In the backyard of a downtown Toronto home, local design practice Anya Moryoussef Architect has transformed a single-car garage into a multifunctional, light-filled workspace that cleverly belies its compact 325-square-foot size.
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The client—a former architect who now works from home as a screenwriter and art director—set high demands for the small space. He requested not only a workspace and a separate sitting room, but also plenty of storage for his art collection and scripts, as well as room for his golden retriever, Ollie.
To divide the garage into four rooms without creating an uncomfortably cramped experience, the architects and client found inspiration in the 15th-century studiolo at Ducal Palace, a Renaissance-era architectural triumph in Gubbio, Italy, renowned for its illusionistic wood paneling.
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"The studiolo Gubbio is a series of rooms inside rooms—some actual, some seeming, some achieved by trompe l’oeil," the architects explain. "The client’s studiolo was conceived as a series of interconnected wooden rooms/cabinets (a reading room, a writing room, a storage room, an entry room) erected like a stage set inside of a larger room—a concrete block shell—situated in a garden that itself was designed as room."
The rooms are scaled to comfortable proportions for a single person and united by warm timber surfaces, however each space features slight differences—including varying proportions, levels of finish, and quality of light—for visual interest.
"By purposefully misaligning the partial-height walls and exaggerated beams, there’s always a sense of a ‘space beyond,’" the firm adds. "The full expression of the small space eludes the inhabitant."