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.
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 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.
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.