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Narrow Modernist Three-Story Home in Toronto

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Facing tight building codes and an even tighter space, Karen White and David MacNaughtan needed an architect who could turn lemons into lemonade. Donald Chong devised a refreshing solution.

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  Karen White, David MacNaughtan, and their sons, Griffin and Finlay, hang out on the front deck, which lines up next to the neighbors' porch.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Karen White, David MacNaughtan, and their sons, Griffin and Finlay, hang out on the front deck, which lines up next to the neighbors' porch. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  Just through the front door is the living room where built-ins by Chong share space with a three-legged Wegner chair and photo-graphs by Arnaud Maggs.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Just through the front door is the living room where built-ins by Chong share space with a three-legged Wegner chair and photo-graphs by Arnaud Maggs. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  At the top, the view from the roof deck reveals a patchwork of garages and yards surprisingly free of neighbors.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    At the top, the view from the roof deck reveals a patchwork of garages and yards surprisingly free of neighbors. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  From the second level of the house, Griffin climbs the stairs his own way.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    From the second level of the house, Griffin climbs the stairs his own way. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  The second-floor family room is fronted by an L-shaped staircase with an opaque guardrail that provides some privacy for the front facade.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    The second-floor family room is fronted by an L-shaped staircase with an opaque guardrail that provides some privacy for the front facade. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  A detail shot of the stair, which spirals up and down throughout the house.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    A detail shot of the stair, which spirals up and down throughout the house. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  Down the corridor from the boys’ bedrooms is the family room.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Down the corridor from the boys’ bedrooms is the family room. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  The kids play in the family room just beneath the stairs.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    The kids play in the family room just beneath the stairs. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  In the back, ivy climbs across the garage’s raw cedar cladding next to a gate that allows access to the laneway—but the boys prefer to climb the fence.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    In the back, ivy climbs across the garage’s raw cedar cladding next to a gate that allows access to the laneway—but the boys prefer to climb the fence. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  In the dining room, furniture by Wegner and local designers Speke Klein blends with the white oak floors and stair.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    In the dining room, furniture by Wegner and local designers Speke Klein blends with the white oak floors and stair. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  The family shares a meal at the counter in the kitchen.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    The family shares a meal at the counter in the kitchen. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  A white Bulthaup system fits cleanly into the 13-foot-long kitchen.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    A white Bulthaup system fits cleanly into the 13-foot-long kitchen. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
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  Since the room is at the windowless middle of the house, it borrows light from the kitchen, which, despite its pristine Bulthaup cabinetry and hardware, is the laid-back heart of the house. Chong took advantage of the one-and-a-half-height ceiling to establish some well-hidden  storage cabinets.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Since the room is at the windowless middle of the house, it borrows light from the kitchen, which, despite its pristine Bulthaup cabinetry and hardware, is the laid-back heart of the house. Chong took advantage of the one-and-a-half-height ceiling to establish some well-hidden storage cabinets. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  Griffin’s room, which is exactly the same size as his brother’s, gets good light from the backyard.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Griffin’s room, which is exactly the same size as his brother’s, gets good light from the backyard. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  The master bedroom occupies a private space on the top floor.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    The master bedroom occupies a private space on the top floor. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  A rear view of the narrow house shows how Chong twisted the house’s volumes to bring daylight into each room.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    A rear view of the narrow house shows how Chong twisted the house’s volumes to bring daylight into each room. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  Chong left enough space in the 16-foot-wide backyard for a garden and comfortable dining area.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    Chong left enough space in the 16-foot-wide backyard for a garden and comfortable dining area. Photo by Dean Kaufman.
  • 
  In the lane behind the garage, Finlay makes use of the occasionally neglected territory.  Photo by Dean Kaufman.
    In the lane behind the garage, Finlay makes use of the occasionally neglected territory. Photo by Dean Kaufman.

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