Iconic Toronto art deco residence reinvented for contemporary family lifestyle

This project is a restoration, renovation, and addition to a 1931 heritage Art Deco-influenced home in mid-town Toronto. The original residence was commissioned by Lawren Harris, an artist and member of the Group of Seven (1920 – 1933).

The group represented a school of painting of distinctly modern Canadian landscapes. As with Harris’ artwork, the house uses a modern language, infused with a passion for the local landscape. The current project builds upon the spirit of the uniquely Canadian art deco style and updates the 1930s home for a contemporary family of five. The changes to the historical house mirror the evolution of the single-family residence typology since the 1930s.

The contemporary layout has the less formal spaces of the house occupy a more central and integrated role in the life of the home. The addition encompasses an expanded ground floor plan and a new kitchen, breakfast room, family room, and rear entrance. Each space is given a different ceiling height in order to define the free-flowing space into zones having individual character. A skylight marks the junction of old and new.

These interconnected spaces are organized around a central fireplace hearth that establishes a strong connection to the new exterior room. The relatively small rear garden space was enlarged by adjoining part of the driveway and one of the existing garage spaces. The new cabana, pool and exterior kitchen is defined by a garden wall and canopied walk-way. This walk-way connects the garage to the new rear entry. The obscured glass of the garden wall provides privacy from the adjacent mutual driveway.

The project also includes a new master bedroom suite within the former third floor painting studio, a home theatre and wine room in the expanded basement, and custom built-in cabinetry throughout. The foyer, dining and living rooms have been restored and both vintage and new fixtures and furnishings have been added. Restoration work includes mullion and hardware repair and putty work on the original steel-frame windows for energy efficiency, updating of all cove and niche lighting, and uncovering and re-finishing original wood flooring, stair treads and details.

The new material palette and detailing respectfully reinforces and updates the Canadian Art Deco style. It includes local light wood, painted steel, limestone, and black granite. The new interiors maintain large areas of glazing and a lack of ornament approach that characterizes the Art Deco style. Polished black terrazzo flooring and stairs tie together all new spaces and provide continuity with the black and white color scheme of the original design.

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