“When you walk in, it’s like stepping into another world,” says Toronto architect Michael Taylor of the Annex Coach House, which is hidden from view.
The house, originally Moore’s Hearse Livery, was converted into a residence in the 1980s. It had been renovated and extended over the years – only two brick walls remain in the building’s two open-air courtyards. origin of the vehicle depot.
In need of a modern update, the 3,200 square feet. the interior has been stripped of its studs and rebuilt with contemporary lines and materials that include wood, stone, bronze and leather.
Tucked away in Toronto’s central annex district, down an alley and behind another house, the unusual residence is a surprise inside with its maximized use of bright, natural light. On the first floor, the living room and dining room each have large skylights. Both courtyards open to the living room and both sides of the den with sliding glass doors.
In the den, a fireplace is set into a striking wall of black-veined porcelain and trimmed in bronze. “One of the most spectacular things is that when you walk through the front door, you see all the way to the den and this spectacular fireplace,” says Taylor.
The partial upper level leads to a rooftop terrace that includes various seating areas, a hot tub, and lush landscaping. On the same level inside are two bedrooms and two bathrooms concealed from the roof terrace by a bespoke wooden slat screen.
The Coach House Annex took 2.5 years to design and rebuild, and was completed in 2020.
Architect Michael Taylor, principal at Taylor Smyth Architects, and William Fulghum of William Fulghum Design Associates answer some questions about Annex Coach House:
What was the inspiration for the remake of this private and quirky home?
William: The clients came from a very formal North Toronto home and wanted something more urban and contemporary. It is a remarkable property because the walls are very old. It created a nice contrast to what they wanted to do with the interior.
Two interior courtyards drew the client into the property. We kept the walls but we opened everything up. We were trying to add a bit of romance and sensuality to the space in our material choices.
How did you design the house to attract the most natural light?
Michael: The two skylights were a fantastic opportunity to bring light to the center of the house on the ground floor. Then, the openings on the gardens were replaced by sliding glass doors. There are sliding glass doors from the dining room in one courtyard, from the living room in the other and from the den which is between the courtyards – they have sliding glass doors at each end so you can look in each yard from the den.
When you walked up the stairs and were outside on the second floor, it wasn’t particularly pretty. So we created a wooden screen that reflects something that has always interested me – the interplay between full and empty, texture and how sunlight changes the look of space and exterior of a building, depending on the time of day.
The screen is actually made up of vertical wooden ends of varying lengths and depths. There is a kind of dance that is playful and quite engaging.
What were the biggest challenges of the overhaul and reconstruction?
Michael: From a technical point of view, the existing house and structure were in very poor condition. There were actually vines growing through the walls in the space that we discovered when we started removing the drywall. The structure was quite fragmented.
We also had to reinforce the ceiling in the living/dining room because of the extra load we were creating for the roof terrace.
William: For me, the challenge was to marry the materials and to keep the sense of fluidity from one piece to another. There was a sensuality to it, but I was worried things were starting to get heavy. When working with marble and heavy floor tiles it can start to look monumental, and I wanted it to look like a loft.
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