TRANSFORMING A 100-YEAR-OLD MANSE

H&H FEBRUARY 2015

TRANSFORMING A 100-YEAR-OLD manse into a family-friendly hangout zone without stripping the grand dame of its historic elegance is a tall order. But with the help of Toronto architect John O’Connor of Basis Design Build and designer Kim Lambert, homeowners Ellen and Sam Webster have created a place that’s casual enough for their four kids to plop down anywhere, but sophisticated enough to please a grown-up crowd — just check out the living room’s backlit onyx bar. “We didn’t want a showpiece,” Ellen says. “We wanted the space to be open enough for all of us to gather together as a family, and we wanted to be able to entertain.” The fact that Ellen and Sam both grew up just blocks from the house made it seem like kismet when they spied the listing four years ago. By then, they had spent a year hunting for a home that could comfortably fit their growing teens and tween — Carter, 16, Max, 15, Amy, 13, and Catherine, 11 — who had their old digs bursting at the seams. “Every house seemed like a compromise. Either the kids had to share bedrooms, or there weren’t enough bathrooms. Then we walked into this house,” Ellen says. “We looked at each other, and that was it!” With its six bedrooms and six bathrooms, the stucco-and-stone Georgian had plenty of space and could be turned into their ideal home without a total gut job. The outside was so perfectly pretty it was barely altered, but the interior underwent a 10-month revitalization. The HVAC and electrical systems were all updated, and the panelling and mouldings were meticulously restored or replaced. When the reno finally wrapped, the once-traditional space had been transformed into a bright, contemporary family home — all with the utmost respect for its century-old bones. “The only wall that came down was the one that separated the kitchen and dining room,” says O’Connor. Removing it created a clear view from the front of the house out to the back garden and turned the old galley kitchen into a large eat-in space. The home’s formality was further dialled back by replacing the old hardwood flooring. Heated honed limestone now runs from the entry to the kitchen, where a large marble island gives the playful space an element of sophistication. Warm walnut planks, paint and furnishings then transformed the wood-panelled library into a cosy family room and the formal living room into a gleaming cocktail lounge. “We want everyone to feel at home here, from guests to the kids and their friends, who should feel comfortable on every sofa,” Ellen says. Now that the family has put the house through its paces, she’s happy to report that their mission was accomplished. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
 
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