French Country House

The ability to perform the transformation of the mundane to the magnificent is our stock-in-trade.  We took a house purchased by our client upon our recommendations based on our research on location suitability, neighborhood potential and soundness of the structures, totally gutted and rebuilt it with meticulous care, planning and design ingenuity.  A serviceable low-pitched roofed suburban house was turned into a magnificent French Country gem, unheard of in that part of town.  The client was so happy with the outcome that he commissioned us to build a brand new house for him ten years after, right next to the first project.

What Transpired

In a span of eleven years, we renovated an old undistinguished suburban house, turned it into a beautiful French Country home that generated so much interest on the street that land value went up more than 100% in eight years, just enough to warrant the construction of a brand new French classical house of solid white stone that rivaled the best houses in the city.  All the while the status of the street was gradually being elevated to be the most prestigious location in north Toronto, attracting big name architects and builders to come and build. Incidentally, the street ran to the front entrance of the Rosedale Golf Club, the most exclusive of clubs in Canada.  In 2000 when we started renovation on the old house, there was no new luxury home built on the street that could qualify for custom grade.  Today if you visit the street, you will be delighted by its architecture.  Even the Rosedale Golf Club has a brand new club house now with a high roof.

What Inspired Us

The original house was solidly built with double-wythe brick exterior walls. The roof was low pitched (3/12). The eye-brow arches over the garage doors and the round windows above the front door gave us the inspiration to turn the style of the house into French Country.

The Transformation

The typical Canadian suburbia house was transfigured as soon as we put a high-pitched (12/12) hip roof over it. We added a new story with a hip roof over the existing garage with round dormer windows. Three small false dormers were added to the main hip roof to give it scale. Note the small size of the dormers made the hip roof look taller. The French Country motif was added to the front entrance by a canopy supported by two hand-carved stone brackets set into the existing brick wall.

The Yellow Toronto Brick

The light brown brick on the old house was scrubbed clean and a lemon yellow color emerged. The yellow brick was produced in the brickworks at the bottom of Bayview Avenue in the 1940s.

Gutting and Rebuilding

We proceeded to strip the interiors of the house to the bare brick walls and floor joists. Many of the old paneled doors were left intact. The floors were reinforced and leveled. Blocking was put in to stop the squeaking. The part of the second floor was removed right above the front door to create a two-story foyer space and stairwell.  Once the part of the second was removed, structural pilasters were installed on the inside of the exterior brick wall to brace it against lateral forces.  The wall was then reframed, insulated and vapor-proofed.

New Addition Built

An addition was built in the back of the house thus extending the kitchen and providing a family room to the house. The master bedroom was on the second floor of the addition. The single window looking into the backyard and pool area was eight foot in diameter. This addition was clad in rough-hewn coursing flagstone to give it the rugged look.

The Normandy Style

Before we started designing, we took the example of a Normandy (Northern France) country house as our model and fashioned our rebuilding to the model.  Afterwards we put the image of the rebuilt house side by side with that of a Loire Valley country house.  The two houses suited each other perfectly as neighboring houses – they even shared the same circular driveway!

The Street Scene

The north Toronto street was a typical quiet suburban street with low-key houses mostly built between the 30s and 40s. The last image on the right was the one we took of the street when the rebuild project was finished.

Also read New Build & Rebuild.