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.
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
“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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”