Fourth Street House

The lakeside community of New Toronto is undergoing a renaissance as young families flock to the neighbourhood, attracted by affordable prices and a well-developed community infrastructure. The mature housing stock, built in the 1920s for workers at the now-defunct Goodyear plant, is characterized by one- and two-storey brick structures. The 25-foot-wide lots and shared driveways present a consistent rhythm of porches and gables along tree-lined streets.

Says architect Michael Moxam, “This was the antithesis of today’s customary monster-home reno. Fourth Street House shows how a careful spatial reconfiguration can meet the needs of contemporary family life while retaining a piece of Toronto’s residential history.” The project also shows one way to create extra, new space without extending the house’s footprint, thereby avoiding the tedious process of applying for a zoning variance from the Committee of Adjustment.

In its “before” state, the wood-frame bungalow was a rabbit warren of little rooms. None of the interior walls were structural, so Moxam was able to gut the house back to the masonry shell. Into this open plan, he inserted a T-shaped cherry element. The floating, canopy-like ceiling delineates the kitchen/dining and living zones. The thickened cherry wall gives visual support for the ceiling and separation between the communal space and the washroom. The wall discreetly houses the kitchen appliances as built-ins, which, says Moxam, “gives the appearance of a library, rather than a kitchen, sitting in the middle of the space.”

The dining-room window overlooks the shared driveway. To block the view and add privacy while maintaining daylight, Moxam filled in the opening with glass brick.

He also effectively doubled the size of the two children’s bedrooms by borrowing space from the attic. The low roof pitch permitted construction of a new floor above each bedroom, accessible by a steel ship’s ladder. The lower floor is dedicated to living and studying space; the upper floor has a skylit sleeping loft. Quite a lot of house packed into 1,200 square feet!

Designer: Michael Moxam