A Rosedale Mansion Moves Toward Modern, By William Dewson Architects

South Rosedale Heritage Conservation District is a unique neighbourhood in the City of Toronto. Originally part of the Village of Yorkville, South Rosedale was the first suburban development north of the city centre with the initial estates styled in classical and picturesque architecture dating back to mid 19th century. Late Georgian homes discernable by their "symmetry, classical decorative details and centred main entrances emphasized with columns and pediment" were part of the South Rosedale classical style. Also present is Georgian Revival, English Cottage and other prominent styles popular during the 1901 to 1920 period. The examples evident in South Rosedale are "austere, distinctly Canadian interpretations of these styles." [City of Toronto]

From the outside, this South Rosedale home on Maple Avenue is like any other in this picturesque ravine-laden neighbourhood. The Maple Ave House is beautifully preserved in the late 19th century style of Victorian architecture, including large gables, a side porch, a large cantilevered bay window facing east, and a coach house over the garage. While all are the protected treasures of this solid Victorian home, the inside now holds a delicious surprise!


All images courtesy of William Dewson Architects


The Maple Avenue House, renovated by Steven Eisner of the infill builders at Eisner Murray and architect Bill Dewson of William Dewson Architects, is a testament to the successful marriage of heritage conservation and modern design.

With a 'B Heritage' rating, the renovations required special handling beyond normal building codes. The double-wythe lath-and-plaster walls were retained along with the window openings on the three public sides, and the original floor joists that were tied to the exterior walls were saved when the interior was gutted.

Scooped out like a jack-o-lantern, the house required a timber skeleton to be inserted into the space for structural support. A post-and-beam framework was installed on the main floor and the above three-stories to allow for typically modern open concept plan. The larger timber beams were stained in a rich coffee colour that served the purpose of visually grounding each space and tying the rooms together. The joists were left to appear "raw and woodsy", with drop ceilings in a calming white to provide visual relief. The linking of colour to structural support produces a dynamic visual effect of receding and advancing planes - truly a feast for the eyes! [Globe and Mail]


All images courtesy of William Dewson Architects


The spectacular glass staircases add lightness to the space; stacked on top of one another, they mimic escalators of a glossy department store and allow daylight to filter from floor to floor. But perhaps the most unique design element is the thick, curved glass panels that encase the gently curving stairs. Interestingly, factories in Canada are unequipped to do this glass bending process, making it a rare element in Canadian housing design.


All images courtesy of William Dewson Architects


While from the street, the Maple Avenue House appears entirely intact in the style of Victorian architecture, the view of the house from the backyard reveals the successful integration of modern design elements. The exposé of the four levels (the lower level being the raised basement) is telling of the magnitude of the renovation. Even with the special handling required for a designated heritage site, William Dewson Architects succeeded in creating, not only a home that meets the needs of the homeowner's urban lifestyle, but also a truly awe-inspiring example of design and architectural ingenuity.


All images courtesy of William Dewson Architects


Two eras' designs unite to balance the warmth of the Victorian Heritage Conservation Site with the airiness of modern design!

Interested in more of Toronto's heritage sites? Visit Torontoist's Ten of Toronto's Unique Heritage Achievements

From cottages, to houses, to lofts, William Dewson Architects have completed many more beautiful residential projects in Canada. Check out more projects here.

Source credit: Globe and Mail, City of Toronto


Researched and written by Sara Nicole England, undergraduate at OCAD University in Criticism and Curatorial Practice.

Posted In: Ontario

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