Old and new

It’s that time of year again: out with the old, in with the new. In keeping with a fresh new start, the two houses we’re featuring in this issue are up-to-the-minute homes for young families. But in the spirit of another timeworn phrase – the one warning against throwing the baby out with the bath water – both are renovations.

First up is the Boheimer residence, located on an acre of land along the Red River on the southern outskirts of Winnipeg  (“Rooms with a view,” page 20). As writer Rhys Phillips explains, “the architects started with a much-altered 1920s house and a thorough distillation of how the clients and their two young children conduct their lives.” Johanna Horne and Sasa Radulovic stripped the house down to the foundation, which became the walls of a sunken courtyard, around which were wrapped three new wings. The end result – a U-shaped structure of open flowing spaces, with views through the house and outside to the river – is, in Phillips’s words, “a functional yet playful family home intricately suited to its prairie landscape setting.”

As for the second house featured – a semi-detached in midtown Toronto, owned by a couple with a young daughter – the renovation was far less drastic (“A light touch,” page 25). Architects Merike Regio and Stephen Bauer were faced with a shoebox of a house; the trick was to bring as much sunlight in from its two ends as possible, while avoiding a totally open plan. “Clever placement of partial walls and floor-to-ceiling millwork on the main floor keep the various spaces distinct and physically separate, ” notes writer David Steiner. “At certain spots you can see across the length of the floor plate, making the house feel spacious without exposing the contents of every room.”

For our Last Word, Steiner investigated another residence: Spadina House, one of 10 historic museums operated by the city of Toronto (“If these walls could talk,” page 38). No renovation here, of course – its lovely, sturdy bones are well protected – but rather an update of the original restoration, to depict how the house appeared in the 1920s and ’30s. Focussing on the painstaking efforts that went into recreating the drawing-room wallpaper, Steiner shows how something old – Spadina House – is made new thanks to something old made anew.