The owners might have three kids, but the idea for this unconventional addition came from the client’s childhood “dream house” fantasies.
When a young couple bought their first family home in Toronto, they envisioned a space that they could transform to fit the needs of their growing family. They bought a duplex with two small basement units in an expensive neighborhood and initially rented the apartments out to offset the cost of buying. After four years, their family had grown to three children and they decided it was time to create their dream home. "They wanted the idea of play and togetherness to be the center point for the family home," says architect Trevor Wallace, principal of Reflect Architecture.
It was decided that the second floor apartment would be left relatively unchanged and rented out for income, while the first floor and basement level would be converted into the family home. As both clients work from home—as a naturopathic doctor and a medical doctor who have transitioned into being entrepreneurs in the health and wellness space—it was essential that the home have spaces for the family to gather and play as well as quieter, more private spaces for working from home.
To meet these dual needs of play and work, Wallace moved away from conventional ideas of the home and created a scheme that addressed the very specific needs of the family. "We thought about how the clients would use each space rather than how domestic spaces are typically used," says Wallace. "For example, the idea of a living room didn’t mean much to them. Instead, they come together as a family around the dining table and in the kitchen, so we prioritized these spaces."
The home has two entrances: A main front entrance for visitors, and a rear entrance that leads to a mud room that the family uses. The main entrance opens into a small entry foyer which leads to the open-plan living area. The dining and kitchen areas occupy the light-filled space at the front of the home, engaging with the streetscape through a large window. A smaller lounge area is located to one side. "This is the major public facing element of the house," says Wallace. "You can have guests over and not have them move any further into the house."
The access to the second floor apartment—an element that had to be worked around in the design—essentially divides the home into public and more private areas. Beyond this point, the floor has been cut away to create a dramatic double-height volume that floods the basement level with natural light. A long hallway, which feels more like a mezzanine, leads to the master bedroom and en suite, and an office that opens out to the backyard.
The basement level is accessed via either a winding stair or a playful blue slide. "The slide is a huge central point in the home," says Wallace. "It was a very simple design directive—and actually didn’t come from the kids. The client had always wanted a slide in her home!"
Like the ground floor, the basement is also split into zones. The slide and stairs lead to an open central space, which can be used for various purposes. "There’s everything from a piano to a Peloton bike, and it changes weekly," says Wallace. To the front of the home are the three children's bedrooms—which can be completely closed off by a sliding door—and a shared bathroom and separate toilet.
"The client was very particular about there being tons of natural light in each of the kids bedrooms but was also adamant that they had access for emergency egress if there was a fire," says Wallace. "So, each of the tall windows can be tilted open and be safe from intruders, but if there’s ever an emergency they can swing the handle and open the windows outwards."
A more private guest room—which doubles as an acoustically insulated podcast studio where one of the clients produces a popular podcast—is located at the rear of the basement level, alongside a large laundry room.
Throughout the home, materials were chosen to create a light and bright interior. The timber floor—Superblanco knotless European Oak from Moncer Flooring—was one of the most important elements. "The clients wanted to feel the timber when they were barefoot in their home," says Wallace. "So, the wood is not sealed but just treated with oil. It feels like you’re connected to the environment rather than standing on something manufactured."
The rest of the material palette was kept similarly subdued and elegant, with white walls, porcelain stone tiles in the kitchen, and a pop of color in the teal kitchen cabinets.
Shop the Look
"We wanted to give the home a fresh new look and use that to drive thoughtfulness around how we laid the space out," says Wallace. "We tried to create a thoughtful answer to contemporary living. We wanted to bring in a clean aesthetic that creates a sense of calm, without forgetting that families play together, hang out together and they live together—and the cost of calm and clean doesn't come at the cost of families behaving naturally together in their homes."