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Garden Jewel

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Reign Architects taps into its roots with this Little Italy garden overhaul

Talk about life-work balance. Jacob JeBailey lives above his architectural studio, Reign Architects. The commute is short and the life experience rich. To make it even sweeter, he transformed the backyard for his own use and to create a spot where office meetings could spill outside. Before the reno, the garden didn’t beckon anyone out. “It was a hot mess with a low, four-foot rear fence, sod and concrete. There was very little vegetation of interest — no trees, no articulation of boundaries,” says JeBailey, who is a master of space planning and warm, contemporary spaces in his residential work, both indoors and out.

Gallery Garden Reno

The 533 square feet of space is divided into two multi-use zones: a sunken lounge area and a cooking-dining zone that doubles as outdoor office space. Table and dining chairs, Ikea.

For this very personal garden reno, JeBailey tapped into his history to strike the right balance in the narrow city backyard. “As an architect with a multigenerational Mediterranean history in horticulture, it was imperative to design a tranquil space that would celebrate an ancestral and nostalgic desire to tend and spiritually connect to the earth, plants, and the local ecosystems they sustain,” he says.

Backyard Architecture

With a vision of a calm, private oasis, JeBailey created a structure with a unique fence design and layered in carefully selected trees and plants.

The cedar fence is made with vertical ship-lap, which cultivates a visually interesting backdrop for the garden’s growing greenery. Working with Boylan and Barlow Contracting to execute the plan, JeBailey integrated seating that faces the ever-changing wall at one end. “Instinctively, we wanted to celebrate the unique aspects of nature’s bountifulness in an art gallery-like format,” he says.

Reign Architects Little Italy

Gravel and paver pathways bisect the garden’s various zones. Each one leads to the house and the rear laneway and is highlighted with in-ground lighting and low plantings.

“The primary path was a design exercise of negative space with the knowledge and use of 2 x 6 formwork. Formwork was strategically placed during the garden reno to create both modular gaps between each paver and relief space for vegetation,” he says.

Toronto Garden Reno

JeBailey sourced renewable local eastern white cedar from a local mill for the posts, deck boards, and treads for the exterior staircase.

Species were selected to provide year-round colour and interest. In the spring-summer season, vines, peonies, clematises, and tulips add colour and movement. “And, native tree species such as beeches and hornbeams were specified for their bright yellow fall attraction or auburn winter attraction,” says JeBailey.

Reign Architects, Garden Reno ,Gallery Garden

“The concrete was sourced from a downtown plant and stained with charcoal pigment so that it would be in keeping with the tonal family of the specified black granite placed within the relief voids,” says JeBailey. Sofa, Fresh Home and Garden.

Native plant species including eastern redbuds, lilacs, Solomon’s seal and aspens were among those selected to support local pollination — and the multi-use space is now buzzing with activity of all kinds. REIGNARCHITECTS.CA.

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