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How Creative Union Network Realized the Potential of a Little Loft

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The quirky wedge-shaped floor plan wasn’t the problem – it just needed a rethink

Some spaces are deceptively large. You just need the right tools to unlock them. For Anahita Azrahimi and Diederik van Liere, that meant a radical rethink of their 106-square-metre loft on the east side of Roncesvalles. “It’s not a small space, but it felt small because you couldn’t live efficiently,” Azrahimi says.

Creative Union Network

The desk and cabinetry below the staircase, both white oak, were designed by Creative Union and fabricated by O’Sullivan Millwork.

The creative couple (she’s an artist and the director of the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair; he’s head of data science and engineering at Wealthsimple) purchased the unit in 2012, drawn to its high ceilings, abundant natural light and raw palette of exposed metal and concrete, as well as the character of the building and the charm of the neighbourhood. But nearly 10 years and two kids later, they had entered a new phase of their lives, and the quirks of the space were losing their appeal.

Creative Union Network

The kitchen – built by O’Sullivan Millwork – features Fenix-clad cabinetry, a soapstone island and a Corian-topped counter. Integrated appliances by Miele.

Despite its generous volume, a long, wedge-shaped floor plan created unusable niches, limited storage and an awkward flow. Meanwhile, their young daughters were quickly outgrowing their shared bedroom – another sharply angled room dominated by a large support column. Undaunted, they turned to their friends, architect Timothy Mitanidis and designer Claudia Bader of Creative Union Network, to reclaim wasted space and impart a grander – and occasionally playful – feeling throughout. “Constraints are what generates good design,” says Mitanidis. “There’s a certain fun in that. They allow for the exploration of creative solutions.”

A second access point made the compact kitchen twice as navigable while also making space for a coffee bar.

Their first move was scaling back the bulky, open-riser staircase that jutted into the living area, making furniture placement an ongoing puzzle. “We had so many conversations over the years about how terrible the staircase was,” says Mitanidis. “It was all you could see.” The redesign saw it narrowed and rebuilt in white oak to blend seamlessly with the new flooring, and the last four steps rotate through ninety degrees, effectively bookending the living area. Beneath, a new custom office area mixes open shelving and practical closed cabinetry. In the adjacent entryway, more streamlining: a mirrored closet is replaced by a built-in bench and a shallow, two-sided cupboard that wraps around the mechanical systems; a powder room was removed to extend the kitchen area and create a secondary access point, complete with an integrated coffee bar and pantry.

In the foyer, felt tiles from FLOR’s Fedora collection are custom cut to clad floor and wall. Coat hangers are from Menu; cabinetry is by O’Sullivan Millwork.

Upstairs, in the girls’ room, a play-structure-meets- sleeping-quarters space pinwheels from that bulky column. There are colour-blocked alcoves for forts or deskwork, a double-stacked mattress that can be pulled out for sleep- overs, a built-in toy chest and a diminutive curved staircase. It is, in other words, a kid’s dream room.

Designed by Creative Union and fabricated by Old Soul Carpentry Club, the Baltic birch play structure incorporates two beds, storage and a child-sized office.

Since moving to the neighbourhood all those years ago, the couple has loved its walkability and enjoyed the process of discovering the shops and services that dot the once-sullen, now-emerging streetscape. “There’s such a rich quality of everyday life here,” says Azrahimi. “We’ve never considered moving.” And with a now-made-to- measure home, why would they? CREATIVE-UNION.NET

Originally published in our 2020 Small Spaces issue as “Playful Perspective”.

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