A Roncesvalles reno that’s a whole lot more than just a pretty place
When Jasmine Tse and Lou Belsito were looking to peel back the cramped rooms of their century-old Roncesvalles home, they found their inspiration at Fusaro’s Kitchen on Richmond Street East. Over dinner, they admired the restaurant’s spare style and clever details: industrial bulbs spaced on steel poles to mimic foosball rods, bright expanses of windowed walls that double as shelves, and matchstick-thin wooden dividers. They asked the staff for the architect’s name – Guido Costantino.
Costantino is well known for transforming a boiler room into a vaulted eatery with intimate settings (Buca), and for converting an Orthodox chapel into the slick, chambered Church Apertivo Bar. His grand gestures, tailored details and tactile finishes invite you run your hands across surfaces. The same is true of his homes.
When modernizing a house, the challenge for Costantino isn’t in the subtraction but the addition. “It’s really easy to take away,” he says. “But expertise comes from what you put back in.” For him, that means plenty of light, plenty of texture and plenty of detail.
After transforming Tse and Belsito’s main floor into a clean white rectangle, Costantino cut through the second level. In losing a small room, the home gained a 5.5-metre clerestory above the back door. Light now spills onto the first and second floors, and through the staircase – an ethereal setup of plate-thin white oak treads hoisted by pinstripes of powdered white aluminum. The original layout had a hulking, L-shaped staircase that practically divided the main floor. “It was important to make it light,” says Costantino of the new design. “Almost as if it were floating.”
Other showcase features are remarkable precisely because of how hidden they are. Vents cut from the same white oak, for example, are fastidiously woven into their environments, while slight reveals in the millwork replace the need for handles. Large porcelain tiles make the master bathroom’s floors and walls virtually seamless and provide traction when wet. The bathtub, encased in a skin of Corian, dialogues with the floating vanity; centimetre-thick profiles throughout mimic those of the staircase and the kitchen island downstairs. “
In the kitchen, the only indication of a fridge, freezer and oven are the custom brushed-nickel handles protruding from a glossy wall-to-wall shelving system, designed by Costantino and built by Muti Kitchen & Bath. With sunshine from the fully glazed wall pooling in the kitchen, only six pot lights dot the ceiling. “There are more pot lights in my fridge!” says Tse.
For Tse and Belsito, the finished home is attuned to their minimalist approach. They say they’d like to one day fill the pristine monochromatic expanse with children – a statement that throws friends. “This is a house to be lived in,” says Tse. “There’s nothing to trip on, and spills are easy to cleanup. That’s the way we wanted it to be.” Until that day comes, the couple is happy to have their disbelieving friends and, of course, Costantino over for dinner whenever possible.
Originally published in our Winter 2013 issue as Sum of its Parts.