Toronto home by Reflect Architecture balances “art with family life”

Canadian studio Reflect Architecture has renovated a home in Toronto for a new generation of the same family, while incorporating an extensive art collection.

North Drive House was the childhood home of one of the owners. After stints living abroad and in Downtown Toronto, the couple were lured back to the two-acre property for the space to raise their young family.

Sculptural white staircase with layered bannistersSculptural white staircase with layered bannisters
The home’s hallways and living spaces were renovated to feel like a gallery for the couple’s art collection

However, the residence’s traditional interiors were not to their taste, so Reflect Architecture principal Trevor Wallace was called in to undertake an extensive renovation.

His approach was to create a deliberate “tension” between the need to display an extensive contemporary art collection – which includes pieces by Robert Mapplethorpe and Erik Madigan Heck – and fulfilling the needs of a family home.

Sculptural staircase featuring layered bannisters, stepped profiles and curved formSculptural staircase featuring layered bannisters, stepped profiles and curved form
A sculptural staircase features layered bannisters, stepped profiles and curved forms

“The idea of living in a gallery was always important to the owners, but the critical distinction is that they didn’t want to live in a museum,” said Wallace.

“This is a family home above all. The owners have always imagined that their kids would one day look back on living here and think it was pretty cool that they were playing soccer or running around inside what felt like an art gallery.”

Living room with contemporary furniture and a ribbon-like fireplaceLiving room with contemporary furniture and a ribbon-like fireplace
The living room includes contemporary furniture and a ribbon-like fireplace by Brooklyn designer Leyden Lewis

The team retained the existing layout and circulation while updating the spaces with fresh materials, colours and forms.

Most in line with the gallery-like aesthetic, the living spaces, hallways and corridors feature stark white walls and minimalist detailing such as flush doors and entryways.

Dining room with teal walls and a knotted chandelier over the tableDining room with teal walls and a knotted chandelier over the table
A different approach is taken in the dining room, where the walls are painted dark teal

At the centre of the home is a staircase designed as if a piece of sculpture itself, comprising layered bannisters, stepped profiles and curvaceous forms.

A similarly playful tactic was applied in the living room, which features a rippling, ribbon-like fireplace designed by Brooklyn-based designer Leyden Lewis.

Doorway from a travertine-lined kitchen to a living roomDoorway from a travertine-lined kitchen to a living room
Doors and entryways throughout the home are designed to be flush with the walls

“We had a lot of fun exploring and playing with the staircase’s shapes and orientations,” Wallace said. “We wanted it to feel organic and fluid, and that required being playful. That was true for the entire house from start to finish, it was important that we didn’t take the whole thing too seriously.”

The spareness of these spaces is swapped in the cooking and eating areas, which feature darker, richer colours like the teal dining room.

A knotted light fixture by Lindsey Adelman hangs over the large stone dining table, accompanied by chairs with ochre velvet upholstery.

In the kitchen, tone-on-tone travertine cabinetry and surfaces include a new 15-foot-long (4.5-metre) kitchen island.

Kitchen with tone-on-tone travertine cabinetry and surfaces Kitchen with tone-on-tone travertine cabinetry and surfaces
Tone-on-tone travertine cabinetry and surfaces were added in the kitchen

An existing gabled skylight overhead was maintained, but its beams were updated with a copper hue to “complement the travertine”.

The room is oriented towards a glass wall facing a Japanese maple tree in the garden, under which sits a large dining table by local furniture designer Mary Ratcliffe.

Travertine kitchen with a long island in the centreTravertine kitchen with a long island in the centre
A 15-foot-long (4.5-metre) island was also added beneath an existing skylight

Wallace founded Reflect Architecture in 2016, and the studio’s previous work includes a Toronto home renovation with a blue slide as its centrepiece.

Other recently completed residential overhauls in the city include a residence connected by asymmetric brass-lined portals and a house where built-in storage volumes were added.

The photography is by Doublespace Photography.

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