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Why We’re Crushing on Harbord’s Orange Townhouses


Superkül designs a zesty block of town homes that gets the city swooning

Kate Makinson, a PR professional, never thought she would live in a townhouse. It feels a tad pedestrian for a woman whose spirit animal is Stevie Nicks and who can rock a pair of ripped jeans and a gypsy blouse like nobody’s business. “When I think townhouse,” Makinson says, “I think cookie cutter. But this is an urban take on the traditional town.”

In the south-facing living room is a West Elm rug, table from Phil’z, art by Maxime Stein, throw from Medulla & Co. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

Designed by architectural studio Superkül for developer Oben Flats, Makinson’s 186-square-metre home is one of six units that make up Harbord Towns. While the lot is compact at 4.85 metres wide and 13.38 metres deep, the building’s small scale feels appropriate next to its fellow duplexes. Located on the site of a former gas station, it’s best viewed from across the street to take in Superkül’s adventurous vision.

The playful facade sees Tetris-like black-and-white brick, as well as zippy orange doors, window frames and aluminum channels. Superkül co-principal Andre D’Elia describes the scheme as a graphic expression. D’Elia delineated the units with a flashy flourish because the building is a modest size and is flat out front. “We didn’t have the luxury of doing projections because the building is tight to the front property line, so we did it through materials,” he says.

Effectively, Harbord Towns reads as one neat contemporary structure, as opposed to a mess of doorways and exterior staircases. Earlier this year, the project won the Design Excellence award from the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). OAA president Toon Dreessen was impressed. “Harbord Towns is joyful, lively and exuberant,” he says. “The challenge in housing typology is creating something unique on an infill site.”

Large Alumilex windows and doors bookend the open-concept main floor. Kitchen by Scavolini. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

Makinson’s four-level home is a lovely example. Its ground-floor anteroom offers a teasing sense of compression that expands in a burst of light and height as you climb to the three-metre-tall living room and kitchen on the main floor. At only four metres wide, it feels tremendously spacious and the finishes are premium: rich oak floors, solid wood doors and knobs, quartz countertops and oversized Alumilex windows. The large tilt-and-turn windows work with the terraces — off the kitchen and upstairs in the master suite — to connect inside with the outdoors.

Clad in smoked oak (by Weston) like the floors, the staircase’s deep reveals add drama to all three storeys. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

Still, like most people Makinson hangs out on the main floor. “I spend most of my time here,” she says, padding barefoot from the kitchen (Scavolini, like the bathrooms) to the sculptural staircase. “I love the cutouts on the handrail.” Fashioned from grainy-flecked oak panels that bring warmth and weightiness to the space (the conventional choice would have been glass), the staircase is an artistic feature in its own right.

A cedar patio off the master has far-reaching views. Wallpaper by Drop it Modern; pillow and lamp from Stylegarage; throw from Art 27.

“It feels cozy, even if it’s on four floors,” says Makinson, who admits the unit offers a ton of space for a single person (two guest bedrooms and a bath occupy the second storey). “The bedroom is my sanctuary,” she says of the master suite on the third floor. “It feels like a tree fort.” Rooftops and backyards spill out in the distance and the mood is mostly restful — invigorating is the perky black-and-white print on the wallpaper and a large photograph of Bruce Springsteen’s sweaty, muscled form. “Bruce and Stevie show up a lot here,” Makinson quips of her home that obviously has a grown-up gravitas, but still speaks to this wild child at heart.

Originally published in Issue 3, 2016 as Orange Crush.



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