Located on a small lot in Downtown Toronto, the owners of this new three storey residence desired a peaceful urban retreat, purposefully tailored to nurture and enhance a close communal family life and their enjoyment of the outdoors. The response is a highly personalized expression of one small family’s particular lifestyle.
At ground level, a back-split condition responds to the natural slope of the site. An adventurous sectional arrangement continues vertically upward, with additional split levels arranged around a 3-storey light well, drawing sunlight (and moonlight) deep into the house.
All levels of the house are closely interconnected across this interior light well, creating an interesting balance between separation and intimacy: While the family may be individually occupied with remote activities (cooking, lounging, working, playing), they are always quickly and easily engaged with one another.
The three principal living spaces (Living room, Kitchen/ Dining area, Library) also expand outwards, into separate exterior areas, each with its own unique and complementary character.
Location: Trinity Bellwoods, Toronto
Design Team: Rick Galezowski, Maggie Bennedsen
Construction: Catalyst Design Build
Photography: Tom Arban, Rick Galezowski
At ground level, an arrangement of subtle level changes and low partitions gradually increase the degree of privacy as one moves from the street, through the interior, and into a secluded, forested back garden.
The owners are avid cyclists, generally coming and going by bicycle. A second entrance provides direct access to a lower level with spacious bicycle storage, wash area, and plenty of closet space. For maximum convenience, this entrance is placed at the front of the house, alongside the principal entrance.
A third floor living room sits high within the tree tops.
The interior is arranged to obscure direct views from the street into the main living spaces, while maximizing clear views outward: through the ground floor to the street and back garden, and from the living room to surrounding tree canopy and sky.
The house is thus organized around three principal axes which connect the interior with the outdoors: a ground level Garden Axis, a third level Sky Axis, and a vertical Sun Axis.
The third floor living room: an urbanized version of a cabin in the woods, with wood stove and cedar ceiling. It nestles intimately into tree tops at one end, and opens widely toward the sky at the other. An upper level outdoor terrace offers easy enjoyment of the city skyline, urban tree canopy, sunsets, and the night sky.
The sloped living room ceiling creates an intimate compression at the low end - a delightful spot to read within the tree tops, or enjoy snow falling on the street below.
A home office occupies the light well, with views to the living room above, and a library space below. What would typically be the dark middle of the house is bathed in sunlight and enjoys a feeling of expansive vertical space.
The split level ground floor results in a raised kitchen/ dining area with 9' high ceilings, and an intimate sunken library connected to the front terrace. Both areas receive plenty of sunlight from the light well above. The split level condition with open stairs provides views through multiple levels as one circulates throughout the house.
Stepping down into the intimate library area, overlooked from the kitchen, and with a view up into the light well. Above, a clerestory glass panel in the second floor washroom floods it with daylight.
The library area features built-in seating and a walk-out to the front terrace. A floating bookcase visually separates the second lower level entrance, without restricting verbal greetings to or from the main living areas.
The library area with seating under the light well, and soaring views up through all three levels.
Children's rooms present wonderful opportunities for something fun that kids will love for years. This custom bunkbed has a built-in library, and frees up floor space for play and reading with Mom and Dad.
An expansive wall surface adjacent to the dining area is the perfect place for displaying family photos, children's art, and miscellaneous objects, arranged in a way that is carefree without cluttering the room.
The lower level entrance vestibule, accessed directly from outside, with 10 feet of closet space, wall storage for 8 bicycles, and generous clean-up area.
Once boots and coats have been put away, a second interior stair ascends to the ground floor living space.
The kitchen & dining areas open out to a secluded and densely treed back yard with picnic table, lounge seating, and fire pit, evoking an intimate campsite in the heart of the city.
A garden storage pavilion with oversized sliding doors provides access to a private lane beyond, while doubling as a podium for canoe storage.