Green Manor


Distribution of heating and cooling is optimized throughout the house by smart ductwork layout and the strategic placement of the furnaces and condenser units.

The basement is the most energy efficient space and is well used in this house. It is well insulated and has few exterior openings.

Walls and roofs are super-insulated.

Durable and long-lasting materials and components.

Compartmentalization of space.

A bank of south-west facing solar panels are installed along the top of the wide rear elevation.  The panels also act as sun screen for the second floor.

Supplementary electric radiant floor heating combined with heavy concrete floor slabs that store the heat generated for many hours can heat up a room in short notice.  The occupants can set the program of heating depending on daily schedule.  Electric heat can be turned on and off instantaneously and automatically.

Counterbalanced lift and slide light-weight thermal panels of R24 insulation value line the inside of the window walls in front and back. The panels can be locked in placed and the edges are fully weatherstripped. The top and bottom of the window walls are vented with conditioned air continually circulating to prevent moisture build up.

The house is equipped with the most up to date HRV (heat recovery ventilation) system that is highly energy efficient.

On-demand hot water heater units are installed in the vicinity of areas that require hot water. There will be no conventional hot water tanks that work non-stop 24-7.


Areas where odor needs to be extracted are separated from the rest of the house. The bathrooms, toilet stalls and kitchen cooking area are glass enclosed and ventilated separately. Make up air is supplied in these sealed compartments as needed. The kitchen exhaust fans are installed on an exterior wall so that the path of exit for cooking exhaust is the shortest.

The only fireplace in the house is a sealed unit. When it is on, the heat is used to supplement the heating in winter. No cold air can leak into the house.

The house is kept at moderate (68oF) but comfortable temperature level in the winter. On-demand instant heat can be turned on by radiant floor heating. The concrete holds the heat in for a long time. In the summer, instead of relying on constant mechanized cooling, outside air is pumped into the house, filtered and distributed throughout. This will stop when air-conditioning kicks in. The insulated window panels are kept closed in areas that get a lot of sun and that are not occupied to cut down on the sun heating up the space in the summer and heat loss to the outside during the cold months. The summer temperature in the house is maintained at 75oF. With the constant air movement, it will feel a lot cooler and fresher in the house. Conventional forced-air furnaces and air-conditioning units are still installed.

The opening and closing of the insulated window panels are not automatic. When on holiday, they are kept closed and the thermostat turned low in the winter. It is a daily routine for the homeowner to slide the panels to let the sun in or keep the cold out.


The back of the house faces south west. The front of the house faces north east. In the morning, the sun shines through the window wall in the front and heat is absorbed by the concrete floors and the massive concrete shapes (curved concrete wall and the inverted concrete cone which houses a music-listening/reading/meditation pod). When the sun is gone, the R24 insulated sliding panels that are weatherstripped are closed to trap the heat in. In the summer they are closed to keep the sun out. These panels can be separately open or closed and the edges are still sealed tight.

In winter afternoons when the sun is the most direct, the south west side (back of house) insulated sliding panels are fully open to let the sun in on both floors. The heat is absorbed and stored in the concrete floors and the heavy stone walls facing the back windows. At the same time the solar panels in the back are generating electricity which is put back into the power grid of the city. These sliding panels can be fully or partially open or closed depending on how much daylight or view is required by the occupants.


In this house the basement is not leftover space.  Since it is fully underground and well insulated by earth and added insulation, it is totally energy efficient.  The client is an audiophile and half of the basement (3000 sq.ft.) is to become a music listening room with the most advanced audio equipment to simulate the acoustics of a concert hall.  The room is a hundred feet long to capture the long frequencies of the ultra low bass sound.  The ceiling height is twelve feet.  It is in fact a virtual symphony hall that allows relaxation and lounging for the whole music-loving family.  Also read our blog page : Mid-Century Modern Hi-Fi


This is a very long room to simulate the sound quality of a symphony hall

Mid-Century Modern III

This mid-century modern bungalow is for those who would never want to move into an apartment or old folks home. When custom home builders all over North America are competing to build the biggest and tallest edifice, this project certainly goes against the grain. It is low and unassuming. It looks like an old 1950s bungalow. And it has no pseudo classical doodads. It took us five years to find the right lot to build this house which is by no means small. It has 7500 square feet on the main floor and it contains a four car garage. The house is 95 foot wide. We have to apply to committee of adjustment for extra lot coverage.


People usually give up on their houses because they can no longer maintain them. When some parts of the roof is thirty five feet above ground and hard to lean a ladder against because of lack of room, you may not find an eavestrough cleaner who wants to go up there. A clogged eavestrough can cause a lot of damage to the house.  So a one story house makes a lot of sense. And a bungalow with enough room makes more sense. It would be convenient to climb up a short ladder and walk on the roof. It would be nice to go anywhere in the house without climbing stairs. It would be superb that any service outfit can maintain the house at reasonable cost.


The roof is animal proof. It is metal (standing seam copper). There is no eavestrough. We use drainage channels at grade instead. The high basement is accessible by elevator. The finished grade all around the house is six inches lower than the main floor. The window walls are commercial quality aluminum with heavy duty frames thermally broken. The solid walls are brick with insulation value of R30. The roof is insulated to R60 value. There are four standard but high-quality furnaces and air-conditioning units that any service outfit can maintain. We use no zone-control damper with servo motor. There is no home automation or integrated sound system. Lighting is all LED and controlled by regular wall switches: some are two, three or four way switches. LED lights consumes one-tenth of the power of incandescent lights. There are two natural-gas fired back up generators, four sump pumps, a sophisticated HRV (heat recovery ventilation) system and a most advanced home security system hardwired throughout the house. The exteriors of the house is maintenance free other than re-caulking every ten years and replacing light bulbs. This bungalow is all white, thoroughly modern, bright, spacious, airy and very pleasant to live in. The design was partly inspired by the 1980s Memphis movement, partly by the 1960s pop and mod style and most of all by the mid-century modern atomic ranch style of the 1950s. The kitchen in this house is exemplary. Landscaping is a separate issue and we are still designing it so it will not require much maintenance.

