Jan 15, 2009

Interior: Urban renovation

By: Liza Finlay

Interior: Urban renovation Author: Style At Home

Jan 15, 2009

Interior: Urban renovation

By: Liza Finlay

The light-as-air look of wire dining chairs and a Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chair offset the visual heft of the rosewood table, while a triptych by Yves Gaucher supports the symmetry of the windows. Floral arrangements throughout by Emblem, Toronto.

Inject punches of colour into your decor with artwork. To mix things up, switch or rotate pieces seasonally. High-voltage colour is a great way to take the edge off coolly contemporary homes. Primary hues, in particular, add playfulness to otherwise austere environs.

Renovating was the last thing the owners of this midsize, midtown Toronto home wanted to tackle. But their initial house-hunting efforts proved fruitless. Undaunted, they decided that if they couldn’t find their dream home, they’d just have to buy and rebuild. To do that, they persuaded Alan Tregebov of AJ Tregebov Architect to make room in his mainly commercial practice for their residential job. It took communication, imagination and the doggedness of contractor Michael Sullivan of Immaculate Construction, but nine long months later their dream came true.

urbanaccentsoffice.jpg In the office, sleek custom built-ins maximize storage space and keep the room uncluttered and clean. 

Q: What were your primary goals when you gutted and rebuilt your house?
We wanted an airy, open home that had a very modern feel. We accomplished that by relying on four contemporary elements: stone, wood, glass and steel. Whenever we hit a crossroad and weren’t sure which way to go, we’d go back to those basic materials.

urbanaccentskitchen.jpgReflective surfaces make the kitchen nearly glow: glass tiles cover the walls, while stainless steel adds shine to countertops and appliances.

Q: How is this house different from other modern homes?
Alan Tregebov:
We used exotic woods throughout the home. The floors are jatoba, a rainforest wood that darkens as it ages. And two steel posts in the kitchen are wrapped in zebra wood, which has a very multifaceted face. In this house, you’ll also see a recurring L motif. The frosted-glass wall in the kitchen doesn’t just disguise the stairs leading to the basement, it forms an L-shape. Similarly, the glass windows across the back of the house wrap around to create another intriguing L.

Homeowner: We chose to accent with splashes of brilliant colour. By keeping with typically modern wood, slate, glass and steel, we created a neutral backdrop against which any colour pops. I was inspired to go with cobalt lacquered kitchen cabinets when I discovered that deep, luxurious blue inside a high-end gas range.


urbanaccentsliving.jpgAccessorize, accessorize, accessorize! Vases, throws and pillows are an easy way to add a hit of colour without commitment.

The rich jatoba flooring runs in the same direction throughout the house, giving the space a cozy, cohesive feeling. Glass on two walls opens up sightlines to the garden – landscaped by architect Alan Tregebov – creating the illusion of more space.

Q: Having gone through a long renovation, what did you learn?
Most people begin an architectural or design project by creating an inspiration folder of images they love, but we also put together a folder of things we just hated, that we didn’t ever want to see in our house. It saved us a lot of time and grief. We also realized that bigger is not always better. We set out looking for a 3,000-square-foot-plus house and ended up with only 2,400 square feet. But by having less square footage, we were able to put more money into the finishes, which I think really makes the house special.


urbanaccentslounge.jpg Consider introducing colour – and texture – with fabric. Upholster an accent piece in a vibrant hue or, if you’re colour shy, go for easy-to-change bedding.

A cobalt chaise brings the boldness of blue from the first floor to the second, while the cowhide adds earthiness. Inspired by Christo’s The Gates
art installation in Central Park, the demure saffron raw silk drapes add texture without stealing the limelight from the chaise.

urbanaccentsbath.jpgIn the bath, taupe walls mimic the neutral tone of the travertine floor. With such a monochromatic palette, accents like the round, adjustable mirror stand out.

An arrangement of salmon-colour roses provides the only splash of colour in the muted bathroom.  

urbanaccentsbed.jpgGlass doors in the bedroom repeat the light-filled theme of the main-floor living area. Artwork by Simpson from Art Interiors hangs above the bed.

“The homeowners wanted something different, something fun. And they were willing to entertain novel approaches, which makes my job much more

“From the outset, I had a great respect for the magnitude of the architect’s job. I knew when to step up with an opinion and when to defer” HOMEOWNER

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Interior: Urban renovation