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A Beach Semi Gets a Fresh, Understated Upgrade

Architect Heather Asquith open space on Beach semi

Architect Heather Asquith takes the best features of an old home and turns them up a notch.

By Christy Wright
Photography by Arash Moallemi

Teaching new tricks to an old house is part of the renovation process, but this charmer, located in the city’s Beaches neighbourhood, already had a few tricks up its sleeve: an addition with a bold skylight and clerestory glass in the kitchen, rustic wooden columns and big-city steel beams.
“It had undergone some thoughtful design work by previous owners and an architect, so didn’t need all that much from an organizational point of view,” says architect Heather Asquith. What the 2,000-square-foot near-turn-of-the-century home did need was a new kitchen and some tweaks to dial up a cohesive main floor. The homeowners, Daryl Wilby and Gilles Ubaghs, favour fresh and unfussy looks, and wanted a comfortable space where they could entertain friends and hang out with their dog, Otis.

Gilles Ubaghs and dog Otis in the revamped kitchen
Owner Gilles Ubaghs and dog Otis in the revamped kitchen, which overlooks a lush backyard.

Falling-apart kitchen doors, plastic laminate counters and free-standing appliances were given the heave-ho in favour of sleek white-oak cabinetry, honed black-granite countertops and seamless built-ins. “Though the kitchen was tired, it was well-planned. In fact, the placement of the new fixtures and appliances remained more or less the same,” says Asquith. “Architecturally, I used millwork as a device to organize.” Along with the new kitchen cabinetry, she introduced an island and a corner window seat (the black steel-framed windows were already in place).

Dining table with Flos light pendant, A partial wall maintains privacy but lets light flow in. Architect Heather Asquith Beach semi
A partial wall maintains privacy but lets light flow in. Pendant, Flos; moon artwork, Casualife; console, Design Within Reach.

New flat-sawn, white-oak flooring throughout signals the desired cohesion and imparts a contemporary refresh that’s in sync with the home’s casual connection to the outdoors. From the kitchen, the view is lush and green, with construction of a vine-covered pergola in the works.

Exposed steel beams and columns
Exposed steel beams and columns from a previous reno were keepers. “We liked them and worked them into the new design,” says architect Heather Asquith.

To enliven the foyer of the Beach semi and visually connect it to the living room, Asquith designed a long, narrow cut-out clad in white oak. The old radiators and door remained. “I think it’s important to keep some previous elements of a house – if they are valuable and give character – instead of imposing a brand new vision,” she says. “I hope that I pulled from this idea a bit and did justice to the past lives of the home while giving it a whole new life.” ASQUITHARCHITECT.COM

Framing the foyer’s coat hooks with millwork, Architect Heather Asquith Beach semi
Framing the foyer’s coat hooks with millwork feels fresh and organized, and offered an opportunity to sneak in a shelf and closed storage. Contractor, Webb & Lashbrook.

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