Originally the Fielder House of South Rosedale, it was designed by N. A. Armstrong architect of 19 Melinda Street, Toronto for Fred A. Fielder and family. The year was 1937. Armstrong was a progressive architect not timid in using new material. The house had a strong and precise concrete-masonry foundation and many of the decorative elements were made of aluminium instead of the ubiquitous iron and bronze. There was a thoroughly modern limestone-block fireplace in the original living room. The grand staircase was ‘20s modern. The stair railing and ornaments were aluminium. The library was a jewel box. The walls were paneled in gorgeous Australian Walnut with pronounced vertical grain.
Related Section : New Build and Rebuild
Related Section : Kitchen Update
However, something was amiss. The front elevation was neither Art Deco nor Georgian. It was a hybrid and the proportions were wrong. It could be the desire of the client or that Armstrong had chosen to be more ‘respectable’ for this Rosedale project. His Silver Rail Tavern in downtown Toronto designed about ten years earlier was an Art Moderne masterpiece. Whereas for the Fielder House, Armstrong seemed to have given up trying.
We envisioned transforming the front of the house into that of a London St. James/Pall Mall club house, while following the Art Deco/Art Moderne theme within. This was a complete rebuild project. A second floor was added above the garage and a two-story addition in the back was built to contain the kitchen/family room on the main floor and bedrooms on the second floor. The original staircase was refurbished and the surrounding walls and floor removed. The oval shaped stair became a prominent architectural element in the new double-height living room with an 18′ ceiling. The interiors reflected the sophistication of a 1920s London townhome, Georgian on the outside and Art Deco on the inside. The Kitchen/Family Room was one great space looking out into a tastefully manicured backyard garden. The full height kitchen cabinets formed a backdrop for daily activities with their softly illuminated glass windows.
The front of the house demanded much of our attention and efforts. The flat-top portico was topped with a matching stone pediment. Stone corbels were added at the base of the front roof gable. Batten seam copper roofing replaced the rotting asphalt shingles. Dormers and a cupola were added at the front of the roof. All doors and windows were new and that included the overhead garage door. A finely etched wrought iron grille was fitted over the glass of the front entrance. Stone and masonry were thoroughly cleaned and repointed.
The original layout of the house was like a rabbit warren. There were walls, partitions and narrow corridors everywhere. The oval staircase was contained within a closed room with a supporting wall underneath the stair. So everything was closed off. We virtually gutted the inside of the whole house. We removed the supporting wall under the stair and installed a curved steel beam to hold up the stair. The ‘floating’ effect you see in the pictures of the stair was due to the invisible support we put under the stair. An eighteen foot high white limestone fireplace mantel was made for us by master stone-carver Rob Little. The white maple treads of the grand staircase were bleached to a light ivory color. The aluminum railing was painted black. A matching Art Deco grille was designed for the oval shaped skylight above the staircase. To add the space we needed, we had to apply for approval by Committee of Adjustment. We encountered no opposition.
The entire second floor over the front area of the house was removed. Thus creating a living room in the front with an eighteen foot ceiling height. The new addition we built in the back had a twelve foot ceiling on the main level and ten foot ceiling on the second level. We had also created a back stair going from the main floor to the second floor. The ample stairwell had a twenty foot high ceiling.
A limestone fireplace mantel was carved for the wood-burning fireplace in the family room. A custom kitchen with a twelve foot long island was created for the house by Po Ku. The original flush-face modern limestone fireplace designed by Armstrong in the 1930s was refurbished, cleaned and was fitted with gas logs. The fireplace was located in the new butler’s pantry/sitting area. The Australian Walnut paneled library was totally refurbished with a new bar cabinet built for it in the Art Deco style. On the second floor, a large master bedroom was designed in the C. R. Mackintosh Art Deco style. The master ensuite was finished in white marble.
A two-story addition was built in the back of the house. Not only was it built with very large picture windows to capture the full view of the lovely backyard, it was constructed of the best framing practice to ensure that a strong and durable structure was added to a very fine house. This type of framing used 50% more timber than normal framing work. The exterior finish was stucco over a sandwiched wall containing an air-space layer between inner and outer walls. Any moisture trapped inside the wall could easily run out of the bottom. Please read the section Construction Management to see how the framing was done and the cross-section of the stuccoed wall.