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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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 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.
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.
Builder/General Contractor: Stephen R Heidman Construction
Structural Engineer: Urbis Engineering LTD
Cabinetry Design/Installation: Catfish Design Build
Mechanical Consultant: Hayward HVAC Design
Metal Fabrication: Renaissance Fabrication Co.