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