The Globe and Mail
Published August 29, 2012
(The project was completed while we were called The Practice of Everyday Design)
What do you do when you’ve decided to stay put in your 1953 home, but a poorly executed 1960s addition with tiny rooms and seven-foot ceilings is cramping your style?
You tear the entire thing down and build a McMansion, of course. Just kidding. If you’re Phillip and Anne in Mississauga’s coveted Lorne Park neighbourhood, you take that 550 square feet of architectural deadwood and turn it into a dream space … with help from the right people.
The couple – who don’t want their surname used – turned to relative newcomer The Practice of Everyday Design, a multidisciplinary firm started by intern architects Antoine Morris, 31, and David Long, 28, in 2009. While this is the first architectural project for PED, Phillip and Anne were impressed with the duo’s forays into sculpture, furniture design – their “Stalac” coffee table now occupies pride of place in the couple’s new space – and out-of-the-box thinking.
The addition in question was a ‘pop up’ that interrupted the original bungalow’s hip roof over the two-car garage. Up a flight of stairs from the dining room was: a “wasted” hallway; a room that was too small to be a bedroom but too big to be a walk-in closet (so it became a storage area); a “cramped” TV room; a dated bathroom; and a so-so master bedroom. In other words, a lot of walls, doors and depression that didn’t encourage extended periods of lounging; worse, snarls Phillip, “where we hung our clothes was the best view in the house!” It’s true: the spectacular view of the back garden had been a missed opportunity since the couple bought
the place in 1990.
Beyond the spatial deficiencies, the addition was due for new windows, a new roof, and, well, hardwood floors wouldn’t hurt either. “I never had any intention of gutting it,” says Phillip, but that’s just what Mr. Morris, Mr. Long and Mr. Morris’ sister, Melanie (who worked on the project also) convinced the couple to do. In fact, it was more than gutted: the old walls and roof – with zero insulation – were demolished, leaving only the subfloor over the garage.
While all agreed the brand new space needed to be open, light-filled and lounge-ready, the couple was concerned it would cost them valuable storage space. Recalls Phillip: “Antoine said to us, ‘Look, this room has an enormous amount of area that’s wasted, where you’re walking across the floor from one storage space to another.'” Picking up the narrative, Mr. Morris says the key was to eliminate the “segmented” way the couple moved through the space: “We created it in such a way that everything is parcelled, but is also visible and therefore allows it to feel bigger than it is.”
“Parcelled” is good way to describe the new space PED created, as there are now distinct areas for TV watching, reading, sleeping, dressing and washing, but each parcel flows into the other. The first step was pitching the new roof to create generous ceiling height. To open up the floor plan, the bathroom was moved to the front wall beside the bedroom area from its previous (and awkward) location in the middle of the space. Now, sliding billowy linen curtains across a track cordon off the tub and sink area as well as the bedroom area; only the toilet gets a door.
Facing the new, marble-tiled bathroom are two ample closets: one built into the wall, the other freestanding. Between the closets is a wide dressing area. To allow light to travel freely, the freestanding closet stops well short of the ceiling, and its backside is clad in vertical strips of wood with small gaps in between. When standing in the TV-watching area, this backside becomes a wall behind the couch and a place to secure the staircase handrail. The overall effect is more like modern retail display than traditional closet.
And speaking of traditional, Anne and Phillip’s dcor choices run that way, at least on the main floor, with rich, dark pieces of mission furniture and ochre walls adorned with classic landscapes. Yet their new second storey is light, white, modern and, with its jaunty square windows, just a little bit quirky. This comes from establishing trust early on, says Anne, who at first told the team she didn’t want everything painted white, but ended up loving how it shows off “the shapes and forms.” Phillip was pushing for wooden bookcases, but was talked into white ones so the books would provide the colour.
“Everybody thinks they can do it themselves – they have their own taste and they know what they want – but we took a deep breath and said ‘We asked you to do it, so do it,'” explains Anne, “and we’ve not been at all disappointed. We’re quite amazed.”
“I don’t even know if ‘amazed’ captures it,” interjects Phillip. “We are ecstatic about it; we love waking up in the morning [and] we can’t wait to go up there at night.”
Despite this new firm’s name – The Practice of Everyday Design – there’s nothing ‘everyday’ about this renovation. It’s an innovative answer to the common question: without adding square feet, how does one make an older house young again?