking area (with electric vehicle charger) and motorized gateway for access to a rear-lane courtyard shared by only a few neighbours. Compared to those neighbours, however, the addition doesn’t expand back as far as it could.
“The honest truth there was an old walnut tree that used to be up close to the house, and we didn’t have the heart to request [the] removal of it,” Dr. Yanofsky said. But the tree died a few years later and, with much regret, had to be removed. To replace that missing shade, the couple has added a series of mature trees, beeches and maples that are coming along nicely. “We’re hippies basically. The effort we went to preserve this walnut tree was enormous.”
Upstairs, the second-floor landing has been expanded beyond a simple hallway to an oversized family den and gathering space. Opposite the stairs, the oak floor continues up the wall and in a sort of house-in-house design, with three doors mounted flush with planks (no visible jams or trim) that lead to the two children’s bedrooms and a bathroom. There’s even a loft space above these rooms – they are not typically accessible, but Dr. Yanofsky had planned to get a rolling ladder that could extend its function.
The primary bedroom is above the kitchen addition, and the wall facing the rear yard is filled with more built-ins and nooks and crannies.
The ensuite bathroom is hidden behind a sliding barn-door. It offers a standalone soaker tub, an open shower behind a ¾ height wall and a floating vanity – all featuring those Dornbracht faucets with their graceful necks curving into the vessels.
The basement has polished concrete floors filled with a radiant heating system and more built-in cabinets under the stairwell. But the most eccentric but brilliant feature is perhaps located in the laundry room. Behind a round hole cut into the cabinetry is a kitty-litter space with motion-activated light and fan to ventilate the unpleasant odours; Trout the cat has sadly passed on, but in life, he enjoyed his hideaway.
The best feature
Dr. Yanofsky said he was familiar with the Practice of Everyday team from their Eden House project in Mississauga and he wanted to bring them in to see what could be done to the Dunn house.
One of the things he was looking for was an attention to living space, particularly the careful scattering of functional nooks and crannies.
“That [second-floor hall/den] is a gorgeous space to read a book. It’s got this big skylight, it creates a moment of fun and charm and specialness inside your home,” he said. “The built-ins create little comfy spots to curl up and read a book. But I get bored of the same routine; for a few months that’s my reading nook, and then I find some other nook and cranny.”
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