Although Victorian homes have their undeniable charms, having light-filled interiors generally aren’t one of them. Luckily for this Toronto semi, a top-to-bottom renovation, led by Vanessa Fong Architects, was the solution!
Floor to ceiling windows at the front and rear of the first floor pull light into the home from both ends, while creating a sense of fluidity between indoors and out.
The effect is enhanced with the addition of another full height window on the second-floor balcony. An ample opening that cuts through the first and second floors acts almost as a clerestory, flooding both floors with light and echoing the sense of connection between interior/exterior and between levels within the space as well.
Even the kitchen that backs onto a narrow space between houses takes full advantage of available natural light with a frosted window that runs the full length of the countertops taking the place of a backsplash.
In the lower level, wood finishes in similar tones as the flooring, cabinetry, and stairs, make for an inviting and cohesive space. The contrast between wood cabinetry and white drywall lets the angle of the stairway provide a visual punctuation, a treatment echoed in the third-floor bedrooms where an inset in the built-in cabinetry is wrapped in a dark wood frame which accents the angle of the roof.
There’s a certain transparency in this use of the home’s underlying geometry as a decorative element within an otherwise unadorned and minimal space. A transparency that’s seen in the treatment of the facade too, where black cladding frames the contemporary interior space, revealing both aesthetically and quite literally with its expansive windows the transformation that’s taken place within, while still referencing the more traditional elements of the house’s exterior, where trim is painted in a matching black.
It makes for an unabashed, almost brash, juxtaposition of modern and traditional that’s become quite familiar in larger multi-unit residential developments where a historic building is maintained at street level, or in storefront remodels, but feels fresh and unexpected in this home’s low-rise residential neighbourhood. The architects describe the residence in its former state as ‘introverted’ - certainly no longer the case post-renovation. The radical openness and transparency of the remodelled home may not be for everyone - and that’s okay. It’s a project that demonstrates how a home can reflect the desires, lifestyle, and personality of its residents and speaks to the architecture’s role in instantiating shifting cultural values.
To see more by this young Toronto studio, browse VFA’s portfolio of residential projects.
Or take a look at other contemporary renos featured on Houseporn.ca, like these:
Drew Mandel’s House in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood written by Emily Stringer
L. McComber’s Attic Renovation in Plateau Mont-Royal written by Crystal Yung
Atelier Moderno’s Le 205 in Montreal written by Charmaine Cheng
This article was written by Miranda Corcoran, a designer and creative strategist based in Toronto who began writing for houseporn.ca while studying Industrial Design at OCAD University.