Constructed more than a century ago as a dairy, this three-storey building was subsequently divided vertically into three townhouse-style living units. PLANT had designed a garden branchplant.com/projects/firstave for one unit’s owners several years ago; more recently they selected us once again for an interior renovation.

Redesigning the main stairway to all levels was key to making this extremely narrow residence feel more spacious. On the second floor, where the stairs border the living room, replacing what had been a solid wall with floor-to-ceiling transparent glass panels visually expands the room’s width by ‘adding’ the stairway volume to it. A new skylight above the stair draws light into the interior.

The combination of the clients’ extensive art collection with the home’s compact dimensions and tall, round-headed windows suggested the approach of treating the second floor as a wood-lined curio cabinet with wood paneling framing the library area and the windows. Irregular, bubble-like pendent light fixtures add to the sense of being in a den of marvels. All other lighting is with fixtures that are concealed, or bounce light, so as not to distract from the paintings. The room-as-cabinet strategy is extended to the third floor cabinetry-lined guest bedroom/change room, and the wall and closet treatments of the master bedroom. The few doors in the house (most functions are separated by floor levels, not rooms) were replaced with walnut, with wood panel clerestories. Along with some masonry refurbishment, all of the windows were replaced including walnut windows at the ground floor.

The renovation included custom cabinetry throughout including an expanded kitchen and stereo cabinet.

Ground floor dining (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Ground floor dining
New stair to second floor (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
New stair with wood screen
Stair and painting gallery (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair and painting gallery
Wood walls flank the stair (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Wood walls flank the stair
Open stair spills light to the second floor (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Open stair spills light to the second floor
Arrival at the second floor (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Arrival at the second floor
Wood lined library (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Wood lined library
Living room (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Living room
Built in stereo cabinet and paneling (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Built in stereo cabinet and paneling
The arched windows (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The arched windows
Stair to the third floor (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair to the third floor
Steel and wood handrail (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Steel and wood handrail
Skylight and new stair (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skylight and new stair
Dressing room murphy bed (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Dressing room murphy bed
Wood lined dressing cabinets (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Wood lined dressing cabinets
Master bedroom (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Master bedroom
Master bedroom (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Master bedroom
Street view (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View from the street

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alexandra Park
  7. Aporia Records
  8. Asphalt Poetry
  9. – Poem
  10. Baby Point Gardens
  11. Beach Garden
  12. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  13. Beaty Residence
  14. Bennington Heights Garden
  15. Berkeley Street Residence
  16. Bin-Scarth Garden
  17. Blink and you miss it.
  18. – Poem
  19. Bloor St. Apartment
  20. Blue Note
  21. Booth Avenue Residence
  22. Boustrophedon Garden
  23. Braemore Gardens Residence
  24. Browning Avenue Residence
  25. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  26. Camp Arowhon Offices
  27. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  28. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  29. Chocolate Loft
  30. City Instrument
  31. Clarendon Garden
  32. Conversation Piece
  33. Creemore Farm
  34. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  35. Dickson Park Garden
  36. Dilworth Residence
  37. Don Landing Revitalization
  38. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  39. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  40. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  41. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  42. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  43. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  44. Elizabeth Fry Society
  45. Ellsworth Residence
  46. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  47. First Avenue Garden
  48. First Avenue Residence
  49. Flyover Canada
  50. Foote’s Pond Wood
  51. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  52. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  53. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  54. Gormley Garden
  55. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  56. Greener P
  57. Greer Road Garden
  58. Greer Road Residence
  59. Guelph Bridge
  60. Head in the Clouds
  61. Helena Ave Residence 4
  62. Junction Craft Brewery
  63. Kelpies Competition
  64. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  65. Kipling & Islington Developments
  66. Le jardin du repos
  67. Lenticular Curtain
  68. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  69. Liberty Village Parkettes
  70. Liza’s Garden
  71. Lynwood Garden
  72. Macroscape
  73. Markham Garden One
  74. Markham Street Residence Two
  75. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  76. Mulock Park
  77. Nathan Phillips Square
  78. – Streetscape
  79. – Peace Garden
  80. – Podium Roof Garden
  81. Orchard View Garden
  82. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  83. Owl Cottage
  84. Paperstone Scissors
  85. Peripheral Sitings
  86. Pottery Road Crossing
  87. rare
  88. Ravine Forecourt
  89. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  90. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  91. Roxborough Garden One
  92. Roxborough Garden Two
  93. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  94. Ryerson University Science Building
  95. Schulich School of Business
  96. Sheridan College
  97. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  98. Spadina Quay Wetland
  99. St. Anne's Road Garden
  100. Stratford Market Square Competition
  101. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  102. Superkids Dental
  103. Superlegible
  104. Sweet Farm
  105. Sweet Farm Pond House
  106. Swift Medical Offices
  107. The Meadows Reconsidered
  108. The Red Sash
  109. Thick & Thin
  110. Tipping Point
  111. Tranby Garden
  112. Tree House Residence
  113. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  114. UHN Tunnels
  115. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  116. Venice Biennale 2012
  117. Vermont Square Park
  118. Vernon Avenue Garden
  119. Walk the Walk
  120. Walmer Road Residence
  121. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  122. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  123. Wells Street Residence
  124. Westminster Residence
  125. With Words as Their Actions
  126. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  127. Woven Stories
  128. York Park