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On Woodbine Avenue, a Super-Transformative Small Space


Designer Johnson Chou’s answer to living large in very tight quarters

There’s one of those abstract, colour-block paintings hanging on the wall in this transforming home – the kind that makes you wonder where art (or your understanding of it) went wrong. But if you step closer, you see its not just shades of white. The highly detailed painting by Polish artist Jaga Jarosiwicz is, in fact, composed of hundreds of words painted in a subtle grey.

transforming home

White polyurethane-finished MDF cabinets conceal a fridge, sink and storage, and the sliding wood door hides the stove.

“It’s a metaphor for the work we do,” says Johnson Chou, principal of the eponymous architecture and design firm responsible for this remarkable transforming home on Woodbine Avenue. At 84 square metres, it’s not the smallest space you’ll see in this city of diminutive condos. What Chou and senior associate Silke Stadtmueller have done, though, expands it considerably, allowing it to be both highly functional and essentially blank at the same time.

transforming home

An oak dining table swings out from the stainless steel kitchen countertop.

“One of the things I have been exploring over the years is how to make spaces transformative,” says Chou, whose firm has also worked on two Blowfish restaurants as well as the Toronto office of Red Bull, where sliding, tilting and pivoting planes define and shape the space.

transforming home

A hallway off the kitchen leads past a hidden coat closet, laundry area and guest washroom to the private quarters and patio.

Walk into this second-storey apartment before it’s set up for entertaining and you’ll see just a few furnishings framed by white walls. A stainless steel counter sits at one end of the open living space. Then, abracadabra: a slab of wood underneath the countertop pivots out to become a table for seven. Out of nowhere come the Panton chairs to surround it. Doors in the white wall beyond the counter open to reveal a stove, oven, sink, fridge and cupboard space. An adjacent hallway leads to the inner sanctum, made up of a bedroom and a bathroom that can be reshaped via a series of sliding walls. Further along through this transforming home, a hallway leads out to a custom-furnished rooftop garden.

The custom vanity, shower/bath and bed were designed to appear as a single unit. The wall of laminated doors conceal ample closet space, a TV and a water closet.

Johnson Chou Interior design - Bathroom

The master bedroom and ensuite bathroom can be opened up to or closed off from the rest of the apartment by sliding an L-shaped oak partition.

“This started as a light-hearted exercise of conjuring the narrative of my lifestyle and evolved into a new exploration into ritualizing the commonplace,” says Stadtmueller. The German architect came to Canada five years ago and collaborated closely with Chou on what would become her own apartment.

The rooftop patio features a bar clad in white acrylic and stainless steel, a fire bowl, and Ikea loungers cleverly embedded in a raised platform.

Chou’s firm also uses the space as a showpiece for clients, to demonstrate how particular architectural devices can work, and as a way to illustrate the basic notion of flexible design that Chou is pursuing. “Some of these elements you’d see in high-end places,” he says, referring to custom pieces like the single unit that is bed, bath and sink (specified for a unit in the 75 Portland condo building). “We wanted to figure out how to achieve a similar look in an entry-level home.” JOHNSONCHOU.COM

Johnson Chou Interior design - Patio



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