Budget Breakdown: A Toronto Home Makes the Most of an Infill Lot For $446K
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Budget Breakdown: A Toronto Home Makes the Most of an Infill Lot For $446K

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By Lucy Wang
In Toronto, Atelier RZLBD replaces a nondescript home on an infill lot with a breezy, adaptable dwelling.

After long admiring Toronto–based Atelier RZLBD’s contemporary infill projects from afar, Sage Shujan, owner of the construction firm Sage Building Ideas, finally saw an opportunity to collaborate. In 2016, he approached architect and Atelier RZLBD founder Reza Aliabadi with an idea to transform a nondescript, two-story building in Toronto’s Scarborough Junction into a creative and contemporary home that can adapt to different lifestyles over time.

The soft costs, which included design and consultant fees, city permits, and utilities, totaled $108,500 CAD (or about $80,720 USD), while construction costs amounted to $599,999.42 CAD (about $446,378 USD).

$13,560
Demolition & Excavation
$5,099.42
Toilet & Fence Rental
$20,000
Shoring
$65,365
Footing Foundation & Forming
$81,870.16
Structural Framing
$14,712.50
Windows
$1,793
Skylight
$25,820
HVAC
$11,450
Fence & Deck
$12,500
Aluminum Siding
$15,876.50
Stucco
$8,000
Cedar Siding
$17,719.40
Roofing
$1,000
Downspout
$16,780.25
Spray Foam Insulation
$25,320
Electrical
$3,300.63
Lighting
$17,065.75
Plumbing
$46,010.48
Bathroom
$22,715.74
Flooring
$33,900
Drywall, Taping & Finishing
$28,250
Interior Trim Works & Doors
$27,000
Stairs
$18,884.69
Landscaping
$26,323.96
Kitchen
$13,530
Glassworks
$3,576
Entry Front Door
$17,000
Painting
$3,475.94
Home Automation
$2,100
Washer & Dryer
Grand Total: $599,999.42 CAD
Located at Scarsborough Junction, the Gazing House is a contemporary dwelling designed with young professional couples in mind. The house was just listed for sale with an asking price of $1,285,000 CAD.

Located at Scarsborough Junction, the Gazing House is a contemporary dwelling designed with young professional couples in mind. The house was just listed for sale with an asking price of $1,285,000 CAD.

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The design brief also called for an airy and light-filled environment, an atmosphere that at first seemed at odds with the narrow and relatively shallow 25-foot lot. The site was further constrained by an east-west orientation that only allowed for limited sunlight to filter through the front and rear, as well as local by-laws that forbid windows from being installed on the side elevations.

"The main intention was to keep the palette natural and neutral, so the wood cladding is only sealed for weather protection, and the metal claddings and the stucco rendering are both gray —I didn’t want to make a visual splash," explains architect Reza Aliabadi, who added pops of bright orange—inspired by the color of Shujan’s car—to the front door and carport post.

"The main intention was to keep the palette natural and neutral, so the wood cladding is only sealed for weather protection, and the metal claddings and the stucco rendering are both gray —I didn’t want to make a visual splash," explains architect Reza Aliabadi, who added pops of bright orange—inspired by the color of Shujan’s car—to the front door and carport post.

To maximize access to natural light, Aliabadi turned the house into "an apparatus to harness light." The home is centered on a central staircase that funnels light into the house from a large skylight above, while two large windows on the front take in morning light. Resembling two eyes, the windows give the dwelling its name, Gazing House.

Acacia Natural planks line the floors and are complemented by white walls. Pictured here is the entry hall to the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area.

Acacia Natural planks line the floors and are complemented by white walls. Pictured here is the entry hall to the open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area.

For a clean and bright finish, the light-filled kitchen is fitted with white quartz countertops and high-gloss white IKEA cabinetry.

For a clean and bright finish, the light-filled kitchen is fitted with white quartz countertops and high-gloss white IKEA cabinetry.

In addition to bringing daylight into the home, the central staircase also serves as an organizational element. "This lot is not only narrow, but is not very deep; we needed the first module to be at least 20 feet deep to accommodate the car port," says Aliabadi. "So, I had to adapt a new typology and I came up with a two-part geometry with more or less 20-foot-deep squares on each side. The staircase is rotated and located in the middle to consume less space (depth)." On either side of the staircase, the home enjoys direct views and light.

Made on-site, the dining table is a custom design by Atelier RZLBD and is paired with Eames chairs.

Made on-site, the dining table is a custom design by Atelier RZLBD and is paired with Eames chairs.

The large "voids" in the house frame views  of the floors above and below, while permitting air flow and natural light to pass through.

The large "voids" in the house frame views of the floors above and below, while permitting air flow and natural light to pass through.

The result is a three-story, 2,380-square-foot house with a basement walk-out, rear deck, and a covered car port. The living areas are located on the west "square" while the private areas are generally allocated to the east "square." Large voids open each floor up to natural airflow and light.

"At certain moments, sunlight reaches all the way to the basement from the roof ceiling, generating a sense of spatial connection across the floors," notes Aliabadi. "The house is of a one, measureless void, which is one of the major themes of the atelier."

"At certain moments, sunlight reaches all the way to the basement from the roof ceiling, generating a sense of spatial connection across the floors," notes Aliabadi. "The house is of a one, measureless void, which is one of the major themes of the atelier."

A small study overlooks one of the several voids punctuating the home.

A small study overlooks one of the several voids punctuating the home.

All rooms in the house are designed to take in views and natural light, whether from the third-floor balcony window or through a skylight. "The views are framed by architectural elements at specific points and within the order of the house so that one experiences them with both anticipation and surprise," says Aliabadi. "These ‘gazes’ towards the outside are interestingly mirrored in the gazing face of the house, which truly identifies with the life of the inside."

Open-tread, two-inch, hickory butcher block stairs allow natural light to penetrate deep inside the home.

Open-tread, two-inch, hickory butcher block stairs allow natural light to penetrate deep inside the home.

Per the client's brief, the master bedroom is separated from the master bath and closets.

Per the client's brief, the master bedroom is separated from the master bath and closets.

A peek inside the master bedroom.

A peek inside the master bedroom.

Large mirrors on sliding tracks bounce greater amounts of light into the room.

Large mirrors on sliding tracks bounce greater amounts of light into the room.

The three-bedroom, four-bath Gazing House at 16 Lauren Avenue was recently listed for $1,285,000 CAD.

A large sliding door can be opened to combine the two kids' bedrooms into one room.

A large sliding door can be opened to combine the two kids' bedrooms into one room.

Stained pinewood studs make up the grating that lets light and air pass through from the dining room above to the family room below.

Stained pinewood studs make up the grating that lets light and air pass through from the dining room above to the family room below.

"The facade is the direct expression of the innate order, as pursued by the atelier in all its designs," says Aliabadi. "In the inside, one encounters the windows, the 'eyes' to the outside, in various moments of the routine."

"The facade is the direct expression of the innate order, as pursued by the atelier in all its designs," says Aliabadi. "In the inside, one encounters the windows, the 'eyes' to the outside, in various moments of the routine."

Gazing House floor plans

Gazing House floor plans

More Budget Breakdown:

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A Dreary ’70s Abode in Southern California Gets a Gut Renovation For $196K

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Atelier RZLBD / @rzlbd_

Builder/ General Contractor: Sage Building Ideas

Structural Engineer: Xu Structural Engineering

Interior Design: Atelier RZLBD 

Other: McCallum HVAC Design Inc.