Rundown Home becomes Elegant Social Housing

By Robert Smyth

Nestled within downtown Toronto, just steps from the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Victorian-style building for the Baldwin Village social housing project was originally built in 1877. Owned by Toronto Community Housing, this two-storey, three-bedroom dwelling had fallen into disrepair and required a major retrofit. The interiors had been gutted by the owner, stripping all walls and ceiling finishes from inside to expose the bare wood studs.

The main goal of the renovation project was to design the space with a small family in mind, and to provide dignity, agency and enhance comfort for the future tenants. The project was to be constructed on a very tight budget and using readily available materials purchased at local building supply stores.

The residence is organized around an open concept living and dining space, with views overlooking the Consulate General of Italy located directly across the street. A new staircase with an oak balustrade and stair post connects the main living area with the upper bedroom level. A new skylight brings natural light into the second floor bathroom and washes into the adjacent hallway and down the stairs.

The primary design inspiration came from the existing arches of the original fireplace and masonry fenestration. Arched wall openings were introduced as a design feature for the areas separating the living, dining and kitchen areas. The soapstone and iron fireplace were carefully restored, and the original hot water radiators were sandblasted and fitted with new controls to make the unit more energy efficient.

General Flooring
The flooring throughout the common living areas before the renovation consisted primarily of 12 by 12-inch vinyl composition tiles. They were in poor condition, mismatched and layered on top of older tiles. High-performance vinyl floor planks from Stone Tile that are made to look like wood were selected to replace the pre-existing flooring. The floor planks were chosen for durability, low cost, sound absorption, ease of installation and aesthetics.

Kitchen Flooring
The original kitchen was only accessible from the living room. The space was reconfigured from a tight confined space into an efficient L-shaped galley kitchen connecting the entry hall to the main living space to provide better flow for today’s modern family. The new flooring for the kitchen and bathrooms features a combination of porcelain tiles and the same wood grain vinyl floor planks used in the common living spaces.

Robert Smyth is a founding partner of Taylor Smyth Architects. Since inception in 2000, the firm has developed an international reputation for creating elegant architecture and interiors in Canada and abroad. Each project is cultivated from the spirit of its location and the unique tastes, preoccupations and aspirations of its clients. Robert can be reached at [email protected].

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