Homes

Embracing modern, preserving history: inside a Manor Park reno

Over the past few years, architect Jay Lim has spent countless hours thinking about how best to revitalize tiny post-World War II houses — those one- and one-and-a-half-storey dwellings designed by Canada Mortgage and Housing Company that are ubiquitous to the city’s older neighbourhoods. That means striking a balance between old and new.

“It’s very rewarding to reinterpret these houses,” Lim says. “I’m working with the owners to make their houses contemporary while keeping their essence.”

Manor Park was a perfect fit for Briana and Nam*. Briana has a sister living in Manor Park, and both partners were drawn to the idea of settling down in an established neighbourhood close to the river. Still, their circa 1952 CMHC house felt tiny, dark, and closed-in.

Briana, Nam, and Louie in the dining room. The couple has chosen furniture in the open dining and living room to complement the era of their home.           Photo by Brendan Burden

“The structure was solid, so for environmental and cost reasons, we knew we wanted to renovate rather than knock it down,” says Briana. She and Nam were looking for more light, more space, and better flow.

The renovation saw the removal of a bathroom behind the kitchen, allowing light to flow through the exposed window. The east-facing living room window was also enlarged, so the main floor is now bright and open. Upstairs, the dormers gave Briana and Nam the luxury of three bedrooms and a bathroom, with four large windows and a skylight ensuring that natural light abounds.

Light floods into the cozy living room from two directions — through the front window and down the stairs. Previously covered by carpet, the original birch floor was uncovered, sanded down, and refinished.  Photo by Brendan Burden

Their favourite elements? The ceilings upstairs, which rise to 12 feet at their peak. Jay designed the house without an attic to give the second floor a loft-like ambience. And under the “cape,” their raised porch, with its views of their front-yard maple and the surrounding streetscape, has become a go-to hangout.

The “cape”, which gives the house an iconic A-frame silhouette, boasts cut-outs to maximize light exposure and views. Photo by Brendan Burden

“I love how much brighter and more well-connected this house is now. And I’m happy the owners went all white on the exterior — not only does it look great, but the high reflectivity means the house doesn’t absorb heat.

*names have been changed at the owner’s request