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