The owners of this historic 130-year old home in downtown Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood had an environmentally conscious agenda and a desire for contemporary design. They looked to Dubbeldam Architecture + Design to turn the dark, cramped Victorian interior into a sweeping plan that opens the interior to light, expands the useful living space and draws connections to the rear garden. “Our clients were seeking an alternative to condo living: a small and energy efficient home within walking distance of work and public transit, and with enough room to entertain and accommodate out of town visitors. Within a modest footprint, they are able enjoy a quiet neighbourhood and the pleasures of a modern and light-filled design with a compact garden,” explained principal Heather Dubbeldam.

Project Name: Through House
Studio Name: Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
Project Team: Heather Dubbeldam, Jason LeBlanc, Bindya Lad, Oliver Dang, Jacob JeBailey, Johanna Bollozos, Lynden Giles, Suzanna MacDonald
Location: Toronto, Canada
Size: 1,450 s.f. / 135 s.m.
Photography: Bob Gundu

©Bob Gundu

In order to expand the living space on the interior while still preserving the intimate rear garden on a small lot, the challenge was to ‘expand’ the 1,400 s.f. house without increasing its footprint. This was accomplished by a rethinking of the traditional room layouts and by creating a powerful connection with the outdoors to visually extend the living space. Custom designed built-in elements, such as the stacked felt-clad fireplace, delineate rooms without closing off one space to another. Interior finishes emphasize linearity, create the perception of enlarging and stretching the space, and direct the eye through the house towards the garden.

©Bob Gundu

Large floor-to-ceiling glass panes dissolve the boundaries between inside and outside, extending the ground floor living space into the backyard which is designed to be appreciated year-round. Dubbeldam’s design for the landscape encloses the rear garden with a whitened fence and a floating deck to create a low-maintenance garden with recessed planters containing fragrant lavender, colourful grasses, climbing vines and Japanese maple trees. The interior porcelain tile flooring continues uninterrupted outside to form an outdoor patio, and the stone kitchen counter extends across the dining room seemingly through the exterior wall to the outside, morphing into a built-in BBQ counter. An overhead wood and steel trellis on the patio creates the feeling of an exterior ceiling and defines an intimate outdoor room. The trellis also helps to screen the high sun in summer, while allowing natural light to bathe interior spaces in winter.

©Bob Gundu

Simple green strategies keep energy costs down. A central light well brightens the interior and reduces the need for artificial lighting. A floating, open-riser stair is topped with a large overhead operable skylight, which allows light to penetrate deep into the interior and, when opened, for natural ventilation drawing cooler air up from the lower levels of the house. Varying shades of translucent blue stair guard panels unfold from the basement to the second floor, and on the upper level large panes of translucent glass define two bathrooms, drawing a calming blueish light into the bathing areas of the home. An extensive green roof cools the house’s flat roofs and absorbs rainwater runoff, further reducing the house’s ecological impact. Radiant infloor heating and newly-insulated walls provide a toasty warm interior environment in the winter while significantly reducing energy bills. The result is a sustainable, light-filled and airy home with an intimate outdoor courtyard that creates a serene retreat for busy urban professionals.

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