Play's the Thing

written by:
photos by:
July 4, 2011
Originally published in A New Slant on Family Fun

With ingenuity and plenty of elbow grease, architect John Tong turned an old Toronto dairy into the ultimate family clubhouse.

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  The house’s open-plan layout encourages the entire family to hang out together, even while partaking in different activities. The durable area rug, made from carpet tiles by InterfaceFLOR, is the ideal base for both reading and playing with trains, as Luka, three, demonstrates.

    The house’s open-plan layout encourages the entire family to hang out together, even while partaking in different activities. The durable area rug, made from carpet tiles by InterfaceFLOR, is the ideal base for both reading and playing with trains, as Luka, three, demonstrates.

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  Daughters Uma and Maelle have the run of the house.

    Daughters Uma and Maelle have the run of the house.

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  With its reclaimed-wood cladding, the kitchen is a rough-and-ready backdrop for the family’s tableware.

    With its reclaimed-wood cladding, the kitchen is a rough-and-ready backdrop for the family’s tableware.

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  Maelle paints up a storm.

    Maelle paints up a storm.

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  The courtyard is an extension of the house, with a big table that hosts parties, a stage for impromptu performances, and part of an old loft overhead that will one day become a treehouse for the children. Photo by Stacey Brandford.

    The courtyard is an extension of the house, with a big table that hosts parties, a stage for impromptu performances, and part of an old loft overhead that will one day become a treehouse for the children. Photo by Stacey Brandford.

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  John and Anne love to cook, but with three kids running around at mealtimes, “it’s mayhem in here,” John says.

    John and Anne love to cook, but with three kids running around at mealtimes, “it’s mayhem in here,” John says.

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  Uma has a private room just over the wall from her parents. She’s sitting in a vintage Eames chair that John’s friend scored at an auction.

    Uma has a private room just over the wall from her parents. She’s sitting in a vintage Eames chair that John’s friend scored at an auction.

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  John built a shelf system for the basement when it was Anne’s office; he adapted it to store the kids’ toys when the area became a playroom.

    John built a shelf system for the basement when it was Anne’s office; he adapted it to store the kids’ toys when the area became a playroom.

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  In the bathroom, the twins take advantage of a custom-built Corian sink and wooden base with integrated step when it’s time to wash up.

    In the bathroom, the twins take advantage of a custom-built Corian sink and wooden base with integrated step when it’s time to wash up.

  • 
   Double Jointed  In the downstairs bathroom, John chose a “potwasher” fixture by Encore that’s often used in restaurant kitchens. Its double-jointed arm lets it reach every corner of the custom Corian sink, where all five family members wash up—sometimes at the same time.componenthardware.com

     

    Double Jointed

     

    In the downstairs bathroom, John chose a “potwasher” fixture by Encore that’s often used in restaurant kitchens. Its double-jointed arm lets it reach every corner of the custom Corian sink, where all five family members wash up—sometimes at the same time.componenthardware.com

  • 
   Behind Closed Drawers  To continue the spare lines of the kitchen cabinets, John designed and built an “appliance garage” by cutting up Ikea drawer fronts to build hinged doors that enclose an area beneath the cabinets, hiding a toaster, microwave, breadbox, and electrical outlets.ikea.com

     

    Behind Closed Drawers

     

    To continue the spare lines of the kitchen cabinets, John designed and built an “appliance garage” by cutting up Ikea drawer fronts to build hinged doors that enclose an area beneath the cabinets, hiding a toaster, microwave, breadbox, and electrical outlets.ikea.com

  • 
   Buddy Hacked It  The light fixture hanging over the stairs to the playroom is another Ikea hack: The hanging hardware is actually for curtains, and the six Grundtal lights are meant to be hung under cabinets. They’re mounted on a horizontal three-quarter-inch-thick piece of pine, and two other slats hang vertically along the two sides. “It’s really an afternoon project,” says John.

     

    Buddy Hacked It

     

    The light fixture hanging over the stairs to the playroom is another Ikea hack: The hanging hardware is actually for curtains, and the six Grundtal lights are meant to be hung under cabinets. They’re mounted on a horizontal three-quarter-inch-thick piece of pine, and two other slats hang vertically along the two sides. “It’s really an afternoon project,” says John.

  • 
   Kids’ Lit  To display the children’s artwork in a fun and flexible way, John designed a four-foot-high lightbox, custom-built by Geron, and installed it above the staircase. The front panel is non-glare acrylic held in place with magnetic strips; low-voltage LED strips provide the backlighting. “We’ll change out the art at least at every holiday and birthday,” says John.geron.ca

     

    Kids’ Lit

     

    To display the children’s artwork in a fun and flexible way, John designed a four-foot-high lightbox, custom-built by Geron, and installed it above the staircase. The front panel is non-glare acrylic held in place with magnetic strips; low-voltage LED strips provide the backlighting. “We’ll change out the art at least at every holiday and birthday,” says John.geron.ca

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