Architect Wanda Ely crafts a picture-perfect home with just the right touch of Art Deco glam.
Some houses are just special. You can feel it when you walk in the door. Barry and David’s house is one of those — a Toronto semi tucked into a cool little part of town. Built in 1918, the 1500-square-foot house is one of many on the block with the same history, but theirs got a total refresh and now sings with colour and unique detailing. The couple had lived with a bad 80s reno for over a decade before hiring architect Wanda Ely to overhaul the house from top to bottom. Ely put a unique twist on just about everything, personalizing the look of the space to jive with the couple’s disparate tastes: One modern, one Art Deco.
The couple came to the project armed with a lot of design know-how. “I spent a lot of time on Houzz trying to develop a lexicon and a visual vocabulary of what I’m interested in,” says Barry. Ely distilled their vision into a cohesive palette and layout. With the goal of maximizing space on the main floor for doing things both together and separately, Ely opened up the kitchen and living spaces. Barry and David wanted a table to seat eight, but also ample surfaces to cook and entertain, so Ely broached the idea of a harvest table: It offers up prep space but also acts as their main dining area. This leaves extra living space elsewhere on the main floor. “We still feel like we have a living room. We don’t feel we have compromised at all. When you are in the living room, it doesn’t feel like the kitchen encroaches on the space,” says Barry. Ely blended the spaces effortlessly. “It’s the centre of the home and you also entertain there. You need to have the blending of spaces. We did that with millwork and the fireplace, as well as a purposeful blurring along the horizontality highlighted by the long, thin metal pulls and the dropped ceilings,” says Ely.
At the far end of the kitchen, an old bay window, which always had the blinds drawn was replaced with a boxy one in frosted glass for privacy. Ely took care with all the lines and views throughout the mostly open space. The end of the backsplash aligns with the window — something most people won’t notice, but it creates a harmonious feeling. The white painted glass bounces light and reflects the outside, too.
The best part is all that brass; on the cabinet pulls, the show-stopping stair railing and even in details on the custom dining table by Jeff Baker. This was a response to some inspiration images that David had. “They would have worked in a 1930s Paris apartment with high ceilings but didn’t translate to our space. Wanda took those cues and found things that worked in our context, light fixtures and little details,” says Barry.
Warm and rich layers of materials and colours round out the unique look and feel of the home. “We managed to do quite a bit with a smaller space and take full advantage of customization to how Barry and David live,” says Ely. “The more interesting the people, the more interesting the project.” The couple’s art collection was also central to the design with special consideration made for specific works.
Upstairs, the bathroom is a beautiful spa-like sanctuary with fresh, minty green, oversized tiles extending to the ceiling. Wanda Ely annexed an adjacent study to create the large, serene space. The basement was also overhauled putting the final touch on the couple’s dream home. “It was a stroke of luck to do it just before COVID,” says Barry. “It’s transformative.” wandaelyarchitect.com