Toronto’s budding firm, SOCA, took on the task of transforming a one-bedroom, one-bathroom loft in the city’s King West neighborhood, adding an additional bedroom and bathroom for a total of 1,175 square feet. The former perfume factory had been converted into apartments in the mid-’90s, the size of the unit owing to the much lower cost of living in that decade. SOCA took a pragmatic approach to cut down on materials, waste, and costs—keeping what worked and ditching what didn’t.
"It was a conversation of general ideas, and that’s often how I work—I’m bringing something to the table as well as the client," says Tura Cousins Wilson, co-founder of SOCA and the Black Architects and Interior Designers Association.
Omar, the homeowner, wanted to break up the two-story home while retaining its urban loft appeal.
"The design question became: How do you create two rooms out of one upstairs, while still keeping that openness? That was one of the things Omar approached me with in the beginning," reflects Cousins Wilson. "He loved the space and wanted it to respond to the cost of living—to create a second bedroom and second washroom, approaching it from both a real estate perspective as well as wanting to be able to grow into it."
Cousins Wilson, who holds his masters of architecture from the Technical University of Delft, approached this central challenge with the rational appeal of Dutch architecture.
In creating the second bedroom, he leveraged the apartment’s ample square footage. "At first I was like, ‘He wants two bedrooms; this might be kind of difficult,’" laughs Cousins Wilson. But the solution was in keeping a straightforward approach: "It was really the simple move of dividing the upstairs, which is quite wide, over 20 feet in width—pretty unique for units like this in this city."
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Additional design choices maximized spaces to be able to pull double duty. For example, bench seating at the entrance, finished in concrete-look porcelain, also works as storage. To soften sound and create privacy, Cousins Wilson added a sheath of glass to enclose the upper floor while letting in light and downtown views. The overarching strategy was to take advantage of existing features. "From an aesthetics and cost perspective, we looked at reusing things," says the architect.
The bare, 1990s minimalism of the unit played well into the renovations: Elements like the industrial track lighting and structural staircase were repurposed. "We used the base of the stair and then wrapped the guard in wood for more continuity," says Cousins Wilson. "The structure of the stair is still there, but we replaced the treads with new engineered flooring, same as used throughout the house, and then painted it black."
Upstairs, two closets were repurposed as storage for the new guest bedroom, which can also serve as a home office. The kitchen was left mostly intact, though chic, white oak slatted screening helps delineate it from the entrance.
Repurposing elements not only impacted the budgeting and waste, but it also retains the retro charm of the apartment. "Everything was redone; even if it wasn’t part of this project, it was all considered," reflects Cousins Wilson.
Builder: Bridgemont Properties
Collaborating Architect: Andrew Chung
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