Modern + Modest: Architect Jay Lim brings light and style to 50s-era home

Modern + Modest: Architect Jay Lim brings light and style to 50s-era home

Architect Jay Lim has found a niche in updating older homes — particular those Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation builds that are starting to show their age. In overseeing the renovation of two 1950s-era houses, he preserves their histories while meeting the needs of the families within.

Related: Embracing modern and preserving history in Manor Park

A two-bedroom house for a family of four was a tight squeeze, providing the impetus for Julie and Steve* to undertake a full renovation that added an extra bedroom — and so much more. Their challenge was to maintain the modest footprint of their house while incorporating a long wish list: an open main floor with a spacious entryway and a modern kitchen, as well as three bedrooms, a bathroom upstairs, and a study station on the second floor.
*first names only at homeowner’s request

The front of the house complements the streetscape. Photo by Brendan Burden

“Steve and I had very different ideas on how our post-war house should look,” says Julie. “I wanted it to blend in with the neighbourhood and Steve likes things more modern.”

Jay granted both wishes with a design that maintains the original rooflines on the street side while giving the house a distinctly modern look in the back.

The back of the house shows off a modern design sensibility. Here, a large window floods the master bedroom with natural light. Photo by Brendan Burden

Thoughtful details and creative ideas abound, but it’s Jay’s attention to light and views that stand out for the couple. “We have outdoor spaces on both sides of the house and views from a second floor that previously had no windows. We’re suddenly discovering our neighbourhood,” says Steve. 

Skylights allow light to flow into a homework station situated in the hallway, while the master bedroom features a private balcony . Photos by Brendan Burden

“These clients were really brave. They were open to thinking deeply about how they wanted to interact as a family and weren’t afraid to rearrange the house to get where they wanted to go. I love the double-height space between the first and second floors — it connects everyone and allows music to fill the house when Steve plays the piano.”

Julie and Steve loved Jay’s idea to have the living room open to the second floor. The double-height ceiling lends airiness to the room and allows light to flow down from two skylights. Photo by Brendan Burden

“The juxtaposition of the street frontage and the back is also very compelling for me — they tie together, but they could be completely different houses if you just saw one or the other,” says Jay. “It speaks to the idea that we’re all individuals and can make the decision to present different sides of ourselves.”