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Bold Moves Breathe New Life Into a Mid-Century Bungalow

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LGA Architectural Partners take on a mid-century modern house and give the 1955 bungalow property the royal treatment

“When we tell people where we live,” says Anda Kubis, “they always say the same thing: Oh, it’s that house.” Yes, the home that Kubis shares with her husband, Dean Martin, is an oddity of sorts. You may have seen it: a two-storey wall of windows just visible through the trees that rise above Mimico Creek, as you head north on Royal York Road. The Toronto mid-century modern bungalow with its zig-zagging sloped roof is smaller and cooler than its neighbours.

Exterior view of a mid century modern house Reno of a 1955 bungalow in Toronto

The 1955 bungalow, with its well-lit carport and soaring roofline, gets a lot of attention on Royal York Road. Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio.

 

Right from the Start

When the bungalow, designed in 1955 by British-born architect Basil Capes, went up for sale in 2007, architecture buffs Kubis and Martin – who lived nearby – just had to take a look at the mid-century modern house. They fell for it hard. Its exceptional ravine site was a draw, and while others might have torn it down to build anew, the couple loved everything about it: its glam carport, cedar-panelled ceiling, exposed steel roofbeams and soaring windows.

“All of our homes have had a mid-century feel,” Kubis says. “That’s part of our roots. My father was a furniture designer from Eastern Europe, working in the modernist tradition. So, in a sense, we were the ideal people to own this place.”

After living in the house for a year, Kubis, a painter and department chair at OCADU, and Martin, a creative director in advertising, called in LGA Architectural Partners to update the house. The firm drew up plans for a major addition, but it was pricey and would have destroyed too much of the house’s character. “We decided to be much more modest, and the result suits us perfectly,” Martin says.

Living room of mid-century modern bungalow in Toronto renovated by LGA Architectural Partners, chairs, couch and coffee table are in foreground while arts is present on the house walls.

The house’s slanted, tongue- and-groove ceiling and window frames are Spanish cedar. The table is by Eduard Kubis. Behind the Autobahn sofa is a painting by Brian Flanagan. Photo by Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio.

 

Step Inside

The main entrance was moved from the front of the house to the side, so guests now enter through the carport, immersing themselves in mid-century style even before they reach the door. And the main floor was gutted. Down came the walls separating the back of the house (which once housed two small bedrooms) from the living space at the front. The architects kept the original brick fireplace, which now divides the cedar-roofed living room from a new, all-white and wood kitchen. The original cramped kitchen, to one side of the living room, is now a study packed with paintings, photos and books.

Split level section of mid-century modern bungalow, a kid is visible on the house couch reading.

Two short flights of steps off the front foyer lead up to an open concept living space and down to a rec room and walk-out patio. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

 

Making Moves

In a bold move, the architects transformed the garage at the back of the lot – a slightly clumsy 1970s addition – into living space, linking it to the mid century modern house with a small addition. The garage is now a spacious master suite with French doors opening to a tree-covered back patio. A bedroom was updated for the couple’s eight-year-old son downstairs while a storage room was turned into a painting studio. And the rec room enjoys a leafy ravine view, now that an old deck has been pulled off the back of the mid-century home. The tightly planned home feels much larger than its 242 square metres.

A woman is sitting on the couch while a kid is playing on the living room coffee table

Overlooking Mimico Creek, the living room is airy yet cozy. Artifort’s Orange Slice chairs are from Klaus by Nienkämper. The pillows and throw are from Hollace Cluny. Photo by Naomi Finlay.

 

The End Result

LGA partner Janna Levitt sees the modern mid-century home as a Toronto version of California’s Case Study houses. That is to say that it is an example of modernist domestic design for real people. “That way of living is still relevant when it is well executed,” she says. “Natural light, open space, an open plan, natural materials – it works.” And it works even better now. lga-ap.com

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