Craven Road Cottage, Toronto House transformation, Ontario cottage photos, Toronto residence design, Canadian property images

Craven Road Cottage in Toronto

11 Apr 2023

Design: AMA (Anya Moryoussef Architect)

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

Photos by Doublespace Photography, Anya Moryoussef and Scott Norsworthy

Craven Road Cottage, Ontario

The inventive reconstruction of Craven Road Cottage, a tiny home into an ethereal urban refuge was built sustainably and economically to allow a longtime resident to remain in her tight-knit community.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

The complete transformation of this unassuming single-storey worker’s cottage in Toronto’s historic “Tiny Town” turned a run-down house into a luminous and ethereal pandemic refuge. The client, Laurel Hutchison, is a retired schoolteacher living on a fixed income, with a budget earmarked for basic renovations that would rescue her 112-year-old home from disrepair. The result is a 720 sf, delicately proportioned, light-filled home, built on its original foundations, while re-envisioning every other aspect of the worker’s cottage vernacular – a turn-of-the-century housing typology that has almost completely disappeared from the city.

Craven Road Cottage Ontario
photo © Anya Moryoussef

Craven Road represents an unusual urban condition. Previously known as Erie Terrace, the street was originally developed to house lower-income labourers and immigrants in the early 20th century. With small dwellings lining only the street’s east side, and a municipal fence running along the west, this atypical thoroughfare was the site of Toronto’s highest concentration of detached homes under 500 sf. Today, Craven Road remains a close-knit community and unique architectural outpost in an increasingly unaffordable city.

Craven Road Cottage, Toronto Canada
photo © Scott Norsworthy

Construction & Community
The project began with the goal of maintaining the original home’s single-storey footprint as a critical part of an aging-in-place strategy for Laurel. To achieve this without undergoing a lengthy municipal approvals process that would force Laurel to leave her home longer than she could afford to, the house needed to be designed and permitted as a renovation. However, shortly after the builder mobilized on site, it was discovered that the top course of the foundation required reconstruction. To do this work would typically have entailed taking down the walls above the foundation, but this would have run counter to the City’s regulations, which required that at least 50% of the exterior walls remain in place for a project to qualify as a “renovation”, as opposed to a “new build” (which would trigger the approvals process). The solution; a temporary shoring system that suspended the home’s above-ground shell in the air, giving the trades access to the foundation so it could be repaired, while also satisfying the building inspector’s requirement that at least 50% of the house’s original walls remained upright. This feat of engineering, architecture, and construction was made possible in part by the generosity of a neighbour who allowed the builder to use their rear concrete terrace as a buttress for anchoring a temporary shoring wall.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto
photo © Doublespace Photography

Reinvention of the Typology and the Client Brief
With the original footprint intact, and heights of walls, roof angles, and window-to-wall percentages strictly pre-determined by the City’s renovation guidelines, the design process entailed a careful study of the existing worker’s cottage typology in order to be able to de-construct, transform, re-interpret, and re-construct the home in a completely modern way. The main design strategies included flipping the program along the plan’s long axis, re-orienting the plan towards the intimate south-facing courtyard, and creating a sense of compression and expansion by reinventing the roof’s traditional gable as a 36-foot long sawtooth clerestory to flood the home with natural light and fresh air. Additional apertures were strategically introduced to draw in light from various directions and seamlessly connect the interior to its small garden, while obscuring direct views into the home from the outside. Together, these formal and phenomenological strategies create a sense of a highly animated, ever-unfolding space that defies the physical boundaries of the 720sf home.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Craven Road Cottage Toronto
photo © Doublespace Photography

These design decisions were a direct response to the client’s mandate: a desire for abundant light, peacefulness, and a relative sense of seclusion from her busy urban surroundings. In response to this desire for inspired solitude – where one can be alone, but not lonely – the home has been transformed into a vessel of light and shadow, where the two almost seem to inhabit the space, alongside Laurel. Despite its relatively minimalist aesthetic, the home always feels full. To further emphasize this, the 16-foot-tall interior facade of the home’s north wall, which forms a backdrop to the home’s main living spaces, acts as a projection screen for the ever-changing colour, glow, and shadow of the passing day and seasons, including the dappled light and arboreal silhouettes of the mature urban forest on the west side of Craven Road.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

Aging-In-Place, Affordability, and Maintenance
The home consists of four rooms: a combined entry, living, dining, and kitchen space; a small studio/den that could accommodate a single bed; a combined washroom/laundry room; and a principal bedroom. This straightforward program was complemented by an aging-in-place strategy that integrates a U-shaped kitchen for easy circulation; curbless wetroom suitable for accessibility equipment with walls blocked for future grab bars; LED lighting and robust finishes to promote low maintenance and energy bills; sleeping space for a potential live-in caregiver; and a front porch designed to accommodate a future ramp, with a canopy that protects against weather.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto
photo © Doublespace Photography

