A decade ago, the studio revamped the landscaping. They recently returned to take on the interior, treating it to swathes of white oak, walnut and cherry wood
The history of residential architecture is peppered with horror stories of tense relationships between clients and the designers charged with spearheading their projects. Yet, on occasion, this joint effort can be so synchronous that it inspires future endeavours – even on the same site. Case in point: a newly completed home renovation featuring walnut and cherry millwork along a quiet one-way street in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood by PLANT Architect.
A decade ago, the firm transformed the spartan landscape outside the three-storey, 133-square-metre abode into an oasis in the city. Upon returning to Toronto following a sojourn in the Middle East, homeowners Graham McLeod and Tim O’Fallon looked to their former collaborators to update the interior of the 120-year-old edifice. “We loved what they did with the front yard,” says McLeod. “So, it was a very easy call to make to re-engage them for this reno.”
Contending with the home’s relatively narrow footprint was only one of the project’s main hurdles according to PLANT partner Lisa Rapoport. “The most challenging aspect of the site,” she says, “was the skinny floor plate in combination with the fact that the unit is on a flank. In this case, you’re arriving in the middle, so everything is very attenuated.” Thus the home’s existing layout was kept intact. Newly laid oak flooring now provides the perfect backdrop to the main floor, which contains an open kitchen (retained from a 2007 addition) and generous dining area framed by the charming arched features of the existing structure.
Central to the new scheme was a complete reimagining of the staircase that weaves the levels together. The ground floor interior wall was left as is, but a glass enclosure replaced the opaque divider above to make the home feel more spacious and to better connect each storey. Custom details – such as the white powder-coated steel and wood handrail, which contains integrated lighting at points – give the slender space a sense of depth. An added skylight above allows the sleek stairway to double as a light well for the home.
Nestled beneath the three-metre ceilings is the second-floor living and study area. While walnut millwork features prominently on the main floor of the home, cherry is used here to contrast the white oak flooring. Across from the living room is the open study that’s wrapped in cherry wood millwork and fitted with a small oblong desk that McLeod co-opted as his WFH setting. Behind, a curio cabinet-inspired feature wall prominently displays an eclectic collection of books, globes, sculptures and other storied objects. “On a sunny day, there’s so much light coming in,” says O’Fallon. “And, even at night, with the wood panelling, it’s very warm and inviting.”
Immediately off the landing on the third storey is the washroom, flanked on either side by a dressing and master suite. In the former, a Murphy bed is ingeniously concealed behind a minimal bookshelf to double as a guest room when needed. Floor to ceiling walnut cabinetry with expressive veining adds a sense of rhythm to the tailored space while providing additional closet space.
Walnut details continue into the master suite, ranging from the graphic window frames to the sliding closet doors that use the existing wooden entry to the washroom as the departure point. “Throughout the project,” Rapoport explains, “there was this deference to these little artifacts that were already there. So, we worked with these adjacent elements in a local way.” BRANCHPLANT.COM