nterior designer Gordana Di Monte is often asked to put a fresh spin on design. But seldom is the request as literal as it was in the case of this two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto. “Their number one must-have was a working turntable in the living area, which is not a request I get every day,” says Di Monte, creative director at Douglas Design Studio who headed the project.
The owner of Barroso Homes, who has been a builder for the past 12 years, has been putting her own unique stamp on luxury contemporary homes for the past eight years. For this Hartfield Avenue home, she made two compromises. To respect the more traditional architecture of the surrounding neighbourhood, she would tone down her usual approach, which is highly and boldly modern.
Designer Kirsten Marshall of Palmerston Design Consultants Inc. still laughs at the memory of her client’s first instructions for what was later to become a sweeping makeover of an outdated home. “This client literally emailed us through our website and told us that he wanted us to ‘make our ugly house not ugly,’ ” she recalls. “I thought it was a joke.”
Modest on the outside, redesigned on the inside, a 1954 home is updated for the 21st century. Looks can be deceiving, and a good example of that is this house, which straddles the boundary between downtown Montreal and Westmount. From the street, it looks like a relatively modest red-brick structure, at least by Westmount standards. But it is actually an expansive mid-century home that cascades down the side of the mountain, providing stunning views from all three levels at the back.
There are renovation stories and then there are renovation stories. The latter are not characterized merely by upgrades and dramatic transformations, but by complete architectural renaissances, in which old buildings are re-imagined and restructured. The process takes a clear concept, plenty of planning, a dash of daring and bit of a budget. But the result is singularly spectacular. It’s almost magic.
Montreal’s St. Henri district has a long, storied history. From its early days in the late 1800s as a working-class neighbourhood, where residents toiled in its tanning factories along the Lachine Canal and laboured on the nearby railroad, to its struggles in the last century as many of those same factories shuttered their doors, St. Henri has had to find ways to adapt to change.
Sometimes, a house is like a book. It should not be judged by its cover. Because once you open it up, you might be surprised by the wondrous tale that awaits. You might just find yourself getting lost in an adventurous journey that transports you to another time. So with that in mind, let’s take a peek behind the door of what – from the outside – looks like a typical Montreal duplex in the city’s Plateau Mont Royal district.
For some people looking to build a new home, the location – the neighbourhood – is the prime requisite; once it’s chosen, they find a site and build a home that suits their needs and wants. Other people have a strong idea of what they want in terms of home design, and they go looking for a site to accommodate it.