Howland House

Annex, Toronto

A renovation transformed a dark 1930s house into a luminous and practical contemporary space for a small family while maintaining the house’s streetside appearance and the family’s privacy.

 

This two-storey house was built in the depression with small, dark rooms and limited views to the outdoors. The homeowners loved the location and saw the house as a starting point from which they could create a home that simply feels good inside. 

The simple gesture of lifting the roof was a modest and elegant way to maintain the overall appearance of the house from the street, while articulating light and openness to defy the house’s modest scale. Lifting the roof enabled us to introduce a clerestory that washes the interior with daylight, and by cutting a slot in the second-level hallway floor, we carried the light down into the main floor kitchen. With this interior redesign, rooms merge or relate to each other with anterooms, windows, and open floors, creating an unusual experience of vertical and horizontal connectivity. Walls erode and wrap into closets or other rooms. In some cases, they are notched or sliced to filter light from one room to the next. The result is a house that remains a good neighbour, while providing its occupants with a internal sanctuary that feels expansive and uplifting

 

Our life revolves around activities at the heart of the house, where the light is strongest: in the kitchen and the upstairs living room. Light brings energy into this part of the house radiates through the centre of the tall open space. Unlike conventional houses, the hallway is not a ‘negative space,’ it becomes a place where things happen with modest rooms radiating from it. The quality of the light is very relaxing. It’s like lying on a beach. It feels both bright and protected.

– Homeowner

Rooms merge or relate to each other with anterooms, interior windows, and open floors, creating an unusual experience of vertical and horizontal connectivity. Walls erode and wrap into closets or other rooms. In some cases, they are notched or sliced to filter light from one room to the next.

From the exterior, the only obvious clue that the house has been altered is at the rear, where a cantilevered box pushes the son’s bedroom window beyond the brick wall, playfully providing him with views of an adjacent Victorian fire station.

 

The experience of this house makes you prick your ears and live better. It makes you aware of all the little things and conscious of your acts in the most modest way.

– Homeowner

Media

Designlines – (May 2014) Drawing the Line