To make the most of the budget, the firm sourced high-quality, salvaged fixtures. To ensure the house would be easy to build, hardwearing, energy efficient and economical to maintain, they sourced easily obtainable materials, including corrugated steel with a Galvalume finish for the exterior cladding and roofing, and prefinished wood floors.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

The design for this 720 sf home made use of every element of the space and budget to minimize energy consumption through the implementation of a high-performance envelope, high-efficiency equipment, and energy-efficient fixtures; redeploying the original foundation and shoring system to avoid sending carbon-intensive concrete to landfill; and leveraging passive heating, cooling, ventilation, and natural lighting through the strategic orientations, apertures, and exterior planting.

The energy performance benefited greatly from the placement and orientation of the clerestory windows, which was designed in coordination with the mechanical designer’s development of the energy model. It led to significant passive solar gain during the winter months and accounted for almost a quarter of the home’s space heating energy requirements.

Anya Moryoussef sought to address the following: How can you respect the street’s vernacular fabric and cultural history, while reimagining the worker’s cottage typology to create a restorative and hyper-functional home? How do you build “small”, affordably, and sustainably, while also prioritizing uplifting design that supports psychological health and aging-in-place? How do you work within rigid municipal renovation requirements, while effectively rebuilding the home from the foundation up?

This light-filled home, with its small but expansive spaces, was described by renowned national architecture critic Alex Bozikovic as “A simple idea, constructed with ordinary building materials — but a beautiful idea that’s executed beautifully.”

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

Craven Road Cottage in Toronto, Intario, Canada – Property Information

Official Project Name: Craven Road Cottage
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client: Laurel Hutchison
Project Type: Reconstruction, including energy and aging-in-place retrofits
Size: 720sf / 67sqm
Architecture and Interiors: AMA (Anya Moryoussef Architect) –
Architect Team: Anya Moryoussef, James Swain, Deborah Wang
Structural Engineer: Matthew Kieffer, Kieffer Structural Engineering
Mechanical Designer: Dara Bowser, Bowser Technical Inc.
Landscape Architect: Zahra Awang
Builder: Desar Construction Studio Inc.
Millworker: Renca + Heilimo Inc.

Suppliers: Moncer Specialty Flooring (wood floors), Daltile (tile), Delta Light and Liteline (lighting), Design Within Reach (furnishings), Dupont (Corian counters), Torp Inc. (Tilt and Turn Windows and Doors), Velux (Skylights)

Photo Credits: Doublespace Photography, Scott Norsworthy, Anya Moryoussef

Craven Road Cottage, Toronto Canada
photo © Scott Norsworthy

About AMA
Anya Moryoussef Architect (AMA) is an award-winning, woman-led architecture and interior design practice based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Founded in 2016 to pursue the deliberate and imaginative application of design to daily life, AMA make spaces that are deeply personal expressions of their inhabitants.

AMA’s approach combines archeology, anthropology, and empathy to re-imagine the realm of inhabitation, and to critically explore the nature, culture, and power of domestic space. The practice’s empathetic process is centered on the idea that careful observation is the basis for great design, and it views each one of its projects – from renovations to new builds and everything in between – as equal parts renewal, recognition, and re-creation. In addition to addressing the most obvious and pressing concerns of its clients, their families, and communities – physical comfort, community connection, aging-in-place, changing definitions of family, work-life dialogue, waste-reduction, and energy consumption – AMA’s work seeks to prioritize the importance of emotional wellbeing, daily inspiration, intellectual provocation, and simple delight as a necessary part of every space.

Anya Moryoussef (BES, M.Arch, OAA, MRAIC) is the recipient of two Royal Architectural Institute of Canada medals, including the prestigious Emerging Architect Award (2021). Recently, AMA was included in 2022’s Twenty + Change, a select list of Canada’s top emerging talent, and Craven Road Cottage was a Finalist for the Ontario Association of Architect’s Design Excellence Award.

As an educator, Anya is on faculty at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, and has previously taught at the Bergen Arkitetektskole in Norway. Anya has studied and practiced internationally, including in London, New York, Istanbul, and Rome. In addition to her work being featured frequently in the architectural and design press, Anya’s creative non-fiction writing has been published in academic and literary presses.

Craven Road Cottage Toronto Ontario
photo © Doublespace Photography

Photography: Doublespace Photography, Scott Norsworthy, Anya Moryoussef

Craven Road Cottage, Toronto, Ontario images / information received 110423 from v2com newswire

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