Modern in Moore Park
A novel intervention in a neighbourhood of traditions
The listing: 276 Inglewood Dr., Toronto
Asking price: $4,699,900
Taxes: $15,801. 02 (2017)
Lot size: 40 x 125 feet
Agent: Adam Brind, Core Assets Real Estate
The back story
Architect Ivan Martinovic and builder Slaven Juricic knew they would need to tread lightly when they decided to set a contemporary dwelling in the storied Toronto enclave of Moore Park.
The area near Mount Pleasant Avenue and St. Clair Avenue East is named for John Thomas Moore, who began preparations for turning the undeveloped land into a new suburb in the late 1800s. Mr. Moore arranged for rail lines to connect the area to the city and oversaw the construction of bridges that span the area's ravines.
The neighbourhood's grand homes were built mainly in Georgian and Tudor style in the early 1900s. Many prominent business and industrial leaders established roots in Moore Park, and even today it's not uncommon for kids and grandkids to purchase houses within walking distance of their original family home.
When Mr. Juricic purchased the property on Inglewood Drive he brought in Mr. Martinovic of Toronto-based Archdesign Group Ltd., to assess the condition of the existing house.
The homes in the affluent neighbourhood were solid to begin with and their owners have tended to take care of them and update them over the years.
"It's very hard to find a complete teardown," Adam Brind of Core Assets Real Estate says.
In the case of No. 276, Mr. Juricic and Mr. Martinovic decided that a renovation of the old dwelling would be too challenging and costly.
"It's a heroic move but you're not really saving an antique sculpture," the architect says.
Mr. Martinovic, who studied architecture in Belgrade, says that Europeans are more open to building modern structures in amongst their ancient buildings. While tastes are beginning to shift in Canada, he finds it perplexing that Torontonians are still quite staid when it comes to architecture.
"In my mind, it's interesting that architecture is one of the few areas where they cloak themselves in 19th-century and early 20th-century ideas. I don't understand nostalgia focused on architecture when they drive a modern-looking car and use a modern-looking phone."
Mr. Juricic and Mr. Martinovic decided to design a house that would have the modern flourishes and connection to the outdoors that suit a young family. They also wanted to maximize the sunlight and take advantage of the southern exposure in the rear. The project marks the fourth that the two have done together since 2009.
The architect and builder decided to work within the confines of the zoning by-laws instead of adding time and complications by seeking regulatory approval for a larger or taller house, Mr. Martinovic says. That way, they could also avoid a fight with neighbours and officials about the style of the exterior.
"There's a slant towards a very traditional approach," Mr. Martinovic says of the regulatory process.
The new house
The pair aimed to build a residence that is modern in appearance but not jarringingly different from the surrounding houses.
Mr. Juricic, who lives in the house with his wife and two children, points to the slanted roof and the dark brick on the exterior as more traditional elements that help the structure to blend in.
Mr. Martinovic says he started with an interior layout that would work well for a family of four.
"If this doesn't work, nothing outside will really matter much."
The four-bedroom, six-bathroom house is built around a central atrium that brings light and a feeling of airiness to the 2,995-square-foot interior, Mr. Juricic points out. Wood floorboards run the length of the house to emphasize the linearity, he adds.
At the front, a living area overlooks the street, while the dining area is set underneath the gallery above. A staircase of wood, glass and metal separates the front from the back and defines the spaces, Mr. Juricic says. At the rear, a combined kitchen and family room opens to a deck with stairs down to the back garden. A focal point for the family room is the see-through fireplace.
The kitchen has cabinets imported from Italy and built-in appliances, including a wine fridge. The island provides an eating counter for casual meals.
"It perfectly suits a family with an active social life," Mr. Juricic says. "We've hosted parties in this property with over 80 people."
Upstairs, the house has four bedrooms – each with an ensuite bathroom. There's also a laundry area on the second floor.
On the lower level, the house has a media room with doors opening to the garden. There's also a playroom for the kids and a bathroom.
Throughout the house, Mr. Martinovic chose white walls, windows framed in black, and oak floors.
"It's a simple scheme. It's primarily white and off-white, with the contrast of the frames and the neutrality of the floor."
The details are deliberately spare.
Mr. Martinovic points out that elements such as chair rails, valances and crown mouldings were originally created to hide deficiencies in construction at a time when it was difficult to make the various pieces join perfectly.
"People came to see them as decorative elements."
Modern building techniques allow for more simplicity.
"There is good and bad in both traditional and modern," Mr. Martinovic says.
He points out that people today don't drive cars that offer all of the modern advances inside but still resemble Model T's on the outside, or have toasters or fridges that look as if they were made at the turn of the 20th century.
"It always fascinates me. I don't know where it comes from," he says of the love of architecture from previous centuries. "We are part of the present in everything we have."
Throughout Europe, there are towns and cities many centuries old and people don't blindly adhere to those styles of building, he says.
"The past was not revered without a critical assessment of what works and what doesn't work. They have whole cities they can look at. No one in Italy really feels like they need to create a mirror image of Venice on the other side of the lagoon. In Greece, they don't bother recreating replicas of the Parthenon."
Mr. Martinovic says he has seen a surge in interest in modern projects since about 2005. The downside of the increase in popularity, in the architect's opinion, is that some builders are just doing knock-offs of contemporary dwellings in order to appeal to buyers.
"Now in any given block you'll have a modern house. Before that it was architects doing their pet projects."
Still, he's glad that tastes in Toronto are changing.
The house sold this week for $4.35-million.
The best feature
The master suite has a large bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the backyard and doors opening to a French balcony. His-and-hers walk-in closets divide the bedroom from the ensuite bathroom. The bathroom has a vanity with two sinks, a stand-alone tub in front of the window and a large walk-in shower with a built-in bench.