Episode 1 : Video Walk-Thru of the White Bungalowwhite-bungalow-video
Episode 2 : Video of Mid-Century Modern Bathroombathroom-video



view of the living room in the foreground and dining room in the background showing the colonnade on the right hand side and the Art Deco light fixture and furniture in the photograph

Mid-Century Modern II

This is a follow up project to the Mid-Century Modern I house in the same neighborhood.  It was built on an even narrower lot of 25′ frontage.  The house was tall, long and narrow in proportions.  The exteriors were deliberately plain and low key.  The interiors were built to impress.

Retro Modern

We often found exciting interiors of homes built in the 1940s in Toronto.  It was an era way passed the classical modern Bauhaus period and hadn’t quite gotten over the prewar Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco excesses.  It was our desire to re-create such an interior in this house.

The Layout

Narrow houses are fun to design but very challenging in their demands.  The Mid-Century Modern II had one long and straight hallway leading from the front door, passing the staircase, flanking the living and dining areas and ending at the kitchen/family room in the back of the house.  This hallway was about thirty-five feet long and ran along the right hand side of the main floor.  The staircase was about five feet away from the front entrance, also on the right side of the floor.  On the left of the hallway was firstly the living room, then the dining room.  The kitchen/family room was at the back of the house.  To the right of the hallway was firstly the staircase, then the coat closet and then the powder room.  The hallway was separately visually from the living and dining areas by a colonnade of square pillars on which sconces were mounted.

The Styling

The stair railing was intentionally retro in feel and streamline in shape, ending at the cylindrical newel posts fitted with a large sphere on top.  It set the tone of the 1940s period.  The colonnade of square pillars was contemporary and modern.  The light fixtures and furniture were American Art Deco of the 1930s vintage.  The large octagonal side window between the first and second floor in the stairwell was American 1920s Arts and Crafts.  It was employed as a nostalgic element.  The Japanese Oriental Art Deco motifs adorned the door panels which were painted a silky satin cinnabar lacquer color. The floor in the family room and kitchen was early American-Diner mosaic tiled.  So was the wainscoting in the main floor powder room.  The square sashes of the window wall in the back of the kitchen overlooking the backyard were influenced by the Prairie School Style. The overall atmosphere created had a warm and fuzzy feel to it.  It was friendly, cozy, nostalgic and something from ones childhood.

What We’d Learned

Creativity was not limited by the size of the lot or house.  Creativity, however, must work hand-in-hand with practicality.  But within the parameters of the functions, such as circulation, convenience, proximity, privacy, isolation and work-flow, a good designer and builder could always find new and unique solutions to age-old problems (or newly created problems).  From the beginning, we had seldom built cookie-cutter type houses.  Everyone of our house had something new to offer. It was a lot more work for us but that’s the way we chose to practice. Also read our blog : 1950s Mid-Century Modern in Don Mills, Canada

Scandinavian modern mid-century kitchen

Mid-Century Modern I

This was the second project undertaken by our firm in its 25 years of building history.  The land was purchased from a bankrupt builder in 1991 at the depth of the recession.  Despite the small budget, we managed to create 3000 sq.ft. of living space plus a fully finished basement with exquisitely detailed architectural features such as the Scandinavian mid-century modern inspired kitchen, the Art Nouveau influenced staircase and the white bleached floor throughout.

Where The Idea Came From

Suburban Toronto houses followed a pattern of ready made floor plans with standard fittings.  No variation or creativity was discernible from one builder’s work to the other.  We wanted to build a house that could fit in the neighborhood but with innovation and new ideas within.  It was also a test to find out what was appealing to homeowners and what was not.

The Outcome

The two-story house with red brick exterior contrasting with the green shingled roof appeared innocuous enough in the sleepy North Toronto neighborhood.  It represented any mid-century suburban home in North America.  But the inside was refreshing and new.  The floors were white wood, the rooms were white, drapery off white, upholstery off white and the kitchen was white.  The immediate effect was Scandinavian country modern.  The show stopper was the custom wrought-iron staircase with open treads and Art Nouveau flair.  It was airy and did not stifle a fairly cramped space.  The house was narrow.  The lot was only 36′ wide.  So creating visual space was important.  The dining and living rooms were in one space whereas the kitchen and family rooms were in another space.  Despite the meager budget, we commissioned custom furniture makers to fabricate the kitchen, the maple-burl fireplace mantel and several pieces of custom furniture.

The main floor comprised a front hall, a stairwell, a living room, a dining room, a family room, a kitchen and a powder room.  The second floor comprised four bedrooms including a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom and three bedrooms with shared bathrooms.  The basement was finished with a fully-equipped laundry, a mechanical room and a bathroom next to the recreation room.

The Legacy

We were the first builder to start building upscale custom homes in that area.  Shortly after we finished building the house, the elderly homeowners of small bungalows in the neighborhood started selling to spec builders who began the wave of building and selling cookie-cutter homes to homebuyers.  Ten years after that, luxury custom home builders started turning the neighborhood into an upscale and pricey place to live.