Contemporary forms and deliberate lines take a detached home in Little Italy to new heights
Adapting the stalwart, brick-clad forms of the past into fresh living spaces is the hallmark of renovating a home in Toronto. While this frequently results in variations of the “put a cube on it” solution, there’s far more fun to be had in creating a modern space from a traditional one. At this Little Italy home for a growing family with two young children, geometric shapes and whimsical contemporary design blend to create a warm, welcoming abode that’s anything but square.
“The starting point for the project was the ad hoc feel of the neighbourhood,” designer Stanislav Jurković says of the pitched Victorian roofs and 1960s modern rectangles that characterize the tree-lined street. Principal at Uoai, Jurković cleverly blended the three-storey home into its backdrop by incorporating the original brickwork while playing up its building-block geometry. A triangle atop a rectangle, perched on a square outlined in contrasting white tracery, hints at the interplay of shapes within.
An airy kitchen, dining area and living room, flooded with light from a glass rear wall, are the centre of activity. The space is defined by a trio of “pods,” which conceal kitchen storage, a powder room and an entertainment centre. Jurković left room above these blocks for natural light and air to flow, a theme that continues throughout the home. “If we built everything up to the top it would deaden the space,” he says. “It’s a similar idea with Japanese gardens… each element will move you to the next.”
Jurković stayed mostly within the old footprint, though a new rectangular form at the back of the house makes way for a larger living room and a master ensuite upstairs. Rectangular light wells and square skylights filter sun through every space, while vertical slats break up the interior and provide privacy on outer walls. “I like a bit of quirk in my projects,” says Jurković, who saw each surprise in the building process as an opportunity to work with the space, rather than try to force his (or his clients’) will against it.
“All the geometric plays are about the facts of this house,” he says. “How can I marry the rigour of new design elements with what’s already here?” This, essentially, is the question facing anyone looking to turn an old house into a new one. This answer suggests that brick structures and modern glass cubes can exist harmoniously together. All you need is an eye for geometry and a flair for the unexpected.