Blantyre House

In Toronto, the Victorian working class neighbourhoods provide average lot sizes of 20′ wide by 120′ long. While there is light available on each narrow end, the interior spaces are inevitably quite dark. The site for the Blantyre House presented another restriction. Maintaining the 100-year-old Norway maple in the backyard became a priority and impacted the programming and form of the house. At 19′ wide and 45′ long, the house is not only narrow, but also shallow. A primary decision was made to allow the ‘kitchen studio’ with its integrated dining and harvest table to occupy the entire ground floor of the home, forcing the living room to hover above the ground floor porch, and retain its status as a ‘piano nobile’ space.

The ‘kitchen studio,’ with its distinctive custom millwork lining, serves as the architectural and emotional center of the home. The custom millwork attempted to consolidate seemingly disparate requirements of the home — namely, mechanical ductwork, plumbing supply and sanitary lines, structural laterally-resistant piers — into a zone that would prevent the already compact 8′-0” clear height ceiling from dropping even further. The millwork aims to be the running spine which offers an entry closet, pantry, cupboards system, spice rack, appliance garage, refrigerator and broom closet in one continuous plane. Bevel-edged and eased details with recessed profiles identify the key areas for access and provide additional space savings relative to traditional drawer pulls and countertop overhang depths. Thus, the urban conditions were a distinct driver in the form of the kitchens details.

The angled volume cutout that serves as the focal point for the millwork wall was designed to provide the typical working sight-lines and reaching angles of any typical kitchen — with the exception that the upper storage would remain flush with the adjacent full-length closets and the lower cabinetry. This design detail followed through on the discovery that we could place the building systems lines behind the uppers without losing performance in cooking functions.

The emergence of this ‘kitchen studio’ aided in the evolution of the countertop and harvest table as a single fixed-piece, thus allowing conversational, preparatory and social conditions to migrate and exchange as effortlessly as possible between the two longitudinal components. With the detailing of the full-height sliding windows, the kitchen studio allows for the seamless flow from street to garden for guests while providing a sure and steady area for cooking and preparation. In some ways, we like to think of this as the ‘front face’ of the home upon entry.

In contrast, the upper most level of the home is the master bedroom and ensuite. Depicted in white with minimal details, this is where the house is most private. Offering quiet and sanctuary from the urban setting, the views are choreographed to provide glimpses of the trees and sky.

At the macro level, the biggest sustainable idea is that of infill housing. To increase density in an urban neighbourhood, we actually severed (split) a double-wide single family lot and made it two. Building within an existing neighbourhood on strips of available land, while taking care not to disrupt the native tree canopy, allows us to explore further the pedagogy of ‘incremental urbanism.’ Blantyre House is a repeatable typology that can co-exist with current bylaws and zoning requirements while giving a family urban connectivity, generous spaces, and even sanctuary.

To increase density in an urban neighbourhood, the owner severed a double-wide single family lot and made it two, resulting in a typical Victorian working class neighbourhood average lot size of 20′ wide by 120′ long. The challenge with such a lot is the provision of natural light to the middle of the house.  A primary decision was made to allow the ‘kitchen studio’ to occupy the entire ground floor of the home, forcing the living room to the second floor, which has a distinctive blade-like cantilever that angles back deeper into the site providing natural light to an adjacent bedroom.

A project completed by Williamson Chong

Project News

The House in Frogs Hollow, the Howland Residence, and the Blantyre House Receive 2014 Residential Architect Design Awards

Williamson Chong is honoured to have 3 projects selected for the 2014 Residential Architect Design Awards.  The winning projects were selected from nearly 700 entries and “represent some of the best residential architecture that North America has to offer””from luxurious custom beachside estates, to net-zero prefab infill, to high-density affordable living units.” Jurors included Cary Bernstein, AIA, Gregory Hoss, AIA, Joel Sanders, AIA, and Josh Shelton, AIA.

Williamson Chong was recognized for the following projects:

Custom Home | Under 3,000 Square Feet | Citation
House in Frogs Hollow

“You get this iconography of grasses in the stair,” juror Gregory Hoss said. The exterior cladding of the upper level, stained in iron oxide pigment, blends parametric design with more traditional shiplap siding. Juror Cary Bernstein was impressed with how the architects took commonplace elements such as the cladding as opportunities for “exploring new technologies for fabrication and integrating [them] in a really great way.”

Renovation | Award
Howland Residence

“It has a level of exquisite compositional and material precision that I think really finds a way of blending hard edges and curves,” said Juror Joel Sanders.

Kitchen | Honorable Mention
Blantyre House

“It’s beautifully crafted and the composition is very beautiful,” juror Cary Bernstein said. “It’s a piece of design.” Calling the kitchen wall unit “sculptural,” juror Gregory Hoss noted that “you don’t read any constituent parts; it looks like one big piece. Realizing that all these cabinet doors open and reveal lots of different things is really wonderful.”





Toronto Life Great Spaces: Inside the Box

Matthew Hague, "Inside the Box", Toronto Life, November 2013. p. 88.

“Torontonians are finally rejecting fussy Victorian architecture and going bold. In almost every neighbourhood, there’s a house or two that stands out…Here, a look inside some of our favourites.” The November issue of Toronto Life features Blantyre House in a feature on new homes in Toronto.

Dwell Magazine chooses Blantyre for its Kitchen of the Month

Alex Bozikovic, "Counter Intelligence," Dwell, February 2013; p. 44-45.

“For a Toronto couple with a love of minimalist Japanese architecture, a sleek, storage-packed kitchen was the first priority in their home.”

Dwell Magazine has done us right this month with a double page feature on the Blantyre House kitchen.  Writer Alex Bozikovic talks about the design of the “kitchen studio” as the centre of this new home in Toronto’s east end.

Architectural Record Interiors

Raskin, Laura. "Blantyre House Toronto" Architectural Record, September 2012: 116.

This is the first time we have had a project in Architectural Record and we couldn’t be more excited about it. The Blantyre House, with its ‘kitchen studio’ that opens the ground floor up to become a contiguous space with the street and the back yard, has been chosen for the 2012 Record Kitchen & Bath portfolio in Record Interiors. As always, thank you to Ken and Bonnie for being gracious with their time. And Bob, once again, your photos are taking us to some pretty great places. There is a greater array of photos on the website and the September issue is on sale now.

Blantyre House featured in The Globe and Mail

John Bentley Mays, “Infill in Sync,” The Globe and Mail, August 10, 2012; G1-2.

“Too many newly-built homes in Toronto are muscle-bound hulks bullying their way into established neighbourhoods. Williamson Chong’s new Scarborough project shows a thoughtful, sensitive alternative.”  –  John Bentley Mays

The Blantyre House is an example of one of our ground-up infill projects that contributes to our developing  notion of ‘incremental urbanism’ in Toronto.  Thanks to John Bentley Mays for the article, Bob Gundu for the photographs, and Ken and Bonnie for opening their home. The full article can be found on The Globe and Mail’s website with a slideshow of images by Bob Gundu.

Galley House and Blantyre House published in Oris Magazine

Will Jones, “Toronto Infill,” Oris, June 2011; p. 88-95.

Will Jones introduces Toronto’s infill housing to Croatia.  The Galley House is featured this month in Oris, a magazine for architecture and culture that is published bimonthly as a Croatian-English edition.

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