Location: Toronto, ON
Client: Tsang Family
"Go big or go home” has been one of the de facto mottos in a several decade long wave of renovations across Toronto’s late 20th century suburbs including Scarborough, Don Mills, and Etobicoke.
Throughout these suburbs it has become increasingly common and often times lucrative to knock down the single story bungalows that made up the fabric of large pockets of these communities and build two and three story houses that maximize each property’s zoning potential. The resulting fabric juxtaposes countless examples of faux Victorian, neoclassical hybrid, or Tudor style multi-story mansions against their bungalow neighbors that, given the trend, perhaps await the same fate. Agincourt, a district of Scarborough and one of Toronto’s original late 19th century suburbs, is no exception.
The client wished to renovate and expand the exterior of their single story bungalow in Agincourt on a street, where true to trend, post war bungalows are frequently dwarfed by hybrid, eclectic, Greco Roman and Victorian mansions. The brief called for creating an enclosed entrance to replace the worn and tired entry and offer shelter from freezing winter temperatures, expand the old garage (that could previously barely accommodate a compact car), a new workshop for the handyman husband, and change rooms for the backyard swimming pool. In addition, the brief called for a design that could improve and lift the appearance and mood of the entire house.
The design approach, in contrast to the prevailing trends, opted to upgrade the existing single story structure and made strategic moves in a simple, economical and sustainable manner. The design ‘parti’ was simple: create a larger, enclosed entrance vestibule, a new garage and workshop, and define both with street facing, coplanar cedar planes. A flat roof canopy links the new building elements to create a covered walkway and porch and ties the entire composition together. A rain-chain and rock garden were added to the end of the flat roof to drain rainwater from the roof as a nod to the East Asian heritage of the owners, and their appreciation for time-honored Asian design and craftsmanship.
The entrance vestibule was designed as a simple volume that is entered from the new concrete side porch, using exposed steel c-channels to emphasize the raw structure that frames a view of the rain-chain and rock garden to the south. A dominant eight foot tall by five foot wide mahogany framed glass pivot door opens to the living room and allows views from the cedar vestibule to the living and family areas. The cedar gives a soft, warm glow that spills into the front of the house. From spring to autumn the clerestory window above the cedar wall frames a rectangular slice of the lush tree canopy outside that is enjoyed deep inside the house. A new zinc clad closet projects beyond the vestibule and is accessed by a full height zinc clad sliding door.
A palette of cedar, concrete, zinc, glass, and steel define the addition. The remaining original brick cladding of the original house was finished in a bright, off-white stucco layer that created the new look and lift that the owners were seeking. This helped to simplify the existing house, creating a refreshing backdrop to the newly crafted volumes and elements in the foreground.