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A Classic Toronto Edwardian, Now In Technicolor

How a renovation and riot of colour flipped the script on a dour, century-old home

By Gregory Furgala
Photography by Nanne Springer

When Heather Asquith, principal of Asquith Architecture, and Julie Reinhart, owner of Julie Reinhart Interior Design, were brought in to re-imagine a dimly lit, century-old Edwardian, they were provided with a simple brief: make it the opposite of what it is now.

The owners requested a colourful walk-in pantry to match the kitchen. Past the bright orange sliding door, blue shelving and cabinetry holds all manner of dry goods. The drawers, intended as storage for root vegetables, are drilled with large holes to facilitate airflow.

Recent transplants from New York City, the owners’ new home suffered from too much dark wood, too many walls and too little light – not exactly inviting, and even less accommodating of their three young children (the last of which arrived during the design process). But they bought it for its potential, of which it had plenty. They wanted colour, a veritable rainbow of it, and light to penetrate to every corner of the home. “They came to the project wanting their house to function differently for them,” says Reinhart.

Rather than drawing from a single palette upstairs, Reinhart took a room-by-room approach to using colour throughout the home. Her method, demonstrated above in one of the children’s bedrooms, created a series of dynamic vignettes within a unified space.

But first they needed space – lots of it. Leaving the facade intact, Asquith knocked down the back wall and replaced the existing extension with a two-storey, cedar-clad addition that now houses the kitchen and staircase to the basement. Thanks to underpinning, the basement now has another two feet of ceiling height. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer generous views and plenty of natural light, while the staircase doubles as a light well for the kids’ play area and family room. The addition also allowed for the second floor to be rearranged around an additional bedroom and bathroom, bumping the square footage up to an even 3,000.

The stairway and banister detailing are holdovers from before the reno. The staircase now features a teal ombre colouration as well as white oak steps to match the new floor. Despite their weight, stark white walls maintain a light, airy quality. The chandelier is by AM Studio.

Now larger and far more open, the kitchen is the hub of the home. Walls were torn down to connect it with a small nook and dining area, while a large, tile-clad central island delineates the open-concept space and serves as a natural focal point and gathering place. A walk-in pantry and plenty of cabinets – all finished in the same cool bright blue – provide storage for dry goods and small appliances. Reinhart used saturated blocks of colour, including an orange subway tile backsplash, yellow panelling and orange accents throughout not only maintain the gleeful vibe, but bridge the palette with tempering elements, including European oak floors and white walls.

The 2-storey addition is clad in stained cedar and pressure-treated black wood siding from Maibec. The floor-to-ceiling windows, from Marvin Windows & Doors, open up onto a large rear deck.

The rest of the home takes its cues from the kitchen. Against the foyer’s stark white walls, the main staircase – a survivor of the reno – was given a teal ombre treatment, while the living room, also painted white, features splashes of orange, fuschia and, behind the rebuilt fireplace, a dark garnet chosen to match details in the home’s original stained glass windows. Upstairs, the kids’ bedrooms and bathroom are splashed with yellow and teal, while Flor carpet tiles, wall hangings and select pieces of furniture fill out the basement living room and play area. With matte finishes and black hardware lending a gloss of sophistication, the colour pops, but isn’t out of control. “It was a lot of juggling to get it right,” says Asquith. Given the home’s circus of colours, “juggling” is an apt metaphor.