A Toronto Annex House Glimmers With Mondrian-Inspired Stained Glass
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A Toronto Annex House Glimmers With Mondrian-Inspired Stained Glass

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By Lauren Jones / Photos by Scott Norsworthy
Architect Stephane LeBlanc turns a 1893 Annex-style home into a light-filled sanctuary with plenty of original charm.

In Toronto’s Annex neighborhood, there are a bevy of tree-lined streets known for a special style of house that is indigenous to the city. These Annex homes, originated by architect EJ Lennox, feature plaster and terra-cotta details, wide arches, and fancy woodwork and brickwork—and they’ve become the norm in the area surrounding the university core.

Kevin and Carol Reilly sought to revamp and repair their three-story, semidetatched 1893 Annex home, so they called upon local architect Stephane LeBlanc to conduct the much-needed face-lift. 

To bring natural light into the center of the home, LeBlanc inserted a thin skylight above the stairs. The chandelier is from Michael Anastassiaees. "We wanted to find something contemporary that had nice lines," LeBlanc says. "It seemed perfect because it acts like a 3-D mobile and has the geometric qualities Kevin likes in art."

LeBlanc wanted to highlight the airy feel of the home, so he took out the original corridor and opened up the dining room and kitchen to provide views from the front of the home to the back garden.

"In 2013, there was a major ice storm," LeBlanc says. "The power went out, the pipes froze, and water leaked into the front of the house, damaging the original plasterwork."

The home was set up as three for-rent apartments at the time, and the storm provided the impetus for a necessary renovation. The clients sought to restore the original plasterwork and woodwork, convert the home back into a single-family residence, open up the back portion of the house, and introduce more natural light.

"This was the first Annex house we have ever done," LeBlanc says. "We’ve done a lot of work with existing buildings, and it’s actually a big part of our practice—but with this home there were many significant details worth protecting and restoring."

The front room features quarter-sawn white oak flooring. It’s painted in Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball, accented with Neon Red by Benjamin Moore.

"It started off as a restoration job," LeBlanc says. "There were a lot of beautiful Victorian details we repaired, but as we moved toward the back of the house, we allowed ourselves the freedom to be more contemporary." 

The back of the home originally held the servant’s quarters, and LeBlanc wanted to get creative with the area’s new function. "Back then, people didn’t use those private spaces to socialize or congregate," he says. 

To fulfill the clients’ desire for more natural light, LeBlanc opened up the entire back wall of the home and added colorful stained glass windows inspired by Mondrian. 

The living room features an original fireplace and black slate tile, which LeBlanc introduced in the master suite for continuity.

"Kevin, who is a retired pharmaceutical rep, has a big art collection—and the glass design came from his interest in Mondrian," he says.

In the living room, which was ravaged by the storm, LeBlanc touched on the colors of the stained glass, hired craftsmen to restore the marble-and-plaster fireplace, and added an Artemide Pirce pendant Kevin had purchased at a yard sale.

A pop of red provides the perfect accent for the kitchen, which features marble from New Age Granite and Tiles and appliances by GE, Thermador, and Miele.

The library features furniture from the homeowners’ collection—including this Marcel Breuer chair.

"Kevin really pushed for vibrant colors and had specific references to his art collection" LeBlanc says. "We had long conversations about which reds, yellows, and greens should be on the walls."

At the end of the first floor, LeBlanc brightened the kitchen with Italian marble, GE Monogram and Thermador appliances, and white oak cabinetry that conceals the broom closet and an entrance to the basement. "It’s a nice system for full-service areas, and it hides the mess so the room can function freely," he says. It’s like there’s a secret life behind those doors."

The master bathroom is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Peak White and Chantilly Lace to keep the focus on the high-end vanity and colorful glasswork.

The couple wanted to turn an old bedroom on the second floor into a cozy library, so the architect added walnut bookshelves and cleaned up the original chandelier. "The walnut bookshelves felt like they could read as modern, but they were still indicative of typical somber Victorian details," LeBlanc adds. 

The luminous master suite is oriented with an unexpected layout. "You enter the master suite from the bathroom, so we wanted it to be a really nice, light-filled space," he says.

The team had to leave the front of the heritage protected house as is, but the back showcases an entirely new aesthetic.

Like the kitchen, the bath includes white-veined marble and pops of colorful stained glass. And since the back of the home faces the east, the couple can enjoy the early morning sun. All in all, the home is a stunning example of a heritage home updated for modern-day living.  

Related Reading:

6 Colorful, Geometric Buildings Inspired by Piet Mondrian

10 Mullet Homes That Are Traditional in the Front, Modern in the Back 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Stephane LeBlanc Architects  / @leblancarchitect

Builder/General Contractor: Stephen R Heidman Construction

 Structural Engineer: Urbis Engineering LTD 

 Landscape Architect: Victoria Taylor Landscape Architect /@vtaylorlandarch

 Cabinetry Design/Installation: Catfish Design Build 

 Mechanical Consultant: Hayward HVAC Design 

 Metal Fabrication: Renaissance Fabrication Co.

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