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Toronto Gallery House

Taylor Smyth Architects help transform outmoded place in Forest Hill.

Two Toronto (Canada) homeowners hired Taylor Smyth Architects to transform their dark, outmoded place in Forest Hill. They had lived there for over a decade and desired two things: They wanted light-filled spaces to accommodate a museum-quality art collection; yet still wanted a real home that is warm, relaxed, and family orientated.

Contradictory Harmony

Taylor Smyth Architects, based in Toronto Canada, synthesised the two, potentially contradictory ideas. It was done in a way that playfully showcases the art while still offering both parents’ and their three children, a multitude of flexible spaces for work, relaxation, congregation, and solitude.

They did so by expanding the interior spaces and ceiling height, clearing away awkwardly placed walls and columns. The family areas were grouped on the ground floor, at the rear of the home. They overlook a spacious garden and pool, visible through glass walls from the open-plan kitchen, den, and eating area. The library is tucked behind the living space. It was left untouched as a tribute to the dark wood and crafts–style panelling that lined the original house.

The original formal dining area was transformed into a sculpture gallery. It is now divided from the main hall by a feature-wall that displays an installation called 365 Days of AZT by General Idea. The hall was aligned with a wall that features another piece of art: A bucolic Jeff Wall photograph that echoes the home’s inside-outside themes. An oak-and-steel stairwell runs along a wall with an installation by Christian Boltanski, canvases by Graham Gillmore and Claude Tousignant. It leads up to a central lounge and homework centre, where each child has a workstation with a desk and a pin board.

Living Among the Stars

The master bedroom design was inspired by a tree-top perch concept, with an entire wall of ceiling-high windows. The high ceiling was achieved by extending the ceiling upwards, utilising space from the attic above. Juxtaposed with this is the en-suite matte-black bathroom. This space invites soothing night-time soaks under star-like lights and a circular skylight, offering both man-made and celestial experiences.

The exterior of the house was substantially retained except for the house’s three, oversized neo-Tudor gables. These were re-clad with a random pattern of black-stained marine plywood panels, divided by clear anodised aluminium channels. According to the architects, this was an artistic, contemporary response that abstractly refers to the formal timber divisions of the original gables. The spacious backyard remains relatively unchanged as a private retreat with a swimming pool, a grass garden, and various covered and uncovered seating areas.